27th June 2003 at 01:00
Q: When interviewing, our last question to candidates is whether they will accept the post, if it is offered to them. Is there any point, if candidates may change their mind afterwards anyway?

A: I have always regarded this as sensible practice, although my preference was to ask it at the start of the interview.

My reasoning was that, given that candidates had received a full briefing and had had the opportunity to ask questions of clarification informally, they should be given the chance to say they were no longer interested before going through the whole interview. It can save everyone a great deal of time.

I have known instances of people withdrawing at the end of the interview because they believed that, if they did so earlier, they would forfeit their expenses.

While it is true that some candidates do change their minds after accepting, we are still entitled to assume that most people behave honourably and would be unlikely to do so.

Q: A father has brought his daughter to enrol at our school. We were in the process of admitting her when the mother rang to say that her husband, from whom she was separated, had no right to do this. We contacted the father and he claimed that he had full custody. What should we do?

A: It is a golden rule that schools should never get involved in matrimonial disputes. You should decline to accept the admission until the father can produce documentary evidence to substantiate his claim of full custody. Such issues can only be ultimately determined by a court and a school should not be seen to take sides.

Q: We have a policy that pupils are not permitted to wear jewellery of any sort. A parent wants her daughter to wear a ring for sentimental reasons and says she will invoke the Human Rights Act to get her way. Should we give in?

A: I do not see why you should. I am unaware of any human right to wear rings, or any other items of jewellery, in a school, which has statutory authority to establish reasonable standards of dress and presentation for pupils.

Provided the rules are applied without any form of discrimination, it is unlikely that a court would wish to intervene in the matter. Even if it were to do so, there is no reason for your governors to be asked to agree a change in the rules until they are obliged to do so.


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