Staff Code of Conduct

Staff Code of Conduct

1.   Statement
2.   Aims
3.   Related policies and guidance
4.   Staff duty
5.   Student and staff relationships
6.   General conduct
7.   Physical contact and ‘reasonable use of force’
8.   Conduct outside of the College
9.   Communication with students
10. Code of conduct for photographs and videos
11. Confidentiality and data protection
12. Gifts and rewards
13. Reporting and criminal offences; Whistleblowing
14. Consequences of breaching this policy

1. Statement
Ashbourne actively promotes a culture of mutual respect, tolerance and collaboration between all members of the College community. Staff are expected to act as role models for students by consistently demonstrating high standards of behaviour. The Staff Code of Conduct has been formulated to support and guide staff so they can continue to meet professional and expected standards of conduct.

Staff are encouraged and supported to report any concerns or experiences, however small they may feel they are, including about themselves, as soon as possible to the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) or another member of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) so that appropriate and timely action can be taken and support offered.

Failure to follow the code of conduct may result in disciplinary action being taken, as set out in the disciplinary procedures below.

2. Aims
The aim of this policy is to:

  • confirm and reinforce the professional responsibilities of staff (both teaching and non-teaching)
  • clarify the legal position in relation to sensitive aspects of staff/student relationships
  • set out the expectations of standards to be maintained within the Ashbourne College.

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3. Related policies and guidance
3.1. Related policies

3.2 Guidance

  • Department for Education Keeping Children Safe in Education

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4. Staff duty
It is the contractual duty of every member of staff to observe the rules and obligations in this code. Staff should also follow the guidance unless there is a good reason not to follow it in a particular case.

5. Student and staff relationships
5.1 Inappropriate relationships
Allegations of unprofessional conduct or improper contact or words can arise at any time. Professionalism and vigilance are required so as to ensure the safety of students in the College’s care, and to reduce the risk of an allegation of impropriety against a member of staff. This guidance applies to all adults working at Ashbourne College, and not just teachers.

Forming inappropriate relationships with students or young people who are students or students at another college may be regarded as gross misconduct. Such behaviour tends to brings Ashbourne College into disrepute and gives rise to concern that the staff involved cannot be trusted to maintain professional boundaries with students at the College.

5.2 Behaviour giving particular cause for concern
Staff should take particular care when dealing with a student who:

  • appears to be emotionally distressed, or generally vulnerable and/or who is seeking expressions of affection;
  • appears to hold a grudge against them;
  • acts in a sexually provocative way or one whose manner with adults is over-familiar;
  • may have reason to make up an allegation to cover the fact that they have not worked hard enough for public examinations.

5.2.1 Procedure to be followed in these cases:
Some of these behaviours may be indications that a student has been, or is currently being, abused and should therefore be reported to the DSL in accordance with the College’s Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy and Procedures.

5.2.2 General guidance
Staff should be aware of the general guidance that will apply in all cases. In particular, staff:

  • need to exercise professional judgement but always act within the spirit of these guidelines. If a staff member is involved in a situation where no specific guidance exists, they should discuss the circumstances with the DSL or member of the SLT. A written record, including dates, should be kept that includes justification for any action taken;
  • must be familiar with the College’s Low-level Concerns and Allegations Against Staff Policy;
  • must be aware of the College’s Child Protection Procedures;
  • must seek guidance from the DSL or another member of the SLT if there is any doubt about appropriate conduct.

5.2.3 Record keeping
Comprehensive records are essential. Any incident involving students that could give cause for concern, whether contemplated in these guidelines or not, should be recorded with justifications for any action taken. In addition, any incident should be promptly reported to a member of the SLT.

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6. General conduct
6.1 General conduct and behaviour
Staff should observe the College’s policies on Alcohol and Smoking and Drugs and Substances.

6.2 College property
Staff must take proper care when using Ashbourne College property and staff must not use College property for any unauthorised use or for private gain.

6.3 Use of premises
Staff must not carry out any work or activity on the College premises other than pursuant to the terms and conditions of employment without the prior permission of the Director of Studies.

6.4 Good order and discipline
Teaching staff and other staff in charge or control of students must maintain good order and discipline at all times when students are present on the College premises and whenever students are engaged in authorised College activities, whether on the College premises or elsewhere.

6.5 One-to-one meetings
If a member of staff is teaching one student, or conducting a one-to-one meeting or teaching session with a student, they should take particular care in the following ways:

  • use a room that has sufficient windows onto a corridor so the occupants can be seen, or keep the door open, or inform a colleague that the lesson/meeting is taking place;
  • arrange the meeting during normal College hours when there are plenty of other people about;
  • do not continue the meeting for any longer than is necessary to achieve its purposes;
    avoid sitting or standing in close proximity to the student, except as necessary to check work;
  • avoid idle discussion;
  • avoid all unnecessary physical contact and apologise straight away if there is accidental physical contact;
  • avoid any conduct that could be taken as a sexual advance;
  • report any incident that causes concern to the DSL, and make a written record (signed and dated).

6.6 Pre-arranged meetings
Pre-arranged meetings with students outside College are not permitted unless approval is obtained from their parents and a senior colleague. If staff are holding such a meeting, they should inform colleagues before the meeting.

6.7 Home visits
In some circumstances home visits are necessary. Staff should:

  • discuss the purpose of any visit with senior colleagues
  • follow the risk management strategy
  • not visit unannounced if this can be avoided
  • leave the door open when alone with students
  • keep records detailing times of arrival and departure, and work undertaken
  • discuss with the manager anything that gives cause for concern and refer to other agencies if felt appropriate
  • have a mobile ‘phone and an emergency contact.

6.8 Language
Staff should use appropriate language at all times. They should:

  • avoid words or expressions that have any unnecessary sexual content or innuendo; avoid displays of affection either personally or in writing (e.g. messages in birthday cards, text messages, emails etc);
  • avoid any form of aggressive contact such as holding, pushing, pulling or hitting, which could amount to a criminal assault, or threatening words;
  • avoid any words or actions that are over-familiar;
  • not swear or use any sort of offensive language in front of students;
  • avoid the use of sarcasm or derogatory words when punishing or disciplining students and avoid making unprofessional personal comments about anyone.

6.9 Dress
Staff should dress appropriately and in a professional manner; at the very least, dress should be smart-casual. Dress must not be offensive, distracting or revealing. Political or other contentious slogans or badges are not allowed.

6.10 Dealing with ‘crushes’
Crushes, fixations or infatuations are part of normal adolescent development. However they need sensitive handling to avoid allegations of exploitation. If staff suspect that a student has a ‘crush’ on them or on another colleague they should bring it to the attention of senior colleagues at the earliest opportunity.

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7. Physical contact and ‘reasonable use of force’
7.1 ‘Reasonable use of force’ or physical restraint
7.1.1  Physical restraint
All forms of corporal punishment are unlawful.

7.1.2 By law, teaching staff, and other staff who are authorised by the Principal to have control or charge of students, may use such force or physical contact as is reasonable in the circumstances to prevent a student from doing, or continuing to do any of the following:

  • committing a criminal offence;
  • injuring themselves or others;
  • causing damage to property, including their own;
  • engaging in any behaviour prejudicial to good order and discipline at Ashbourne College or among any of its students, whether that behaviour occurs in a classroom or elsewhere.

7.1.3 Application of code of restraint
This applies when a teacher, or other authorised person, is on College premises and when they are in control or charge of the student elsewhere, for example on a field trip or other authorised out of College activity. It only applies where no other form of control is available and where it is necessary to intervene.

7.1.4 Before intervening
Before intervening physically staff should, wherever practicable, tell the student to stop and what will happen if they do not. Staff should continue attempting to communicate with the student throughout the incident and should make it clear that physical contact or restraint will stop as soon as it ceases to be necessary. Staff should always avoid touching or holding a student in a way that might be considered indecent. Nor should staff act in a way that might reasonably be expected to cause injury.

7.1.5 Inform senior staff
Staff should inform the DSL or a member of the SLT immediately following an incident where force has been used. This is to help prevent any misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the incident, and it will be helpful in the event of a complaint. Staff should provide a written report as soon as possible afterwards

7.1.6 Action taken in self-defence or in an emergency
The law allows anyone to defend themselves against an attack provided they do not use more force than is necessary. Similarly, where a student is at risk of immediate injury or on the point of inflicting injury on someone else, any member of staff (whether authorised or not) would be entitled to intervene.

7.1.7 Using ‘reasonable force’
There is no legal definition of ‘reasonable force’. It will always depend on the circumstances. Note that:

  • physical force could not be justified to prevent a student from committing a trivial misdemeanour;
  • any force should always be the minimum needed to achieve the desired result;
  • whether it is reasonable to use force and the degree of force that could be reasonably employed might also depend on the age, understanding and sex of the student.

7.2 Physical contact in other circumstances
7.2.1 When physical contact may be appropriate
Physical contact with a student may be necessary and beneficial in order to demonstrate a required action, or a correct technique in, for example, singing and other music lessons or during PE, sports and games.

7.2.2 Guidance on using physical contact
Staff should observe the following guidelines (where applicable):

  • explain the intended action to the student;
  • do not proceed with the action if the student appears to be apprehensive or reluctant;
  • if staff have other concerns about the student’s likely reaction ensure that the door is open and if they are in any doubt, they should ask a colleague or another student to be present during the demonstration.

7.2.3 Report concerns
If staff are at all concerned about any instance of physical contact, inform DSL or another member of the SLT without delay, and make a written record.

7.2.4 Offering comfort to distressed students
Contact may also be appropriate where a student is in distress and needs comforting. Staff should use their own professional judgement when they feel a student needs this kind of support and should be aware of any special circumstances relating to the student. For example, a student who has been abused may find physical contact particularly difficult. Staff should always notify a member of the SLT when comfort has been offered and should seek guidance if unsure whether it would be appropriate in a particular case.

7.2.5 Administering first aid
When administering first aid staff should explain to the student what is happening and ensure that another adult is present or is aware of the action being taken. The treatment must meet the College’s Health and Safety at Work Rules and Intimate care guidelines, and parents should be informed.

7.2.6 Regular physical contact
Generally, regular physical contact can only be justified where it is part of an agreed plan such a College policy, or as a result of SEND and Access Arrangements.

7.2.7 Students’ entitlement to privacy
Students are entitled to privacy when changing or showering. However there still must be an appropriate level of supervision to ensure safety. Staff should:

  • avoid physical contact or intrusive behaviour when students are undressed;
  • announce themselves when entering changing rooms and avoid remaining unless required;
  • not shower or change in the same place as students.

7.2.8 Where a student has been abused
Where a student has previously been abused, staff should be informed on a ‘need to know’ basis, and should be extra cautious when considering the necessity of physical contact.

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8. Code of conduct for contact outside College
8.1 Contact outside College
Staff should avoid unnecessary contact with students outside College. Staff:

  • should not give students their home address, home ‘phone number, mobile ‘phone number or e-mail address;
  • should not send personal communications to students unless agreed with a member of the SLT;
  • should not make arrangements to meet students, individually or in groups, outside College other than on College trips authorised by the DSL or member of the SLT;
  • should avoid contacting students at home unless this is strictly necessary, and staff should keep a record of any such occasion;
  • should not give a student a lift in their own vehicle other than on Ashbourne College business and with permission from the DSL or member of the SLT;
  • should avoid inviting students (groups or individuals) to their home unless there is a good reason and it has been approved by management. This prohibition also applies if staff have on site accommodation;
  • should ensure that students do not see anything in their home that may cause embarrassment or that might become the subject of inappropriate gossip or rumour.

8.2 Social contact: Staff should be aware that where they meet students or parents socially, such contact could be misinterpreted as grooming. Any social contact that could give rise to concern should be reported to a member of the SLT.

8.3 Friendships with parents and students: Members of staff who are friends with parents of students or who, for example, are voluntary workers in youth organisations attended by students, will of course have contact with those students outside College. However, members of staff should still respect the above advice wherever possible and should keep the DSL informed of such relationships.

8.4 Scope of application of code on contact outside College
The same guidelines should be applied to after-College clubs, College trips, and especially trips that involve an overnight stay away from the College where there are separate, more detailed guidelines for College trips. The principles of this guidance also apply to contact with students or young people who are students at another college.

8.5 After-College activities
When taking part in after-College activities, staff should:

  • be accompanied by another adult unless otherwise agreed with a member of the SLT;
  • undertake a risk assessment;
  • obtain parental consent.

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9. Communication with students
9.1 Communicating with students and parents
All communication with students or parents should conform to Ashbourne College policy and be limited to professional matters. Except in an emergency communication should only be made using College property.

9.2 Application
These rules apply to any form of communication including mobile phones, web-cameras, social net-working websites and blogs.

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10. Code of conduct for photographs and videos
10.1 Permission required
Staff are entitled to take photographs or videos of their students, provided that they embrace everyday activities such as: trips, outings, special events, etc. Otherwise staff must seek the consent of a member of the SLT.

Provided there are no names attached to any photographs or videos taken of students, there are no issues relating to Data Protection legislation. Nonetheless, with regard to child protection, staff should be cautious and familiarise themselves with the guidance below, seek advice from the DSL or member of the SLT or from the Information Commissioner’s Office directly.

10.2 Guidance where permission obtained the following should be considered:

  • the purpose of the activity should be clear as should what will happen to the photographs or videos. Staff must be able to justify images in their possession;
  • all images should be made available in order to determine acceptability;
  • images should not be made during one-to-one situations;
  • if an image is to be displayed in a place to which the public have access it should not display the student’s name. Similarly where a student is named (in a College prospectus, for example) the name should not be accompanied by a photograph or video;
  • all images of students should be stored securely and only accessed by those authorised to do so.

10.3 Appropriate material
Staff must ensure students are not exposed to inappropriate or indecent images. Inappropriate material, such as pornography, should not be brought to work and staff must not use College property to access such material. Staff should not allow unauthorised access to the College’s equipment and should keep their computer passwords safe. If staff discover material that is potentially illegal, they must isolate the equipment and contact the DSL in accordance with the College’s Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy and Procedures immediately.

Staff are required to read and sign the Acceptable Use of ICT Agreement.

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11. Confidentiality and data protection
11.1 Treatment of student information
Staff should respect the privacy of students, parents and colleagues and should not pass information about, for example, addresses or telephone numbers to others, without checking first with the person concerned.

11.2 Consent required
Lists of students’/parents’ names and addresses must not be used for any purpose without the consent of the Director of Studies or the Principal. Information about students, parents or colleagues should never be disclosed to telephone enquirers. Staff should ask the enquirer to put the request in writing so that it can be dealt with appropriately.

11.3 Duty to disclose confidential information
Staff may have to disclose information, for example where abuse is alleged or suspected. In such cases, there is a duty to pass on the information immediately, but only to the DSL in accordance with the College’s Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy and Procedures. The storing of personal information must not breach the College’s Data Protection Policy. Note: never give an undertaking of confidentiality to a student where child protection issues are involved (see separate Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy and Procedures).

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12. Gifts and rewards
12. If a gift is received
If staff receive a gift they should:

  • declare the gift where there is a possibility it could be misconstrued, or in any event where the gift is of a value of more than £100. The Principal may in their absolute discretion require staff to decline the gift;
  • decline outright gifts that could be seen as a bribe or that have created an expectation of preferential treatment. Although it is accepted for parents or students to make small gifts to show appreciation, staff must not receive gifts on a regular basis or receive anything of significant value.

12.1 Giving gifts and rewards
Where staff are thinking of giving a gift or reward:

  • it should only be provided as part of an agreed reward system;
  • in all cases except the above, the gift or reward should be of little value and should be distributed equally;
  • selection processes should be fair and where possible should be agreed by more than one member of staff.

12.2 Allocation of gifts and rewards
Decisions regarding entitlement to benefits or privileges such as admission to College trips, activities or classroom tasks must avoid perceptions of bias or favouritism. The selection process must be based on transparent criteria.

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13. Reporting and criminal offences
13.1 Whistleblowing
Staff should report any activities or behaviour of colleagues that give cause for concern. Staff should be familiar with the College’s Whistleblowing Policy.

13.2 Duty of disclosure
Staff are required immediately to notify the College if they are charged or convicted of any criminal offence, if they receive a police caution, reprimand or warning, or if there is a formal child protection investigation of them or any member of their household under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 as amended.

13.3 Sexual Offences Act 2003
In addition to being gross misconduct, it is a criminal offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for a person aged 18 or over who is in a position of trust in relation to another person under 18 to engage in sexual activity with that person. Sexual activity is defined broadly and does not have to include physical contact. The offence is punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. For the purposes of the Act, a member of staff is in a position of trust in relation to students at the College at which they are working. It should be noted, however, as explained above, that forming inappropriate relationships with students or young people who are students or students at another college may also be regarded as gross misconduct. Such behaviour tends to bring the College into disrepute and gives rise to concern that the staff involved cannot be trusted to maintain professional boundaries with students and students at the College.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 also introduced the offence of “meeting a child following sexual grooming”. This applies where an adult arranges to meet a child aged under 16 in any part of the world, if they have met or communicated with that child on at least two earlier occasions and intends to commit a sexual offence against that child. The law is clearly intended to apply where adults contact students through the internet. However, the prior meetings or communications need not have an explicitly sexual content.

Most sexual activity involving a person under the age of 16 (male or female) is an indecent assault which is both a criminal offence and a matter for which damages can be awarded. This is so, even when the younger person is alleged to have provoked or encouraged the activity.

13.4 Unsuitable to work with students
The Education (Prohibition from Teaching or Working with Children) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1184) and the Education (Provision of Information by Independent Colleges) (England) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1934) require that where an employee is dismissed for being unsuitable to work with students or relating to the person’s health where a relevant issue is raised (or resigns to avoid such dismissal), they must be reported to the Independent Safeguarding Authority and may be barred or restricted from teaching or working with students.

13.5 Complaints
Every complaint by a student must be taken seriously and investigated. It may be necessary to involve social services who may themselves involve the police if there are grounds for thinking that a criminal offence has been committed.

14. Consequences of breaching this policy
It is in staff interests to follow this policy so as to maintain standards of behaviour and their own professional reputation. A breach of this policy may be treated as misconduct and will render staff liable to disciplinary action including in serious cases, dismissal.

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Authorised by The Principal
Date September 2023
Effective date of the policy September 2023
Circulation Teaching staff / all staff / parents / students on request
Review date September 2024
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