February 2018

The know zone

  • Bold beginnings?
    At last year's ASCL Annual Conference, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector (HMCI), Amanda Spielman, announced that Ofsted would be undertaking a large-scale review of the curriculum. The review's first report focused on the Reception Year and was published in November. Julie McCulloch looks at what it had to say. More
  • Securing your future
    Managing Director of Lighthouse Financial Advice Ltd Lee Barnard, shares tips and information on future proofing your pensions. More
  • You want more?
    Supervising the lunch queue? Shifts as a security guard and car park attendant? It shouldn't happen to a chartered accountant... unless they are a business leader in an academy, of course. 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
  • Careers guidance
    The government wants every school and college in England to have a dedicated careers leader and it has published a careers strategy to highlight this. Here, ASCL members share their views on these plans and on what more can be done to improve careers guidance. More
  • Managing expectations
    Stephen Rollett says preparing for inspection doesn't have to be a difficult process. Here, he shares his top tips to help you through the visit and beyond. More
  • Uncharted waters
    As the government publishes its long-awaited action plan and consultation on T levels, Kevin Gilmartin examines the big issues that the government needs to get right. More
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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

A lack of compassion?

Q: I am an assistant head in an academy. I recently asked for, and was given, two days of compassionate leave, with pay, to assist my mother when she had an operation. The operation was cancelled on the first day of my leave, although we did not know this until midday on the day of the operation.

As she lives 300 miles away from me, I spent the time with her and did not travel home until the following day as planned. I did not disclose to the headteacher what had occurred. However, another member of staff knew about this and informed the headteacher. I have now been suspended for breach of trust while this is investigated, and before a probable disciplinary hearing.

A: In this situation, ASCL would automatically allocate a field officer to help a member as his or her employment could be at risk.

The first issue here is to determine whether or not suspension is justified and it may well be that it is not. In a recent case involving a teacher, Simone Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth (2017), the High Court judge determined on appeal that suspension is not a neutral act “in relation to the employment of a qualified professional in a function which is as much a vocation as a job”, noting that “suspension changes the status quo from work to no work, and it inevitably casts a shadow over the employee’s competence”.

The judge pointed out that this does not mean that suspension is never appropriate, simply that it is never neutral. Following on from this case, it seems unlikely that a suspension imposed simply to allow an investigation to be carried out will be reasonable unless the employer has explained why an investigation could not be conducted fairly without the need for suspension.

You should be afforded an opportunity to respond to the allegations/case prior to the suspension being imposed (although you may choose not to do so in the absence of a representative or evidence relied upon). You may also formally request your employer to outline precisely what (less draconian) alternatives to suspension were considered and why suspension was seen as being necessary as opposed to other options available.

Once the appropriateness and necessity of a suspension has been addressed, the usual disciplinary procedures as per any existing disciplinary procedure would apply.

Relationship advice

Q: I am a deputy head in a church-maintained secondary school. After a private party a few weeks ago, I began an affair with the head of English at my school. We are both married and her husband has now found out and is threatening to inform the school and diocese that I have brought undue influence to bear on his wife because of my position in school. I am her line manager. We wish to end our marriages and maintain our new relationship, which, so far, we have kept completely secret.

A: In the first instance, it may be worthwhile discussing the situation directly with your headteacher. This will allow you to retain some degree of control in how the information comes to light and limits damage that may be caused if the revelation were to be made by the husband. As the reputation of the school could be at stake, the headteacher may also need to make the chair of governors and the diocese aware of the situation.

While, in this case, there appears to be no suggestion of behaviour which would bring the school into disrepute, it may still be something that the school may potentially seek to explore further. For example, the school/diocese may have in place a policy that requires staff conduct to be in accordance with the religious ethos of the school or a policy that prevents behaviour of this nature. Prior to taking action, it would be worth reviewing all relevant policies in place to establish whether the conduct in question is acceptable. If such a policy does exist, the fairness of such a policy would need to be considered. Further consideration also needs to be given to whether the conduct in question has taken place during school time or during school-related activities as this may give rise to allegations that may justify disciplinary proceedings.

The issue of undue influence could potentially be remedied by removing duties relating to the line management of the head of English and giving it to another member of staff. Ultimately, whether an allegation of undue influence is furthered will be dependent on whether the head of English believes that undue influence has been exerted on her and if she is prepared to give evidence to this effect within an investigation.

Contact the Hotline

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

Rachel Bertenshaw is ASCL Hotline Leader