8th June 2001 at 01:00
Recently we have found it hard to make appointments in certain subjects. Even good applicants who seem interested take up a bargaining stance vis-...-vis other schools that have interviewed them, or they don't give an immediate answer. We think they expect to be offered a higher starting salary and are playing one school off against another. How do we deal with this? Are we allowed to offer more? Is it desirable? We have never discussed it as governors.

YOU should discuss it in your staffing and finance committees and with the full governing body. The salary scales are nationally laid down and you can't re-invent them, but a school does have discretion on where a teacher starts on the basic scale, and sometimes it may be necessary to raise that starting point.

It is not without its problems, though. If the rest of the staff have been working their socks off in a school which is short-staffed, they may not take kindly to a newly qualified colleague being paid more than some of them and certainly more than their starting pay when they were new.

I would advise also discussing the general principle withthe staff. I have suggested one possible adverse reaction, but on the other hand it is so difficult working in a school which is below its full complement, that some may welcome a more flexible pay policy as the lesser evil.

WE were never told by the head that there was any problem in keeping on a second language and just found out that German is to be dropped. Last year economics was dropped and many parents were upset. We were not consulted. Is this correct?

NO. The detail of curriculum delivery and teaching methods are professional matters, but the subjects taught - where the law allows any flexibility - have always been a governors' responsibility. No doubt there are good reasons - staffing difficulties, demand for a subject - but changes should still be endorsed by the governing body. Some explanation to parents would also be a good idea! If the problem is student numbers opting for a subject, decisions may have to be made quickly and not far into a new school year, so the governing body should agree in advance a minimum group size for vulnerable subjects outside the national curriculum.

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