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Schools: Disciplinary Proceedings

Volume 504: debated on Monday 18 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) whether he plans to review the respective roles of investigating officer and the chair of a board of governors in investigating the suspension of a head teacher or member of school staff for the purpose of distinguishing those roles; and what guidance his Department provides to local authorities on the suspension of school staff; (310941)

(2) advice his Department provides to local authorities on whether the chair of the board of governors acting as an investigating officer should be able to choose the panel for a hearing in respect of an investigation into the performance of a head teacher or other member of school staff;

(3) how many cases in each local authority have been referred to his Department for advice on an investigation into the performance of a head teacher in each of the last two years;

(4) how many staff of his Department are trained to provide advice to local authorities on suspensions of school head teachers or other staff.

There are no plans to review the respective roles of the chair of governors and investigating officers where dealing with staff suspensions. The operation of disciplinary procedures, including those that result in suspension, is a matter for local determination. To support schools in this area there are a variety of sources of advice available to help governing bodies with their responsibilities. The School Staffing (England) Regulations 2009 and accompanying guidance, alongside the DCSF's/Guide to the Law for School Governors provides both governing bodies and local authorities with details of their responsibilities in relation to staff suspensions and sets out the statutory responsibilities falling to schools and local authorities as employers. This guidance is available through

www.governornet.co.uk.

and

www.teachernet.co.uk.

These sources also provide access to an extensive range of additional guidance material including materials from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. Schools and local authorities are therefore able to draw from a wide variety of guidance when devising their policies and handling disciplinary cases, including suspension.

In respect of both head teachers and other teaching staff our guidance makes it clear that suspension is a neutral act allowing time to assess the situation before a final decision is taken. It does not imply guilt but provides an opportunity for matters to be investigated. Decisions on how any investigation is conducted are best left to schools to determine, drawing on the guidance that is available and where appropriate on advice and support from local authorities.

There is no requirement on local authorities to report suspensions of head teachers to the Department and there are no centrally held records setting out when and to what extent the Department and/or the Secretary of State have been involved in such cases.

Staff in the Department who are experienced in the provisions of the regulations and guidance associated with school staffing matters will provide advice on the processes relating to disciplinary procedures. They do not, however, provide advice on whether disciplinary procedures should result in suspension or any other sanction. That is a matter entirely for the disciplinary panel. No records are maintained of the number of requests for advice that has been sought from, or provided by, the Department.