9th May 2003 at 01:00
We recently placed an advertisement in The TES for a teaching post and, because of a clerical error, the salary was given at a higher level than we intended. Existing staff with similar responsibilities are angry and upset.

Are we committed to paying the teacher we appoint at this level?

No. The advertisement has no contractual force. The terms of an appointment are those agreed with the successful candidate at interview and confirmed in the subsequent letter. Your proper course of action is to include an apology and a correction in the details of the post which are sent out to prospective applicants and to notify them of the mistake and the correction.

Does the school have the right to search a pupil who is suspected of carrying an illegal drug?

One should always be extremely cautious about searching for any reason. The pupil should be invited to turn out pockets and bags voluntarily and, in the event of a refusal, it would be reasonable to detain him or her under supervision, while the parents are contacted and asked to attend. If the drugs issue is serious, one might well invite the police to come in. The threat of the latter might be sufficient to induce co-operation. Whatever one decides to do, there should always be a witness present, and proper regard should be paid to gender.

It is also reasonable to search a pupil's locker, but, here too, one should have a witness present and preferably the pupil too.

Can the governing body impose a no smoking policy on a school?

Some local education authorities have adopted a no smoking policy which applies to all premises under their jurisdiction, including schools. Where this is not the case, the governors may introduce such a policy themselves, as may the governors of voluntary, foundation and independent schools.

This should only be done after appropriate consultation with staff and their representatives and with reasonable notice. One should note, too, that the legal definition of the workplace for this purpose includes mini-buses and school trips.

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