July 2015

The know zone

  • Sixth sense
    As timetables are tweaked in readiness for the new sixth-form provision in September, schools and colleges should ensure that their 16-19 study programmes will meet tight new financial and curriculum standards, says Kevin Gilmartin. More
  • Know your numbers
    Pay progression data can reveal hidden – possibly discriminatory – trends, so it is vital to study it carefully, says Sara Ford. More
  • Making allowances?
    Pay rises could push you over the tax relief limit and into trouble with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) so check your position, warns Stephen Casey. More
  • Experience counts
    Devising your school or college’s continuing professional development (CPD) programme can seem a daunting prospect. Do you plan for your own staff to deliver, invite a facilitator in to do the work or send staff out on external courses? What are the pros and cons of each approach and which provides the best value for money? More
  • A tidal change
    The Royal Merchant Navy Education Foundation (RMNEF) is a British educational charity that officers support for the natural or adopted children of Merchant Navy seafarers and professional sea-going fishers, and of crew members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI’s) lifeboats. More
  • Extra daylight, extra opportunist thefts
    The warm summer evenings mean that everyone can look forward to spending more time outdoors. More
  • Question time
    What is the one big issue that you would like Secretary of State Nicky Morgan to tackle in this Parliament and why? What is the one burning issue that is affecting you and your school or college? Here, ASCL members share their views… More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Reflected glory?
    The head is an ambassador for the school. However, there are – to put it mildly – some dangers in over-identification between the needs of the school and its leader’s desires, according to Chris Pyle. More
Bookmark and Share

Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting.

Leaders' surgery

Online abuse

Q- I’m a headteacher and a difficult parent has set up a blog for the sole purpose of abusing the school and me. They are saying that I am not fit to run the school, I abuse children by shouting at them and that the school is useless – only in much stronger and more colourful language! What should I do and can I sue them?

A- It all depends on the nature of the comments made on the blog. If it is ‘opinion’ then there is nothing anyone can do – it is part of our heritage of ‘free speech’ that people can make comment, however much it may hurt us or we may not agree with it, or indeed that we may not see as ‘factual’. If the comments make threats or are directly ‘abusive’ then the first thing to do is to approach the social media provider, point the blog out as being abusive or threatening and ask them to remove it. Most providers will respond positively, but there is no direct requirement for the provider to do so – it is a matter for their policy – and if the provider is based overseas then there may be additional difficulties. You should also report it to the police as a possible offence. If the comments are defamatory to your career, technically you can sue through civil courts for ‘damages’, but this is unlikely to be either quick or cheap. In all of the above, it is your employers, the LA or Trust who should be undertaking action as part of their duty of care for you as their employee – they could try talking to the parent if their identity is known, or getting a solicitor’s letter sent. In the case of the above enquiry, ‘not fit to run the school’ is probably ‘opinion’, as is ‘the school is useless’, but the allegations of abuse need to be challenged with the blog provider, and, incidentally, should be properly investigated by the school as any ‘abuse’ allegation would be. 

Sick-pay advice

Q- I am an assistant headteacher and I have been on extended sick leave and I am now only getting half-pay. I am much better and the doctors, the school and I all agreed a phased return to work, doing one day in the first week, two days the next and so on up to full-time. My pay slip for the first month shows my income well short of full wages – can this be right?

A- Phased return is a great way to get back after such a break, and most good employers would regard the start of the phased return as being you formally ending sick leave – but this is at their discretion.

The formal position is fundamental of the employment relationship that employers only have to pay for ‘work done’. In their view, and supported by that principle, would be that in the first week you only did one formal day of work, and therefore the other days would be paid as sick leave – so on your half-pay rate. We could argue long and hard about the rate you should be paid for that ‘one day’ but if it is less than 1/260th of your salary, you should contact us for support.

If you had agreed ‘working at home’ as part of the phased return then you would have to be paid for this. If you had negotiated your return to work as an hour each day on the first week, two hours on the second and so on, then it is likely you would have gone back to full pay straight away, as you were working each day and the day would not have been classed as ‘sick leave’. We would advise that if this happens again to make sure that ‘pay’ is part of the phased return to work discussions.

We would always urge members on long-term sick leave to contact us so that we can provide appropriate support, including helping them get the most supportive return following long-term illness.

ASCL members concerned about leadership issues should call the Hotline on 0116 299 1122 or email hotline@ascl.org.uk

David Snashall is ASCL Hotline Leader