15th September 1995 at 01:00
The head of art in this secondary school refuses to display pupils' work around the school, unless he is paid an allowance for doing so. He does display work in the art room, but argues that other heads of department are not required to do this. Can I insist and what do I do when he refuses?

I have sympathy with your head of art on one point. Although art lends itself to display more than any other subject, I believe that all departments should be encouraged to show their best work in this way and that this should be seen as a whole-school policy to which everyone is expected to contribute.

I have little sympathy with him for the rest of his argument. Displaying pupils' work should be seen as a part of a teacher's duties which should not attract an additional allowance. Your request that he should do it could be converted into a direction and, if he does not wish to accept that, he has recourse to the grievance procedure, where he could argue that you are acting unreasonably. If he loses that, he will have to comply or face disciplinary action.

I am bound to say, however, that I would not recommend that route. It may be better to tackle this by instituting a review of school policy on display, involving all departments. From this might emerge a consensus in which everyone participates and maybe even a co-ordinator, who may not necessarily be the head of art. He would be in real difficulty in refusing to join in what everyone else is willing to do.

Does a reference have to be in writing and is there any redress against an inaccurate oral reference? Is there a time limit on seeking redress?

In my view, a reference should always be given in writing. The practice of giving oral comments is open to abuse and arouses suspicion and mistrust.

Having said that, I have no doubt that the courts, if presented with a case, would hold that the duty of care with regard to accuracy would apply, although there would clearly be a much greater difficulty in establishing the facts.

There is no limit on seeking redress, but common sense would suggest that a long delay might make it more difficult to collect the evidence.

In your reply on an excluded pupil (Helpline, June 23), you spoke of the pupil being "under the supervision" of the local authority and possibly the subject of a care order. Are you not being misleading? No local education authority would apply for a care order in the circumstances you described.

I did not mean to mislead, but I may have compressed my argument for the sake of brevity.

I certainly do not suggest that a permanently excluded pupil would be the subject of a care order, but my correspondent was dealing with a case where the parents were refusing to accept their responsibility for providing appropriate care and supervision.

The LEA has a role to play, in that it has the duty to provide education for the pupil and would thus become aware of the domestic situation. My feeling was that, if the parents continued to refuse to take responsibility for the boy, he might eventually be deemed tobe at risk, thus compelling the local authority to act.

Q Is a school within its rights in excluding a student for wearing a beard?

A Yes. If the school rules stipulate that students must be clean-shaven, the school is entitled to enforce it, if necessary by excluding a student who refuses to conform. It might be worth bearing in mind that there are some ethnic minority groups who are naturally hirsute and who generally have strong views about permitting moustaches and beards.

Schools might be better advised to stipulate cleanliness and neatness, rather than getting into problems of defining "five o'clock shadows".

Send questions to Helpline, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171-782 3241, e-mail:

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