19th January 1996 at 00:00
I do not like the term "head- teacher". Can I change it to "principal"?

I am reminded of the proverbial rose, which smells as sweet whatever its name. Officially, the title of your position is that which it was given by your employer when you were appointed and which appears on your contract. If you want to change that, your employer would need to agree.

What you write on your office door or print on the headed notepaper is probably a matter for you as a part of the day-to-day management of the school, but I should be inclined to consult the governors before you make the change.

Further to your reply on LEAs paying travelling expenses for teachers required to attend an SEN tribunal, (Helpline, November 3, 1995), would the LEA also be liable to pay the cost of cover at the school?

If the absence was only for one day, the question of paying for cover should not arise, because teachers at the school could be required to cover as part of their normal conditions of service.

If the school did incur some actual costs, it is unlikely that it would be provided for in any existing scheme, including the LMS scheme of delegation. The school would have to negotiate with the LEA, with a reasonable case to argue.

My head is investigating a complaint from a parent that I assaulted his son, following an incident when I intervened to stop the boy bullying another pupil. Have I no rights in this matter?

Of course you have, but so have the boy and his father. They have the right to have the incident investigated and you have the right to put forward your account of it.

Since corporal punishment became illegal in state schools in 1986, physical action by a teacher on a pupil has been limited to the exercise of reasonable restraint to prevent a pupil or pupils doing damage to themselves, other individuals or property. The definition of reasonableness in this context is the amount of physical force required to achieve the objective and no more.

In a case such as the one you describe, if your intervention was limited to pulling the bully away from his victim sufficiently to put an end to his hurting him, that was reasonable. If you then struck him, shook him or pushed him hard against the wall, you might be said to have gone too far. No doubt what happened was not quite so clear-cut and it may well be that the bully exaggerated what happened.

Your head, faced with the complaint, has really no alternative but to investigate what happened and you must hope that the accounts gathered from others, who may have witnessed the event, together with your own report on it, will resolve the matter.

As a sensible precaution, you should consult your union or professional association. It is this kind of incident that makes union membership important for teachers. It would, for instance, look after your interests in the unlikely event the parent complained to the police.

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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