2nd June 2000 at 01:00
We have discovered that a clerical error some time ago has resulted in several part-time teachers being paid more, pro rata, than they are entitled to receive. How may we best rectify the situation?

A. I assume that the teachers concerned are entirely innocent in this matter, in that the error was sufficiently small that they could not have been expected to notice it and draw it to the employer's attention. That being so, they might reasonably expect not to be asked for any repayment of the small bonus they have gained. On the other hand, they can have no complaint when you take steps, as you should, to put a stop to it.

This may involve a change to the terms of their contract, or simply a letter explaining the position, depending on the nature of the error. If the contract needs to be changed, it might be appropriate to do so at the beginning of the school year.

I am responsible for junior teams at the rugby club and would like clarification of the situation with regard to seat belts in coaches, which we hire for transport to away games.

A. Where seat belts are fitted, children should be instructed to wear them. Those in charge have a responsibility to see the instruction is carried out. Steps should be taken to check that belts are being used, although this does not mean that its necessary to do so every five minutes.

The test of reasonableness applies, so that the degree of supervision required will vary with the ageand nature of the children. Younger pupils, or those with Special Educational Needs, might require a greater degree of surveillance than average teenagers. Wilful disobedience to an explicit instruction would not necessarily be placed at the door of the adult in charge, provided that it could be shown that reasonable steps had been take to secure compliance.

One of our pupils was the subject of child abuse outside school and the perpetrator is being prosecuted. The latter's solicitors have asked the school to provide a copy of the boy's file. I have already given verbal information in answer to questions, but they are now threatening me with a subpoena. How should I respond?

A. You have obviously concluded that these solicitors are engaged on a "fishing expedition", in the hope of finding ways of discrediting the complainant.

It is not part of your responsibility to assist them.

Should you be subpoenaed by the court, you will be obliged to answer any questions which are put to you in court on matters which are within your knowledge and competence.

However, you are certainly not permitted to release information from a pupil's file, except to the pupil himself or to his parents, and the solicitors should be aware of this.

Please send your questions to Archimedes, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 Eas Smithfield,

London E1W 1BX.

Archimedes regrets he cannot enter into any private


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