24th May 1996 at 01:00
Should a school, solely at the request of the mother, allow a child's surname to be changed? Should a school be allowed to change a child's name in all but legal documents?

The law respecting people's names is more flexible than you might suppose. A formal change of name can be made by deed poll and, in the case of a minor, that would require the consent of the legal parents or guardians, regardless of their matrimonial circumstances.

The law, however, does not prevent people from adopting any name by which they wish to be known and so, if a parent and the pupil at the school inform the head that the pupil wishes to be known by a particular name, the school has no reason not to accept the fact and use it.

This name may be used in the school register, on school reports, examination entries and other documents. The school may retain on file a note of the former name, in order to avoid confusion.

But as with other matters involving matrimonial and custodial disputes, schools are well advised to stay clear.

What are the rules governing the attendance of part-time teachers at out-of-school events, staff training and the like?

Part-time teachers are required to be available for work under the reasonable direction of the head for that proportion of 1,265 hours for which they are employed Q and that includes activities outside teaching time.

It is the responsibility of the employer, in practice usually the head, to set out clearly what that implies in any individual case. It could mean attendance, for example, at a parents' evening on a day when the teacher does not take any classes. The same might apply to a proportion of in-service training.

Provided the contractual hours are not exceeded and the commitment is clearly set out and known in advance, the only objection which might be raised would be on the grounds that the direction was unreasonable. This would have to be resolved by the governing body.

In your answer about pupils on buses (Helpline, March 1), you expect too much of bus drivers in suggesting that they should control pupils and that non-driving assistance was unreasonable. Surely, the responsibility rests on the passengers themselves and then on their parents?

The contractor does indeed have a responsibility to ensure that his service is properly conducted and, if this means someone other than the driver is needed, then so be it. The school cannot be responsible because it does not provide or operate the service and it does not have a supervisory role.

Of course, the pupils have a responsibility for their own conduct and should be punished if they misbehave and, yes, it is to their parents we should turn for this.

All too often, they fail to act effectively and the schools steps in to protect its own good name by dealing with the problem.

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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