13th February 1998 at 00:00
Q. As a result of suggestions from parents, we want to start our parents' evenings at 8.30 pm instead of 7.30 pm. The teachers' unions are objecting to this, but, surely, as this is directed time, they should accept the change?


The fact that parents' evenings fall within the 1,265 hours which teachers are required to work does not mean that teachers have no rights at all. This is subject to the condition of reasonableness. On the face of it, it is reasonable for the school to consult the wishes of parents in arranging the evenings, but it is also reasonable to consult the wishes of the teachers.

They might feel that, after a hard day's teaching, they would be better able to tackle the demanding task of consultation after a reasonable break between the end of afternoon school. They might also argue that they have long-standing domestic arrangements in place, which it would be unreasonable to have to change, at least without an adequate period of notice.

This is an issue which falls under the heading of "conditions of service" and is, therefore, the legitimate business of teachers' unions.You should negotiate, with a view to meeting the legitimate concerns of all parties.


The head of mathematics at this school wishes to resign his post but to continue as an assistant in the department. Do we have to accept this?


No, you do not. This teacher holds the post of head of maths. This is his job, which includes teaching as well as running the department: they are not two separate bits, one of which can be given up just because he feels like it.

If he ceases to be in charge of the department, that position has to be filled. There may not be a suitable internal candidate and, if you appoint an outsider, while retaining his services as a teacher, the department may well be over-staffed.

This teacher may ask if it is possible for the school to make the arrangement which he wishes, but he cannot insist. His only ultimate recourses, if he is unwilling to continue, is to resign and leave.


Is it true that a pupil may now be detained after school, whether the parents agree or not?


Not yet. A provision to make this possible was incorporated in the Education Act 1997, passed by the last government.

Although the Act was passed with the co-operation of the then opposition, the present Secretary of State has yet to make the order which will bring that clause into effect. He is expected to do so for implementation in September 1998.

When he does, schools will have the right to detain pupils against the wishes of parents, subject to certain conditions, including appropriate notice and adequate transport arrangements.


What action should be taken against LEA officers who are dishonest when they present evidence to a governors' disciplinary hearing?


If the allegation is backed by substantial evidence the governing body should inform the chief education officer. The CEO should investigate the complaint and take such disciplinary action as may be deemed appropriate.

If governors are not satisfied with the CEO's response, the matter should be referred to the chairman of the education committee.


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