Helpline;Management amp; Finance;Update

12th November 1999 at 00:00
A 'one-vision' head

How do you proceed when you are faced with a headteacher who refuses to recognise problems thought to be urgent by teachers, structures the organisation so that the views of teachers are discouraged, implements one "vision" after another and bullies the staff, especially women?

Because space is limited, I have edited your question, but have included enough to give the flavour of your litany of complaints against someone of whom you admit to being scared.

This is a sad situation and it would be interesting to hear the other side of the story. It may be that your head feels the school has serious problems and the staff refuses to acknowledge the need for drastic action. She or he may feel discouraged by obstruction and despairs of achieving anything.

This does not mean, of course, that your head is not demonstrating serious weaknesses as a manager of people; but if this unhappy situation is to be resolved, the head's position has to be part of the solution.

From the point of view of the staff, the only approach which stands any chance of success is a collective one. If the majority of the staff feel as you do - and are willing to try to do something about it - the best move may be to consult your teacher unions. They are not necessarily confrontational in tackling issues and, in any case, can do only what their members are willing to endorse. Their intervention in your school in a manner which does not identify individual teachers might persuade the head to listen and then to establish the kind of dialogue which is a feature of all happy schools.

Red card for girls v staff

We are planning a staff versus girls soccer match as a charity event, but we are worried that this may not be legal. Can you advise us?

I am sorry to be a spoil-sport, especially when good causes are involved, but as a general rule any contact sport involving pupils and teachers should not be sanctioned. The risk of injury is always there, especially as pupils are likely to throw themselves into it with particular enthusiasm.

Even though the disparity in strength and skill may not necessarily favour the adults, the latter are likely to be held responsible for any injury that occurs and the school may be judged to be liable for arranging the event.

A close watch at all times

A parent has alleged his son is being bullied in the changing rooms. The PE staff say they don't supervise closely to protect themselves from accusations of improper conduct. What should be done?

It must be made absolutely plain that the staff have a duty to maintain adequate supervision at all times over the pupils in their charge. The supervision must include the changing rooms and must be sufficiently vigilant to ensure that bullying is checked.

The excuse your PE staff is offering cannot be accepted. If they have concerns about their own vulnerability, it is their responsibility to arrange matters so as to minimise the risk. A supportive head should be ready to discuss their difficulties constructively.

Change of duties

My headteacher is proposing a radical change to my duties as a deputy, including the removal of my responsibilities for financial management. Do I have no rights in this matter?

It is not uncommon for schools to re-allocate the responsibilities of their senior management teams from time to time, either to stimulate change or simply to allow aspirant heads to gain broader experience. One would normally expect this process to be the outcome of prior consultation and to be acceptable to all concerned. This may not always be achievable: a head may impose changes when consensus cannot be reached.

The allocation of duties is the head's responsibility - he or she is accountable to the governing body. A teacher who cannot accept the decision has the right to use the grievance procedure which, if need be, allows the governing body to review the matter.

There is, however, one respect in which a deputy may enjoy greater rights. Where responsibilities are clearly stated in the job contract and where there is no provision for them to be varied, change can only come about by consent or by the termination of the contract, with the possibility of recourse to an industrial tribunal.

Send your questions to: Helpline, School Management, The TES, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX Archimedes regrets that he cannot enter into individual correspondence.

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