21st February 2003 at 00:00
Can teachers take a term or a year away from their jobs without pay?

This is a matter for a school's governing body, which has absolute discretion in such matters. If the governors consented, they would be suspending a teacher's contract for the agreed period, allowing it to be resumed upon his or her return. Presumably, they would be guided by the head's view on the likely impact of the absence on the school.

Our parent-teacher association wants to persuade parents who have not joined to think again and has asked us to provide names and addresses so that it can send out individual letters to parents. Should we release this information?

No, you should not. The PTA is umbilically attached to the school, but is not part of it. The information it is seeking is protected under the Data Protection Act. You have several options. You could write to parents on the PTA's behalf, inviting their co-operation. You could allow circulation of general letters via "pupil post". You could allow a spokesperson a short slot at a parents' evening. Parents could hardly object to these measures, and they do protect them from exposure to over-enthusiastic pressure.

A teacher has been reported by a colleague for giving unidentified tablets to a student, in circumstances which seemed to suggest that there was something to hide. How should this be handled?

It should be a standard rule that no medication should be administered to pupils. In this case, the teacher and pupil should be interviewed in order to ascertain whether anything improper took place. If their accounts show serious discrepancies, then the matter may have to be pursued further.

If it appears that medication of any kind was involved, the teacher should be reprimanded. The pupil's parents should be informed of what was taken and how the school responded. If the investigation reveals a more serious situation, appropriate disciplinary action should follow.


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