Need new staff? It's not that simple

The law on recruiting teachers has changed and heads need to know what to do, writes Chris Lowe.

FILLING teaching posts is such a routine activity at this time of year that heads will be surprised to learn that many of them have been doing it wrongly for years.

Part of the problem is that until 1998 grant-maintained schools made appointments one way, voluntary-aided schools another, and county schools yet another. Few headteachers seem aware of the changes introduced by Schedules 16 and 17 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.

This legislation requires all maintained schools to follow a similar procedure. And although illegalities are seldom challenged, it is important that heads should understand the law as complaints can lead to a judicial review and a re-run of the appointment process.

First, the governing body has to draw up the specification for a vacant full-time post, in consultation with the head. The task can be, and usually is, delegated to the head, but this should be formally minuted.

The specification must then be sent to the local education authority, which has the right to nominate for consideration a teacher from another school in its area. If schools normally send advertisements via the LEA this would probably count, but many schools now do their own advertising. If so, they should send a copy to the LEA.

After they have notified the LEA, governors may then advertise the post, or may decide to appoint the LEA nominee, or make an internal appointment. There is no obligation to advertise every post.

If the governors decide to place an advertisement, it must appear in places likely to be seen by persons qualified to fill it. They must then interview such applicants as they think fit, and appoint one, if appropriate. If they cannot agree, they may interview other applicants or repeat the process with or without re-advertising.

The selection process can be delegated to: 1) one or more governors; 2) the head; or 3) one or more governors and the head. Number three is the usual choice, although heads are sometimes allowed to make appointments "in an emergency".

Whatever the governors' decision it should be made formally, and minuted. The selection panel can determine its own procedures, but the members should take part in all stages of the process. Different governors should not appear at different stages.

The head, if not part of the panel, is entitled to be present at all stages, and to give advice that must be considered by the panel. The chief education officer (or representative) has the same right in community schools, and can be given that right in aided and foundation schools. Similarly, in an aided school the diocesan officer has the right to attend and to give advice, and can be given the right in a foundation school.

The LEA can veto the recommended candidate at a community school if he or she is not properly qualified, or is not fit on health or educational grounds or "in any other respect" to teach under-19s. Governing bodies of foundation and aided schools have the same right.

Archimedes, 26 References: Sections 54 and 55 and Schedules 16 and 17 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Chris Lowe is honorary legal consultant of the Secondary Heads Association and editor of "Croners' School Governors' Manual"

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