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Law has no teeth

The terms of a teacher's contract, whether stated or implied, offer conditions of service which should exist as of right. When bullying happens, those rights are violated. One or more of the following things happen - these are common characteristics in a bullied teacher's experience: * The school's disciplinary or grievance procedures are not complied with by the head, governing body or both.

* Education statute is broken - particularly the l989 School Government Regulations which cover the conduct of a governing body.

* Employment law is flouted. n ACAS advice is ignored.

* The teacher's union won't provide a solicitor to challenge the legal aberrations.

What can be done? The law states that the Secretary of State "may intervene" but requests for ministerial intervention are rarely successful, always incredibly protracted (a year's wait is common) and seemingly influenced by political expediency. When applied to for help, the DFE tends to avoid giving direct written advice. If it does, the advice can be ignored with impunity by the local authority, governing body or head as illustrated by the Humberside case in last week's TES.

The fact is that education law has no teeth. For teachers to obtain their contractual rights they are driven towards private litigation.

Governing bodies unbalanced by sectional interest, heads who deliberately ignore regulations, compromised leas and malevolent individuals were not envisaged when local management gave the reins to schools. Staff are left vulnerable and exposed.

Jenni Watson is a founder member and secretary of Redress

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