Relationships with colleagues

Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting.

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Q: I am a deputy head in a church-maintained secondary school. After a private party a few weeks ago, I began an affair with the head of English at my school. We are both married and her husband has now found out and is threatening to inform the school and diocese that I have brought undue influence to bear on his wife because of my position in school. I am her line manager. We wish to end our marriages and maintain our new relationship, which, so far, we have kept completely secret.

A: In the first instance, it may be worthwhile discussing the situation directly with your headteacher. This will allow you to retain some degree of control in how the information comes to light and limits damage that may be caused if the revelation were to be made by the husband. As the reputation of the school could be at stake, the headteacher may also need to make the chair of governors and the diocese aware of the situation.

While, in this case, there appears to be no suggestion of behaviour which would bring the school into disrepute, it may still be something that the school may potentially seek to explore further. For example, the school/diocese may have in place a policy that requires staff conduct to be in accordance with the religious ethos of the school or a policy that prevents behaviour of this nature. Prior to taking action, it would be worth reviewing all relevant policies in place to establish whether the conduct in question is acceptable. If such a policy does exist, the fairness of such a policy would need to be considered. Further consideration also needs to be given to whether the conduct in question has taken place during school time or during school-related activities as this may give rise to allegations that may justify disciplinary proceedings.

The issue of undue influence could potentially be remedied by removing duties relating to the line management of the head of English and giving it to another member of staff. Ultimately, whether an allegation of undue influence is furthered will be dependent on whether the head of English believes that undue influence has been exerted on her and if she is prepared to give evidence to this effect within an investigation.

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