21st March 2003 at 00:00
Although the law allows us to detain pupils without parental consent, we have one pupil who has been instructed by his parents not to accept any punishment and to run out of school if he is given one. The parents refuse to come into school to discuss the situation. What can we do?

You should take a tough line. Refusal to accept the normal disciplinary sanctions of the school, clearly set out in the prospectus and elsewhere, is absolutely unacceptable. The parent must be told in writing what the legal situation is, warned that the school's ultimate punishment is permanent exclusion and that, if all else fails, you may be obliged to use it.

The education welfare service should try to make contact with the parents to convey a similar message and explain that, if your school rules are unacceptable, they have the right to transfer their child to another one.

I have been told that one should not offer teachers one-year temporary contracts. Why not?

You can, of course, offer as many one-year contracts as you like, but it is wise to be aware of the potential pitfalls.

Employment rights have now been extended to people with one year's service.

This means that they may challenge unfair dismissal and benefit from redundancy.

Where someone has a one-year contract that is not expected to be renewed, notice of termination has to be given in the normal way. One cannot assume this is unnecessary because the contract is for one year.

If the post in question is disappearing, the teacher may be entitled to redundancy. And if an identical post is advertised for the following year, there may be a claim for unfair dismissal.

It is not permissible to issue a contract in which an individual agrees to waive employment rights. Schools seeking to make short-term appointments should, therefore, give careful consideration to both short and long-term needs and be sure that they are not setting traps for themselves for the future.

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