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what causes would be needed for disciplinary action

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by melola, Nov 24, 2015.

  1. melola

    melola New commenter

    Good evening everyone

    My problem seems to be similar to others on here but none of the replies seem to answer my question. i'm climbing the walls here now so could do with any help/advice out there.

    Short context - I've been at my present school since September and I was brought in to 'drive things forward' - everything was a bit of mess and my history was from a school which had experienced being RI - so I am experienced in working in tough situations. I was encouraged by the HT to apply as she had seen work I had done etc

    By her own admission, things haven't been easy - a few members of staff are inexperienced, existing teacher is off long-term sick. Pretty much in at the deep end and sink or swim. Yup, I've cocked up a few times regarding procedures etc but nothing major. Now I find myself on the end of allegations - 2 in fact. one involving inappropriate behaviour management of a child and treatment of members of staff (I only have 5 so that narrows it down a bit...) which may breach dignity at work. I have so far had an informal 'chat' about what has happened (I hasten to add that whilst I may have been 'firm' with a child and not adhering to the behaviour policy - he has particularly challenging behaviour - no bodily contact was had and he was not upset at any time). I was asked about how I was getting on with the 'team' - no mention was made about an allegation about my treatment of them.

    Long story short - I went into work yesterday to talk about arrangements whilst the investigation goes on only to be given a formal suspension letter. I am devastated. I have looked through the schools policy on dignity at work (didn't even realise they had one) and am horrified to think that people are saying I am guilty of any of them. Yes, I have a very clear vision of how best the children will learn and the environment we need to create for this. I am direct and no nonsense and I do have high expectations of the children and adults. I am so upset that if whatever it is I have done to offend anyone, that this jumped straight to the formal procedure route - no discussion, no informal chat.

    I have an investigatory meeting arranged - no union rep - we are in dispute about my membership. No colleague to accompany me as I am new. People seem sympathetic but I can't trust anyone now as I really do feel stabbed in the back and felt that this school was the last place for this to happen.

    I am not 'taking one step at a time' and guessing wildly about whether I will lose my job/livelihood/house etc etc I am single and just manage to pay the bills. I don't sleep/eat/feel sick to my stomach. To say this is a nightmare doesn't even touch the sides.

    (I have approached other unions/CAB/HR...I'm now sadly an expert in this...)

    Has anyone been in this position? Can anyone suggest what I would have needed to have done to constitute a disciplinary sanction on either issues? I cannot for the life of me think of what it is that merits this.

    PS a friend of mine said they wanted a Rottweiler and now they've decided they want a poodle after all...

    cheers friends
  2. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Without seeing the 'dignity at work' policy it's difficult to advise. However it is possible to assault a child without touching them but saying he wasn't upset might cover that. The staff one implies bullying which is again in the eyes of the 'bullied' one.

    Hope you can get your union membership sorted out. The rep isn't essential for the inquiry apart from as a witness and note-taker and any friend can do that (not necessarily at the school). The action happens after the enquiry when the head arbitrates and decides what action, if any, should be taken.
  3. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Good evening @melola , I am sorry to hear of your predicament, very sorry.


    One of the very first things to do on joining any school (or other organisation, come to that) is to read the policies and procedures file. Yes boring, i know, but essential. And photocopy the contents page so that you have one or more sheets with a list of them all, to pin above your desk.

    And of course, one notes and adheres to the policies and procedures . . . I know I am shutting the stable door here, but others take note!

    So what now for you!

    First you need to read very carefully the Disciplinary procedures, to be sure that you understand them fully. It is not usual to have a Union rep at an investigatory meeting, by the way, so you are not yet at a disadvantage.

    You may not yet have a BFF, but you have colleagues. Could you approach somebody not linked in any way to your department and team, another HoD for example, and ask them to come and be a note taker, nothing more? No commitment for them to speak or do anything except take notes.

    This is an investigation. It may turn out that there is no case to answer, so you would not go forward to the stage of a disciplinary hearing. Keep your heart up and believe in this possibility.

    Final point to others:

    Union membership is crucial for support when you least expect it. Do make sure that your union dues are paid regularly.

    Join a Union. Yes, now!

    Best wishes, and let us know how you get on.

    userunknown and GLsghost like this.
  4. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    You should have copies of both the dignity at work and disciplinary policies. You should have been given these or had it clearly indicated where they could be found, within two months of the starting date (as part of your s1 written statement of the terms and conditions of your contract of employment). They should have been sent again or a clear indication of where to find them when these allegations emerged.

    You say you 'went into school' - do I infer from this that you were first asked to stay at home informally, before being formally suspended? I would not be happy about formal suspension when there has been no investigation meeting - and not happy if they call the informal chat and investigation meeting.

    Have a look at the ACAS Code of Practice for disciplinary procedures. The school's own should generally follow this model, which is accepted as the guidance to fair process in disciplinary matters. As you will see, you should be notified in writing as soon as possible of the allegations against you.

    Suspension is supposed to be a neutral act, but it's hard to see how this could be warranted unless what you had done (allegedly) was so serious that you could not be on the premises.

    Sadly I have come across similar situations, in which HTs have taken against individuals and sought to discipline on the basis of flimsy evidence. I can think of one extraordinary and outrageous case, in particular, after someone was picked on after only a couple of weeks in post. The bottom line, unfortunately, is that a HT can get rid of someone for almost any reason (as long as it's not discriminatory) until they have two years' continuous employment. No chance of that, I suppose? This employment is not continuous with the previous one?

    I don't know where you are in the country. CAB employment specialists are able to attend disciplinary meetings. There are plenty in my area of the south who would do so.

    I take it you've checked your home insurance to see if you have legal cover included?
    userunknown and midnight_angel like this.
  5. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Not sure I can offer Poodle comments, but see if this helps....:)

    Dignity at Work Policies usually cover bullying and harassment of other staff (and victimisation of someone who complains about being bullied/harassed). Get hold of your policy and look for definitions in it. You should expect to find bullying and harassment defined. Usually harassment is about unwanted sexual approaches and bullying is repeated or persistent behaviour towards someone intended to be offensive, abusive, intimidating to the person being bullied or to be malicious to them or to be an abuse of power. Or something along those lines. I draw your attention to the underlined words, normally bullying requires both some form of repeated conduct (not one-off) and some level of deliberate intent to harm the person being bullied (or at least a total disregard for the effects of your actions on others). The definitions are important because misconduct under a disciplinary policy would normally require it to be established that your actions fell within the definitions of bullying and harassment within your policy.

    Knowing that helps you ask the right questions and to be in a position to defend yourself against the allegations.
    userunknown and GLsghost like this.
  6. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Yes, I have a very clear vision of how best the children will learn and the environment we need to create for this. I am direct and no nonsense and I do have high expectations of the children and adults. I am so upset that if whatever it is I have done to offend anyone, that this jumped straight to the formal procedure route - no discussion, no informal chat.

    Not having seen the policy document I have no idea whether or not you have transgressed.

    But, whatever the future may hold, do be aware that managers who describe themselves as you do can sometimes come across as intimidating despite that not being their intention. You need to make it absolutely explicit that your direct approach does not mean that you will be gruff or abrupt if someone disagrees. You are aware that you may ruffle some feathers but you do really welcome debate. This has to be said.

    Otherwise you risk colleagues going behind your back and insisting you are not receptive to discussion and they have no option other than to go behind your back.

    (Just a kindly-meant hint for this and the next job.)
  7. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    Sounds like a rock vs hard place situation! Stay 'nice' and some colleagues would not comply and take advantage, 'ruffle a few feathers' and you get blamed for something like this! I say potatoe you say potato!
    Even if you 'win' the case (and good luck!) I would get out of there ASAP as a school that just puts you on suspension with no reasoning is a busted flush to work for IMO!
  8. anon8315

    anon8315 Established commenter

    It must be a first, but I agree with scienceteacha's ghost.

    It can be very difficult, in the early stages of leading a department, to strike the balance right. As a new HOD, I began very softly and meekly, humbly asking opinions on everything which didn't work. Then, I became rather more draconian than I needed to be and made work for myself.

    Any good school will realise there's a learning curve with new managers and will support you in this. Ideally, a CPD programme for middle leaders should be implemented - no one is born knowing how to lead a department or a pastoral team.

    I can sympathise, as people do sometime exaggerate terribly.

    Would they accept a resignation and then no questions asked? I'd prefer this but I am of the 'keep your head down' school of thought.
    GLsghost likes this.
  9. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    Unless there are things we are not being told, this does seem very draconian. If a new leader's management style is ruffling feathers, I would have expected guidance and perhaps some mediation, not for the first response to be disciplinary.
  10. newposter

    newposter Occasional commenter

    There are a few clues as to how you may havw conducted yourself so far - 'driving up standards, clear vision, no nonsense'. Everyone I know who talks like this could do with a lesson on dignity.

    How were you planning on driving up standards? Disciplinary? Capability? With some luck this experience might give the rest of your career some perspective.

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