Legal responsibilities

Like others on the way to gaining QTS, you may be feeling anxious about your legal position while in the classroom. This brief summary should help you understand your rights and responsibilities.

What are my legal responsibilities?

All teachers, including those on the way to gaining QTS, have a ‘duty of care’ towards their pupils. According to this duty of care, you are required to apply your education and acquired skills to safeguard pupils, demonstrating reasonable and careful professional standards while you are at work.

The School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) sets out the duties of teachers employed in maintained schools. It also applies to teachers in academies, independent schools and free schools where the STPCD has been incorporated into their contracts. In addition to those concerned with classroom teaching, these include the maintenance of good order and discipline among pupils and the safeguarding of their health and safety.

You should always avoid discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief and transgender status. We believe that providing and promoting equal opportunities for pupils and staff is at the fundamental core of an effective education service.

How do I fulfil my duty of care to pupils?

  • you must do ‘what is reasonable in all the circumstances’ to safeguard and promote the welfare of your pupils
  • your actions should be those of a reasonable person in the circumstances of class teaching
  • your duty of care to individual pupils should take into account factors including age, health and how, where and with what resources their education is being delivered
  • you should always act in accordance with the procedures and guidelines provided for you by the school in which you are teaching.

What about my rights?

As well as the responsibilities outlined above, you also have rights.

  • Your school or college owes you a duty to provide effective support and training. This includes adequate classroom supervision, dependent on your level of experience. At first this may involve a teacher remaining with you in the classroom. Once you have established yourself, this supervision may involve only occasional visits to observe your practice
  • You have a right to a safe and healthy working environment.
  • You also have a right not to be discriminated against or harassed on the grounds of sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, age, transgender status, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership.
  • You have a right to receive written particulars of your terms and conditions of employment within two months of your recruitment where you are employed by the school or college.

Further help and advice

You can find more help and advice on a range of issues on the ATL and the NUT section websites.

Visit the ATL section website
Visit the NUT section website
Trainee advice
02 August 2017