27th September 1996 at 01:00
Q Do heads and governors have no rights at all when LEAs insist on reinstating disruptive pupils? Could they not, for instance, insist that the parents sign a contract of good behaviour?

A The only right which governors have is to appeal against the LEA ruling. Unfortunately, appeals panels do not have a good record of siding with governors. The most a school can do is to argue their case up to the point where the LEA issues a directive to admit the pupil and then to give in under protest.

There are some indications that the Government has become more sympathetic to schools in this matter and there is a possibility that legislation will be introduced to strengthen the schools' position. Measures that are under consideration include the removal of the parental right to choose a school after a pupil has been twice excluded permanently, strengthening the guidance to Appeals Panels, obliging them to take into account the interests of the majority of the pupils, and an increase in the provision of Pupil Referral Units (PRUs).

PRUs could be particularly useful, especially if it is a requirement that permanently excluded pupils must attend one prior to any possibility of a return to mainstream education.

The contract idea is less easy to legislate for. Many schools already use agreements between school and parents, either as a standard admissions procedure or to deal with cases of indiscipline. They are useful, in that they do confront parents with their share of responsibility, but they are of no real help with parents who do not want to co-operate, or who do not know how to.

To call these agreements contracts is a misuse of the term, because they are not legally binding and there is no machinery to enforce them. No government is likely to introduce a law which would, in effect, deprive some young people of the right to be educated. They may well decide, however, that the power of schools to secure good standards of behaviour is in need of enhancement.

Q During the examination period and after, many teachers are relieved of teaching duties. Can they be used to cover for absent colleagues, even after three days of absence?

A Possibly. The School Teachers' Pay and Conditions of Service Document allows this to happen where a teacher is required to teach for less than 75 per cent of the normal teaching day. Some teachers, with large commitments to examination classes may well fall into this category. On the other hand, they may also be required to invigilate the examinations.

Questions should be sent to Helpline, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 EastSmithfield, London E1 XY. Fax: 0171 782 3200. e-mail: letters@tes1. demon.

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