12th May 2000 at 01:00
A pupil was injured during a drama lesson, taken by a student on teaching practice, with no other teacher present. Who is responsible for any consequences?

Ultimately, the responsibility for the management of the school, including the deployment of teachers, rests with the head, although this does not exempt other individuals from action for negligence. The student teacher has the same duty of care towards pupils as any other teacher and can be held responsible for an act of negligence.

If it could be demonstrated that the decision to leave this student alone was irresponsible, because he or she had not shown the necessary competence, then some responsibility must attach to the teacher who took that decision, or to the head, if the teacher had been allocated to duties elsewhere.

The school's policies on the supervision of student teachers might also be questioned and, if these are unclear, or non-existent, then the head may be at fault. What is clear is that the school and, if a state school, the LEA, bears the burden of any claim for damages.

A policeman came into school and to arrest a pupil in Year 8. Shouldn't he have informed the parents before coming to us and was I right to let the boy go with him?

On the face of it, the conduct of this officer seems unusual and you should have sought an explanation from him. The head acts in loco parentis and should have been told why the boy was to be taken away so suddenly.

In dealing with juveniles it is normal to go to the parents first. If they cannot be found every effort should be mad to contact them and you might have sought an assurance from the officer that this would be done. You might also have tried to contact them yourself. But you had to let the boy go as it is an offence to obstruct the police in the execution of their duty.

We have a teacher who is absent for long periods. Can her timetable be changed, to ensure adequate teaching for exam classes?

No teacher has a right to any particular timetable. Teachers are required to work under the reasonable direction of the head, who has the right to allocate them to classes and to a timetable within the constraints of directed time.

If a teacher believes that the head's action is unreasonable, the remedy lies in the grievance procedure.

A teacher who was absent from school, having reported sick, was seen attending a meeting elsewhere during school time. What action should we take?

You do not say whether the absence was covered by a doctor's certificate. In any event, it may be argued that a person too ill to teach might be fit enough to go out or undertake an undemanding task.

But there is no reason why the head should not seek an explanation from the teacher. Even if this is acceptable, the teacher might be advised that this conduct might undermine his or her standing with colleagues.

If the enquiry uncovers malingering, then there may be a case for disciplinary action.

Please send your questions to Archimedes, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Archimedes regrets he cannot enter into any private correspondence

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