Q. A teacher who was previously employed full-time has asked if she can return to work part-time after maternity leave. Are we obliged to agree?
A. It is impossible to give a definitive answer, because cases which have come before industrial tribunals and the courts have produced different outcomes, depending on the facts and arguments in particular circumstances.
But it is clear that, if you want to say no, you must be able to demonstrate the need for a full-time person in the post - a need which could not be adequately met by alternative arrangements.
In school terms, this means that a balance must be struck between the reasonable requirements of the school and the potential discrimination which might be alleged if the request is refused.
If, for example, you are able to appoint another part-timer, thus setting up, in effect, a job-share, the request ought probably to be granted. Only if the post which this teacher holds is of such importance in the running of the school that the governors are certain that it would be impossible to carry out the duties on a part-time basis, should they consider denying it.
Q. A teacher's car was deliberately damaged in the school car park. A sign was then put up to say that cars are parked at the owners' risk. The teacher has now submitted a claim, arguing that the school was liable before the sign appeared. Is he right?
A. I don't think so. No teacher - or anyone else - is required to bring their car on to school premises as an essential part of their employment. The facility of a car park is offered as a convenience for employees to use, if they wish.
The fact that no notice is exhibited does not, of itself, impose a liability on the school. Therefore, the erection of the sign cannot be taken to imply that a liability existed previous to its appearance.
Q. This grant-maintained school has spent a considerable sum on legal advice and representation, defending a professionally assisted challenge by a parent against a permanent exclusion. We won. Can we claim our expenses from the parent?
A. I'm afraid not. There is no provision in the legislation on exclusions which would cover this and the parent might argue that the school was not obliged to defend itself in this way. Some GM schools have taken out insurance policies to cover their requirement for legal services of this sort.
Q. This independent school has recently received a report by the local social services department's inspectors with which we strongly disagree. Do we have any remedy?
A. Yes. By law, the local authority concerned must have an appeals or complaints procedure. This would ensure, among other things, that the consideration of your complaint would be conducted independently of the inspectors who delivered the original report.
If you are still not satisfied after that process has been completed, you may appeal to the Department for Education and Employment.
* The TES Management Guide for Heads and Senior Staff, based on Archimedes' Helpline column, has now been published by Butterworth-Heinemann at Pounds 14.99, but is available to readers for Pounds 10.99. Tel 0345 660890