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Q: Where do we stand if a pupil takes a parental consent slip home and brings it back signed but, without our knowledge, has actually signed it himselfherself? What happens if we take them on the trip? We are not handwriting experts.

Colin, Coventry

A: Verify the signature of a parent or guardian against a pre-existing one. If a record of these doesn't currently exist, why not compile one? Data protection issues might arise, but they are as nothing against the potentially horrific "duty of care" type implications over an injury to a pupil on an activity for which there has been effectively no parental consent. Given the choice, I think all parents would willingly give a sample signature. John, Worthing

A: A good point that further underlines the complex legal (and litigious) environment in which we increasingly have to operate. If there is any doubt (perhaps there exists a similarity between the handwriting styles of the pupil and the "parent") then you must - morally and legally - act on it. Consent has not been granted and whoever leads the trip might be liable. If a consent slip turned out to be a fake, and an incidentaccident occurs, there is always the ignorance defence which is, of course, no defence. This is a whole-school policy area, and if you follow the policy, that in itself (but not necessarily) is usually enough to get you off the hook. Pat, Brighton

A: Naturally, you would take them on a trip in good faith if you thought the form had been signed by a parent. Problems might arise once pupils' parents discovered their child had gone on a trip they hadn't agreed to. I would punish pupils for disobeying the rules and ban them from another excursion and, in the future, double check with their parents Cindy, Lancashire

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