Thursday, 26 March 2009

School staff and investigations

Some of the most difficult tasks facing governors are to pass 'judgement' on staff disciplinary matters and to review longer term or permanent exclusions.

I have had a few experiences recently which required teachers to present 'a case' to either a Staff or Pupil Disciplinary Committee. I was disappointed to find that some of the evidence and investigation was of relatively poor quality. I have a background in investigating offences so am familiar with criminal procedure and standards of evidence - although I recognise that we are dealing with the civil standard of proof in these cases - and would not have found much of the investigation or evidence up to standard in my old profession.

It did actually raise the question of the appropriateness of teachers as investigators - not a role for which they are trained or necessarily willing. What must it be like to have to investigate the behaviour of a working colleague? What must it be like to have to conduct an investigation with legal consequences (e.g. one that might lead to dismissal) when untrained?

There is surely a better way - how about each LEA creating a team of independent individuals who are trained in investigation techniques, who would take over investigation of the most serious staff cases (i.e. gross misconduct) and who could advise proactively on e.g. permanent exclusions?