Education books

7th January 2000 at 00:00
EDUCATION LAW AND PRACTICE. By John Ford, Mary Hughes and David Ruebain. With a Foreword by Lord Justice Otton. Legal Action Group pound;35

Education law and practice is not intended for headteachers or school governors. It is targeted, unusually, at the high-street legal practitioner who is approached for advice by parents, or sometimes pupils or students. Thus there is nothing about the pay and conditions of teachers, and not a great deal about the detailed provisions regarding the powers and duties of governors and their proceedings.

Instead, the authors have highlighted those areas in which schools and local authorities have more than once come a cropper, such as admissions, special educational needs and negligence. It could be salutary for heads and others involved in schools to read what "the opposition" is advising those who have a grievance against the system in general or a school in particular. It may even help schools to avoid the pitfalls. For example, the authors encourage legal advisers to assess the degree of risk involved in a teacher's conduct which has caused damage to pupils.

They also remind governing bodies that it is no longer sufficient for a school only to provide discilinary measures against bullies. There needs to be an ethos of care not only for the victim, but also for the reasons why a pupil should adopt anti-social behaviour.

The book is full of such timely warnings - not just to teachers and governors, but to LEAs, parents, politicians and anyone else who has anything to do with schools and colleges. And at the back there are 18 model letters that might be sent to LEAs or schools on behalf of clients. An interesting batch.

Nevertheless, the authors acknowledge the complexities and difficulties of everyday life in schools and colleges. There is no attempt to knock schools and nothing appears in the advice that a school could reasonably object to. Indeed the book is couched in careful and lucid terms, and, as befits the eminent lawyers who wrote it, the layout of chapters, tables appendices and index is impeccable.

This will not become a standard work on headteachers' shelves, but it will be a fascinating addition to these - even though the hefty pound;35 price tag confirms its legal rather than educational market position.

Chris Lowe is honorary legal consultant to the Secondary Heads Association and editor of Croner's Governors' Manual

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