28th November 1997 at 00:00
Q. A pupil's parents have told us they do not wish their child to be given any medical treatment without their explicit consent - we should not even summon an ambulance without sending for them first. May we refuse to accept these instructions?

A. This is not uncommon with certain religious sects, and schools will want to co-operate so far as they can. The question does not arise in most situations since schools do not give medical treatment beyond dabs of antiseptic, sticking plasters or emergency first-aid. If possible, the school may alert the emergency services to the fact that the parents hold such views. In practical terms, the only issue which affects the school is calling the ambulance. I believe that you must tell the parents that, if the child's condition is ever such that you believe it is necessary to send him or her to hospital, you will do so, while endeavouring to inform them immediately. No parental instruction can be allowed to over-ride the school's duty of care, which is owed to the pupil, not the parent.

Q. Does the change in the school-leaving date prevent a pupil who is taking no examinations from starting work once he is 16?

A. Yes it does. The Government has now implemented the single school leaving date and laid down that it shall be on the last Friday in June. This means no pupil can leave full-time education until the due date in the school year in which he or she reaches 16. The school year begins on September 1 and ends on August 31, regardless of term dates. The oldest leavers, therefore, will be nearly 17 while the youngest will still be 15. The law prohibits any employer from employing a young person full-time before they reach the official leaving date, although part-time work is permitted. The requirement to remain in full-time education does not preclude work-experience or absence from school on study leave during examinations.

Q. I was unhappy with your advice (June 20) on the employment of epileptic teachers. Surely it would be wrong to rely upon the advice of a union in such matters?

A. It would be wrong, and that is not what I wrote. I made it clear the school should rely on medical advice in determining whether an epileptic could be employed or not. Where I suggested a union might be helpful was in securing retraining for a different subject, if the unsuitability was specific to a particular area, such as technology.

Q. The head of our school wants a teacher training day to take place on a bank holiday. Can he insist?

A. No. Teachers are entitled to statutory public holidays as part of their conditions of service and they cannot, therefore, be numbered among the 195 days on which they may be required under the reasonable direction of the headteacher.


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