'Complacency' led to flaws in appeals system

19th May 1995 at 01:00
The issues raised by Rob Prior in his letter "Chasten the rogue heads over bullying" (TES, May 5) should concern members of the National Union of Teachers too. The NUT seems to take as little interest as the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers in ensuring that fair and just appeals systems exist for teachers who are threatened with dismissal. The NUT attitude is to have no national policy to protect members, but to leave it to regional branches to negotiate a disciplinary procedure with the LEA.

If you are a Staffordshire teacher you have the right to appeal beyond your governors to the council's appeals sub-committee. Teachers in many other authorities do not have this protection and risk being disciplined by an unscrupulous head before a sub-committee of governors on the kind of "spurious charges" quoted by Mr Prior.

An appeal can then be turned down by another selection of governors from the same school, leaving the teacher concerned no recourse to an independent appeal.

If you find yourself in this situation, union advice will be that you have no right of further appeal unless you are dismissed, so your career and promotion prospects will lie in ruins while you risk dismissal if you try to get publicityfor the unfairness of your own case.

Both teaching unions are guilty of stunning complacency in having allowed this immoral and unjust situation to arise, particularly as they are both happy to accept that teachers should be banned from standing as county or borough councillors in their own authority because of potential "conflict of interest" with their employer.

If the LEA is the employer it is scandalous that teachers have no right of appeal to it and can have their careers wrecked by governing bodies which, under local management, are apparently no longer held accountable for their actions by the body which would become the employer in law if there was an award made against the school by an industrial tribunal.

It is to be hoped that unions, teachers and heads will lobby their authorities and the Department for Education to bring about a fair and independent appeals procedure.

The present situation, where a teacher's only alternative to "kangaroo courts" is to bring a judicial review, is sheer lunacy.

JOHN HOPWOOD

32 Berry Lane, Leicester

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