8th November 1996 at 00:00
Q The murder of 13-year-old Caroline Dickinson whilst on a school holiday in France this summer raises the question of whether school party leaders ought to visit centres abroad in advance of the party. This would be expensive, but is it necessary?

A In an ideal world, this might be desirable, but it is unlikely to be practicable in many cases. One has to accept the terms and conditions set out by the travel company or by the managers of the accommodation. There is nothing to stop the party leaders asking all relevant questions until they are satisfied and obtaining the answers in writing.

The key duty of the party leader, however, is to check out all the important details on site as soon as the party arrives and to insist that any point of concern is promptly dealt with.

Q The parents of one of our pupils have refused to allow the school to publish their son's GCSE results in the local paper. We have been publishing lists of individuals results for years; can they insist on this?

A Yes. The school can publish the summary of its results, but the results of the individual candidates are their own. Most people would not question this and local papers are keen to publish all the names, presumably because it sells more copies. Nevertheless, the wishes of this family should be respected.

Q Once a pupil has been permanently excluded, can the parents insist that the school provides work for him or her to do at home?

A It is common practice for schools to provide work for pupils who have been temporarily excluded, if only to make the point that they should not be idle.

A permanent exclusion is final only when the procedures of hearings and appeal have been exhausted. It could be argued, therefore, that the provision of some work in the interim period was not inherently unreasonable. It might also be a good indication of the parents' willingness to co-operate with the school, should reinstatement be agreed.

Q My school has a vacancy on the senior management team and, in order to provide an appropriate gender balance at the top, we want to appoint a woman. Can this be specified in our advertisement?

A I do not think it can be. The law on equal opportunities does not permit a job to be limited to one sex, unless it can be demonstrated that the nature of the post makes it imperative to do so. A PE post might be so described, but not a senior appointment of a general nature.

The very proper objective of achieving a good balance on the senior management team may be advanced by other means. An equal opportunities policy might indicate the governors' commitment and encourage women to apply. If the information sent to applicants identifies the existing male bias, that might encourage them still more.

In the end, however, your governors must hope that a female candidate turns out to be the best on the day.

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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