Ensuring you observe the letter of the law

14th February 1997 at 00:00
Running a School by Richard Gold and Stephen Szemerenyi Jordans; Pounds 24.95

As a relatively new head, I am always on the look-out for suitable reading to bolster my knowledge of the law relating to education.

As the writers of this book correctly point out, state schools do face legislative prescription of a high order. My school will be one of the last to be inspected in the four-year cycle. So it is of no small interest to me that we should be meeting statutory requirements or at least know if we are not so doing and have our excuses ready.

The authors are right that theirs is a law book with a difference: it is free from jargon and straightforward to read. The trouble with law books of any sort, however, is that they are of their very nature essentially tedious. Most of us want to get on with the real job of helping young people to achieve the highest levels of attainment. The vast battery of education law does little to assist us in this task, whatever politicians may believe.

While this is a book mainly about educational law, the authors offer their advice on effective implementation. I would not have found this helpful if I had been searching for a particular legal requirement during a busy week. There is nothing wrong with the advice offered. It is always clear what is advice and what is law. The authors clearly understand that different schools can operate in different ways and yet still be effective. But there is a confusion here as to the actual audience at which the book is aimed.

The selection process for headship these days tests candidates on a broad spectrum of legislation. Few of us remember all the details of every law. It is on the occasion of need that a decent reference book is required. For that purpose this may suit some. Personally, I prefer my computer database, updated several times a year.

Mention is made in the preface of use that governors and parents might make of such a book and I can see that this would be particularly helpful for a non-educationist to dip into. It might even prove useful for those aspiring to be lay inspectors.

I read the section on preparation for inspections by OFSTED (the Office for Standards in Education) particularly carefully since I think I am pretty well versed in this aspect of education law at the moment. The interpretation of law was sound and the advice sensible. As suggested, we will start planning the end-of-inspection party as soon as possible.

* The writer is head of Islington Green School, north London.

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