Bearing Witness

21st April 1995 at 01:00
Q If a teacher is subject to a disciplinary hearing for assault against a pupil, do the pupil concerned and others who witnessed the event have to appear at the hearing?

A This is the sort of situation which one would like to avoid, if at all possible, but the answer in the end may have to be that they do. Cases of this sort are usually founded on investigations conducted by the headteacher or another senior person, and will include written evidence supplied by pupils who were victims or witnesses. The hope is that these written statements will be accepted by all concerned and make it unnecessary for pupils to face the daunting experience of appearing in person.

However, it is a fundamental principle of natural justice that an accused person has the right to test the strength of the evidence against him and, if need be, to challenge its reliability. From the pupils' point of view, this might best be done by a representative of the defendant interviewing the pupils in the presence of their parents before the hearing takes place. In the last resort, however, the defendant has the right to have the evidence examined before the panel.

Q We have a pupil who has attended for only 20 sessions in the past two years. The LEA has provided some home tuition, but has not brought a prosecution against the parents. Can we remove her from the roll?

A The only reasons for removing the pupil from the roll are: Confirmed permanent exclusion; notice of withdrawal from the parents; notice that she is enrolled elsewhere, or instruction by the LEA.

You appear to have none of these. Although I understand the frustration you must feel, you cannot justify removing her in the present circumstances.

Unless there are good reasons for its inaction which you have not revealed, one might say that the LEA is failing in its duty to ensure compliance with the law. Perhaps a complaint from your governing body to the Secretary of State would stimulate it into tackling this very unsatisfactory case.

Q As a nursery nurse, I am concerned about the burden of work I am being asked to undertake. I am not a support teacher, although I travel between schools to assist with children who have physical difficulties. What steps should I take to reduce the stress?

A If the nature of your work has changed without consultation with you, you should take up the matter with the person to whom you are accountable. If you get nowhere with that, you may need to consider using the grievance procedure to make your case.

If it is just a question of the volume of work you are being asked to do, you should discuss it with whoever is responsible for allocating that work to you and arrive at an understanding of what constitutes a reasonable case-load.

As you indicate in your letter that you belong to a trade union, this is certainly a matter which you should take up with them. You will probably find that they have plenty of experience relating to your problems and be pleased to offer help.

Q As a Year 1 teacher, I disagree with the head of infants at my school over the amount of play activity for pupils, which she wants every afternoon. The headteacher will not intervene. What should I do?

A This is a problem faced by many teachers of key stage 1 pupils, where the requirements of the national curriculum and assessment have led to reappraised classroom practice. I suspect that the effective management of learning through play demands more of the teacher than more formal methods, and it may be that your colleague is more experienced and confident of working in this way than you are. What is important is how the children progress and this can only be judged by looking at the results of the assessments over time. The national curriculum quite rightly does not concern itself with methods, only with outcomes.

If you do not feel that you can discuss these issues openly with your colleague, which ideally you should, I suggest that you consult your local authority specialist adviser.

Questions should be sent to Helpline, The TES, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171 782 3200.

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