Helpline

7th June 1996 at 01:00
I have been working in a secondary school for five years in a series of temporary appointments, for the past three years full-time. This year my post was advertised as a permanent job and I was interviewed but not appointed. I have been offered some part-time work in the learning support department. Have I been unfairly dismissed? What are my rights?

Unless the part-time work is a substantial amount, I suggest that you have been unfairly dismissed and, if you are not in a union, you should join one at once or consult a solicitor. Having held your appointment for more than two years, you enjoy employment rights and, as no attempt has been made to declare you redundant, your contract has been unilaterally terminated.

The fact that the employer described the post as being for a fixed term does not take away your acquired rights and an industrial tribunal may find in your favour. This may not necessarily mean that you get your job back, but it would at least ensure that you receive compensation, based on your five years of service at the school.

Are heads and deputies normally paid extra for lunch-time duties or are they expected to carry them out as part of their contractual duties?

Because the conditions of service for heads and deputies do not specify, as they do for other teachers' hours of work, it is difficult to argue that they should receive additional payment for duties which fall, in every other respect, within their responsibility for ensuring good order in the school at all times, including the lunch break.

Many employers have, therefore, declined to pay heads and deputies for lunchtime duty, although they do pay other teachers.

But some do make the payment, if only on the grounds of equity, perhaps arguing that, while the heads - and, by extension, deputies - have a duty to ensure that there is adequate supervision, that does not imply that they are actually obliged to provide that supervision themselves.

A parent is claiming compensation from the school because a necklace, confiscated from a pupil who was wearing it contrary to school rules, was subsequently stolen. Should we pay?

Yes. The fact that the pupil brought the item to school in contravention of school rules does not mean you forgo your duty to keep it safely once you take it into your keeping.

This applies to all pupils' property which is handed over to the school or its staff for safe-keeping, whether voluntarily or not. PE and games staff, in particular, need to take appropriate measures to ensure that such items are kept safely under lock and key and that they are returned to their owners as soon as possible. If pupils lose them, the school is not responsible; if the school loses them, it is.

Because of successful appeals, the intake to this school regularly exceeds the standard number for admissions, a situation which creates management problems for us. Has the local education authority the right to do this to us?

I am afraid it has. Under section 26 of the Education Reform Act 1988, the authority may fix the number of pupils to be admitted at a level which exceeds the standard number. The Act also obliges the LEA to consult with the governing body about it, a stipulation which is quite often overlooked.

Obviously, it is impossible for an LEA to disregard the decisions of an independent appeal committee, but it would be sensible to leave a small margin in the original determination of admissions to allow for the anticipated outcomes of such appeals.

Given the management problems which you are experiencing, it would be entirely reasonable for your governors to seek consultation with the LEA with a view to resolving the difficulties.

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

e-mail: letters@tes1.demon.co.uk

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