Helpline

2nd June 1995 at 01:00
Q

Our school playing field is separated from the buildings by a busy road. There is a light-controlled crossing. Can the head direct teachers to supervise pupils crossing that road, and does this place the teachers in a vulnerable position if an accident occurs?

A

There are many and various occasions where teachers are required to supervise pupils off school premises including, of course, all school trips and fieldwork. This case differs only from others in that it is a regular requirement.

The head is probably acting in accordance with the wishes of parents, who should know about this aspect of the school programme, and with common sense in directing staff to supervise pupils using the crossing, rather than letting them make their own way.

So long as the staff confine themselves solely to supervising the pupils, they are no more vulnerable to a charge of negligence than they are elsewhere.

If a teacher instructed or encouraged a pupil to cross against the lights, that would be both irresponsible and negligent. If a pupil did that in spite of being told not to, the teacher is unlikely to be held responsible.

Whether the head is acting reasonably in requiring this duty of the staff is a matter which can only be judged on the merits of the particular circumstances.

A teacher who believes that a direction is unreasonable has the right to challenge it through the grievance procedure.

Q

A parent has sent a written request to the school that her daughter should be withdrawn from RE, but only when the class is learning about religions other than Christianity. Do we have to accede to this?

A

I fear so. Section 9 of the Education Reform Act 1988 says: "If the parent of any pupil in attendance at any maintained school requests that he may be wholly or partly excused from receiving religious education given in the school in accordance with the school's basic curriculumIthe pupil shall be so excused accordingly until the request is withdrawn. " This seems to be your case exactly, although I can imagine that it will be far from easy for the teacher concerned, who may well, in the course of lessons dealing primarily with Christianity, wish to introduce comparisons with other faiths.

I suspect that you will have to discuss these practical issues with the parents in order to reach an understanding of how their legitimate request can be sensibly dealt with.

Questions should be sent to Helpline, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171-782 3200

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