Staff Code of Conduct

Introduction and scope

This Code of Conduct sets out the minimum standards that should apply to all staff (including volunteers), visitors or other staff working with students on and off site. This code is designed to be supportive and aims to help employees to maintain professional standards of behaviour and protect themselves from misunderstanding or criticism.

The purpose of this Code of Conduct is to provide a framework for safe professional practice and effective partnerships between staff, leaders and parents/carers.

The Code does not supersede local operating guidelines nor the need for employees to fulfil their obligations laid down in their job description and contract of employment. It does not attempt to identify every college policy or procedure that exists but highlights some key rules, which broadly apply to all employees.

Also, staff in colleges have a common law duty of care towards students and have a legal obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare and well-being of all students, whose needs must be the first and paramount consideration. (Student Act 1989, Education Act 2002, Education and Inspections Act 2006).

1. Behaviour and standards

‘Each employee shares a responsibility for recognising the sensitivities and feelings of others, which may be different from their own but no less valid. All employees should be committed to high standards in delivering work and dealing with colleagues, this will not only be about the tasks people do but the effect of their words, how they interact/engage with others and tackling discriminatory or inappropriate behaviour’ (Respect at Work Policy – Sept 09). Employees also have a responsibility to not behave in such a way that may ‘bring the reputation of the college into disrepute’ outside of working hours particularly if they live and work in the local community. Employees have a responsibility to work with colleagues and treat them with respect.

The Park College staff are expected to give the highest possible standard of service to the public and, where it is part of their duties, to provide appropriate and impartial advice. All staff are expected to bring to the attention of the appropriate manager any deficiency in the provision of services to the public.

Teachers are also subject to the standards of personal and professional conduct in the Teachers’ Standards.

All employees are expected, without fear of recrimination, to report to the appropriate manager any impropriety or breach of procedure. The college has a procedure for “whistle blowing” (raising a concern) to facilitate this.

2. Appropriate dress

The college expects all employees to dress appropriately whilst at work so that confidence of service users is maintained. Whilst the college values diversity and is not seeking to achieve a complete uniformity of dress style, the college does expect all employees’ clothing at work to be neat, clean, modest and appropriate.

3. Confidentiality and Disclosure of information

The law encourages open government and has its own standards for disclosing certain types of information. All employees must be aware of which information is and is not open about and act accordingly.

Staff should not communicate to the public, press, television or any outside agency the contents of any documents relating to the college or the proceedings of any meetings that is confidential information unless required by law or authorised by an appropriate manager to do so. The only exception is in the case of elected Trade Union officials acting in their official capacity. However, Trade Union representatives would be expected to raise any issues through the normal channels through the college and/or the Trust in the first instance.

Employees should not use any information obtained in the course of their employment for personal gain or benefit, nor should they pass it on to others who might use it in such a way for example passing dates for review of contracts for services before they are public knowledge.

Staff or Volunteers in colleges must not use confidential or sensitive information about a student or their family for their own benefit or to humiliate or embarrass a student. Confidential information about students or the College should not be shared casually however; information that might suggest that a student is in need or at risk of significant harm must be shared with the Designated Person, in accordance with the safeguarding / student protection procedures.

4. Social contact

Staff should not establish or seek to establish any social contact with a student or their parents/carers. Unplanned or other social contact that happens outside of the college setting should be reported to the Principal. Staff should not give their personal telephone numbers or email addresses to students or their parents. No member of staff will enter into extra or private tuition or student care arrangements with parents without the permission of the Principal. Staff should notify their line manager of any existing or previous family or social relationship with a student or their parents/carers.

Please see section 35 for the use of internet and section 36 for the use of social media.

5. Physical contact

When physical contact is made with students, it should be in response to their needs at that time, of limited duration and appropriate to their age, stage of development, gender, ethnicity and background. Physical contact should never be secretive, for the gratuity of the adult or represent a misuse of authority. Extra caution should be exercised where a student is known to have suffered previous abuse or neglect. Such experiences may sometimes make a student exceptionally needy and demanding of physical contact and staff should respond sensitively by deterring the student through helping them to understand the importance of personal boundaries. Any extreme attention-seeking or behaviour by students that makes staff feel uncomfortable should be reported to a line manager. Staff supervising PE and games or providing music tuition may be required to initiate physical contact with students, the principle of “limited touch” should be applied, with understanding of students’ sensitivities and with the student’s agreement. Student are entitled to respect and privacy whilst they are changing or showering after games or swimming.

All adults should clearly understand the need to maintain appropriate boundaries in their contacts with students. Intimate relationships between students and the adults who work with them will be regarded as a grave breach of trust. Allowing or encouraging a relationship to develop in a way which might lead to an inappropriate relationship is also unacceptable. Staff must understand that any breaches in the law or professional expectations will lead to criminal or disciplinary action and barring. Employees should make themselves aware of the safeguarding and behaviour management policies adopted by the college.

6. Infatuations

It is not unusual for students or, sometimes, their parents to develop infatuations or “crushes” towards trusted staff. All such situations must be responded to sensitively to maintain the dignity of those concerned and any indications that this might be happening reported to the Head. In addition the object of the student or parent’s affections may not even be aware of this, in this case colleagues must bring this to the colleague’s attention and report this to the Head.

7. Students in distress

On those occasions when a student may be in distress and in need of comfort and re-assurance, staff should ensure that they remain self-aware at all times and that their contact with the student is not open to misunderstanding. Such incidents must always be recorded and shared with a line manager.

8. Care, control and physical intervention

The college is committed to the use of positive behaviour management and staff will not use any form of physical punishment, threats, sarcasm or demeaning comments to deal with unacceptable behaviour. When student need to be restrained for their own protection or the protection of others, this must only be undertaken in accordance with the training and policy sanctioned by the Leadership Team and Trust. Any such incidents and physical interventions will be recorded and reported to parents / carers.

9. One to one situations

Staff working individually with student should recognise the potential vulnerability of students and adults in such situations and ensure that they manage these situations with regard for the safety of both the student and themselves. Individual work with students should not be undertaken in isolated areas or rooms where there is no external visual access. Where it is necessary to close doors for reasons of confidentiality, a colleague should be made aware of this and asked to remain vigilant.

10. Home Visits

All work with students and parents should, wherever possible, be undertaken in the college or other recognised workplace, there are however occasions, in response to urgent or specific situations where it is necessary to make one-off or regular home visits.

A risk assessment should include an evaluation of any known factors regarding the student/young person, parents and others living in the household. Following an assessment, appropriate risk management measures should be put in place before visits are agreed. Where little or no information is available, visits should not be made alone.

No student or young person should be in or invited into, the home of an adult who works with them, unless the reason for this has been firmly established and agreed with parents/ carers and a senior manager or Principal.

11. Educational Visits and Out of College Activities

Adults remain in a position of trust and need to ensure that their behaviour remains professional at all times and stays within clearly defined professional boundaries.

Where out of college activities include overnight stays, careful consideration needs to be given to sleeping arrangements. Student, young people, adults and parents should be informed of these prior to the start of the trip. In all circumstances, those organising trips and outings must pay careful attention to ensuring safe staff/student ratios and to the gender mix of staff especially on overnight stays.

12. Transporting or accompanying students off-site

In general, staff will not be expected to transport or accompany students off-site on their own. However, in the event of an emergency situation (accompanying to a hospital), this may be appropriate. If staff use their own cars for transporting students, they will ensure appropriate escort arrangements and that they have business use motor insurance in place.

13. First Aid

All first aid will be administered only by suitably trained and accredited staff except in an emergency where the illness or injury is such that to delay assistance might cause harm to the student. Student who require any form of intimate care are entitled to privacy, dignity and safety. Students with ongoing health problems will be treated in accordance with any Medical Plan that has been agreed with the parent and the Health Authority and only by those who have been authorised to do so by the Principal. Lone members of staff should not be placed in a position where they are expected to provide any form of intimate care without the safeguard of having another colleague in the same room or area.

14. Curriculum

Care should be taken to abide by the College’s policy on sex and relationships education and the wishes of parents. The curriculum can include or raise a subject matter, which is sexually explicit or otherwise of a sensitive nature. Care should be exercised to ensure that resource materials cannot be misinterpreted and clearly relate to the lesson plan. The curriculum can sometimes lead to unplanned discussion of sensitive subject matters. Responding to students’ questions requires careful judgments and guidance should be sought from members of the Leadership Team, as appropriate.

15. Photography, videos and other creative arts

Written permission from students and their parents/carers must be obtained before taking photographs or films. This should be done on the standard college form. All images and films must be stored appropriately and securely only used by those authorised to do so Staff should be able to give account of the rationale behind any images of students that are in their possession.

Photographs and films taken for official college use may be covered by the Data Protection Act, e.g. if the images are going to be stored with other personal data. If the photograph is taken of groups of students during lessons and will be used in the college prospectus then the Data Protection Act does not apply. Names of student must not be published with photographs or films.

Whilst photographic and video images can play a valuable role within the curriculum, after-college activities and to celebrate achievement, there is potential for such images and opportunities to be misused by adults with ulterior motives. Staff should be sensitive to the needs of students who may have been abused in this way or who appear uncomfortable when asked to participate in photography or filming.

Permission from students and their parents/carers must be obtained for the use of images of students for publicity purposes and, in general, names of students will not be published.

16. Safeguarding

Staff must be aware of the name of the designated person with responsibility for safeguarding students (and their deputy) and understand their responsibilities under the safeguarding / student protection policy. All staff have a responsibility to raise concerns about the inappropriate or worrying behaviour of a colleague: in good faith and without fear of repercussions. Staff must accept responsibility for their own actions and behaviour and avoid any conduct that might lead any reasonable person to question their motivation and intentions. They must make a record of any incident and promptly consult their line manager. All staff are obliged to support the College’s statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare and well-being of all students.

Where allegations are made about the mistreatment of a student by a member of staff or volunteer, the Principal will follow the procedures adopted by the London Safeguarding Student Board, in consultation with relevant designated LA officers. In the case where an allegation is made against the Principal, the Chair of the Local Governing Body, will follow the above procedures.

Staff and volunteers working in colleges must understand that any breaches in the law or professional expectations might lead to criminal or disciplinary action and barring,

Under the Southwark Safeguarding Board requirements, staff are asked to complete a new DBS application every 3 years. Staff should in the interim period declare to the

17. Whistleblowing

If employees have concerns about something that is happening at work which they believe could be unlawful conduct, financial malpractice, a concern for the welfare or safeguarding of a student or be dangerous to the public or the environment, it is important that you bring it to the college’s attention. Further details can be found in the Whistleblowing policy on the The Park College website.

18. Political neutrality

All employees serve the Trist as a whole and it follows that they must serve all elected Members and not just those of any particular political group. Employees must ensure that:

  • the individual rights of all trustees are respected,
  • must follow every lawful expressed policy of the Council,
  • must not allow personal or political opinions to interfere with work and
  • must also understand that Members act through Committees or Sub-Committees.
19. Appointment and other employment matters

All employees involved in appointments should ensure that these are made on the basis of merit. It would be unlawful for an employee to make an appointment that was based on anything other than the ability of the candidate to undertake the duties of the post. The college’s recruitment and selection procedure must be strictly observed. In order to avoid any possible accusation of bias, employees should not be involved in an appointment where they are related to an applicant or have a close personal relationship outside work with him or her.

Staff should make the Principal/Chair of Trustees aware of any personal relations with other staff members or Governors that might lead to a conflict of interests or cast doubt on the integrity of the college/service; especially where one or other of the parties holds a management or leadership role

Similarly, employees should not be involved in decisions relating to discipline, capability, promotion or pay adjustments for any employee who is a relative, partner, close friend etc.

20. Relationships with the local community and service users

Employees should always remember their responsibilities to the community they serve and ensure courteous, efficient and impartial service delivery to all groups and individuals within that community as defined by the policies of the Trust. (See below for replying to correspondence and answering telephone calls).

21. Relationships with contractors

All relationships of a business or private nature with external contractors, or potential contractors, must be made known to the Principal and/or Trustees and properly recorded. All employees who engage or supervise contractors or who have any other official relationship with contractors and have previously had or currently have a relationship in a private or domestic capacity with contractors, must also declare that relationship. A Declaration of Interest pro-forma is available for such notification.

Orders and contracts must be awarded on merit, by fair competition against other tenderers and no special favour should be shown to businesses or consultancies run by, for example, friends, partners or relatives, in the tendering process. The Council’s Contract Standing Orders must be rigidly applied.

22. Outside commitments

Employees’ off-duty hours are their own personal concern. However, employees should not take up any outside activities or employment, whether paid or unpaid, which conflicts with or reacts detrimentally to, or has such potential, to the college’s/Trust’s and Council’s interests, or which exposes themselves to a significant health risk. All employees should be clear about their contractual obligations and should not take up outside employment that conflicts with the college’s/Trust’s and Council’s interests or exposes themselves to a significant health risk.

Employees should follow the Trust and Council’s rules on the ownership of intellectual property or copyright created during their employment. All patents, trademarks and other rights in inventions or concepts that are created or developed by employees during and arising from or related to their employment belongs to the Trust, subject to any rights acquired by employees under the Patents Act 1977. The Trust also owns the copyright in all work produced by employees during their employment.

23. Personal interests

Employees must declare to an appropriate manager any financial or non-financial interests they consider could bring about a conflict with the college’s interests.

Principals, Members, Trustees, Teachers and senior managers are required to declare membership of any organisation not open to the public without formal membership and commitment of allegiance and which has secrecy about rules or membership or conduct. A Declaration of Interests pro-forma is available for such notification. All other staff are encouraged to declare such membership to an appropriate manager.

24. Separation of roles during tendering

Employees involved in the tendering process and dealing with contractors should be clear on the separation of client and contractor roles within the college. Principals or Senior managers who have both a client and contractor responsibility must be aware of the need for accountability and openness. Employees in contractor or client units must exercise fairness and impartiality when dealing with all customers, suppliers, other contractors and sub-contractors.

Employees who are privy to confidential information on tenders or costs for either internal or external contractors, should not disclose that information to any unauthorised party or organisation.

Employees should ensure that no special favour is shown to current or recent former employees or their partners, close relatives or associates in awarding contracts to businesses or consultancies run by them or employing them in a senior or relevant managerial capacity.

25. Gifts and Corruption

Employees must be aware that it is a serious criminal offence for them corruptly to receive or give any gift, loan, fee, reward or advantage for doing, or not doing, anything or showing favour, or disfavour, to any person, including members of the public, in their official capacity. If an allegation is made, under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1916 an employee is deemed to have received the reward, etc, corruptly it is for the employee to demonstrate that any such rewards have not been corruptly obtained.

However, it is acknowledged that a teacher may, owing to a long-standing tradition, often be given small tokens by students, parents and or carers at certain times of the year. The Teacher must inform his/her Principal, if the value of the token is likely to exceed £25.00. However, it is unacceptable to receive gifts on a regular basis.

Personal gifts should not be given by staff to students and any reward to a student should be consistent with the college’s behaviour policy, recorded and not based upon favouritism.

Employees should not accept significant personal gifts from contractors and external suppliers, although the Trust does allow employees to keep items of token value such as pens, diaries, etc. In all cases, advice should be sought from the Principal or Trustees.

26. Use of financial resources

Employees must ensure that they use public funds entrusted to them in a responsible and lawful manner. They should strive to ensure value for money to the local community and to avoid legal challenge to the Trust. All employees should ensure that they have an appropriate awareness of the Trust’s financial regulations and that their actions fully comply with those regulations.

27. Hospitality

Employees should only accept offers of hospitality if there is a genuine need to impart information or represent the Trust in the community. Offers to attend purely social, entertainment or sporting functions should be accepted only when these are part of the life of the community or where the Trust should be seen to be represented. All such offers of hospitality should be properly authorised and recorded by the relevant manager.

When hospitality has to be declined those making the offer should be courteously but firmly informed of the procedures and standards operating within the Trust.

When receiving authorised hospitality, employees should be particularly sensitive as to its timing in relation to decisions which the Trust may be taking affecting or potentially affecting those providing the hospitality.

Acceptance by employees of hospitality through attendance at relevant conferences and courses is acceptable where it is clear the hospitality is corporate rather than personal, where the Principal/Trustees give consent in advance and where the Principal/Trustees is satisfied that any purchasing decisions are not compromised. Where visits to inspect equipment, etc, are required, employees should ensure that the college meets the cost of such visits to avoid jeopardising the integrity of subsequent purchasing decisions.

28. Sponsorship – giving and receiving

Where an outside organisation wishes to sponsor or is seeking to sponsor a college activity, whether by invitation, tender, negotiation or voluntarily, the basic conventions concerning acceptance of gifts or hospitality apply. Particular care must be taken when dealing with contractors or potential contractors.

Where the college wishes to sponsor an event or service neither an employee nor any partner, spouse or relative must benefit from such sponsorship in a direct way without there being full disclosure to the Principal/Trustees of any such interest. Similarly, where the college through sponsorship, grant aid, financial or other means, gives support in the community, employees should ensure that impartial advice is given and that there is no conflict of interest involved.

29. Equality issues

The Trust has a duty to promote community cohesion and members of that local community, customers and other employees have a right to be treated with fairness. All employees should ensure that they are aware of the Trust’s policies relating to equality issues and managing diversity and that all such policies are complied with fully, both in letter and spirit.

It is a personal responsibility of all employees to take all necessary steps to ensure that they do not discriminate against members of the local community, customers or other employees on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic and national origins, sex, marital status, domestic circumstances, sexual orientation, disability, age, class, ethical beliefs, basic skills or trade union activity. All employees must also do whatever is reasonable and appropriate to promote equality of opportunity in whatever way and whenever they can.

30. Debts and Rent and/or Council Tax arrears

Where employees are tenants or former tenants of the Southwark Council, they should not fall into arrears with payments of rent or Council Tax. Where any such arrears have been accrued prior to employment with the Council, and are still outstanding, employees should undertake to clear them within an agreed and reasonable period of time.

31. Use of Trust property and facilities for personal use

Employees are not normally permitted to use office equipment, e.g. personal computers, facsimile machines, photocopiers and the like, for personal use. Employees must not allow the college address to be used for personal mail deliveries without prior authorisation from the Head.

32. Answering telephones

All employees should ensure that telephones are answered quickly, efficiently, helpfully and politely usually within five rings, and should be aware the College may record telephone conversations for ensuring compliance with its policies and procedures and this code of conduct.

33. Answering correspondence

In general, correspondence should be acknowledged within three working days of receipt and a full reply sent within two weeks.

34. Use of Telephones, E-mail & Internet

Employees can make personal use of telephones, e-mail and internet facilities during work time, at the Principal’s discretion, or when there is an urgent need to contact someone in an emergency. The time spent should be kept to a minimum. Employees should also inform their family and friends only to contact them at work when it is necessary.

Staff may not use their personal mobile phones during work time and should not take personal phones or other personal electronic equipment into the classroom.

Employees must not view their computer or anything stored on it as personal. They must not download, store, display, view, retrieve or send electronic material that uses un-authorised encryption, contains programme files, is obscene, indecent, sexist, racist, defamatory, abusive, in breach of copyright, confidential, may constitute harassment, violate an individual’s dignity, or create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or otherwise inappropriate environment. Principals may access to an employee mailbox or gain access to Internet usage reports for the following reasons at any time with no notice to:

  • ensure compliance with this policy,
  • monitor standards of service or
  • to prevent, investigate or detect unauthorised use of the IT system or criminal activities.

 If students are found to have accessed such images, this should be reported to the Principal.

It is also strictly forbidden to download any software from or to load software onto the college’s IT system except with the prior written authorisation of the Principal.

Employees should use the Internet and electronic mail in exactly the same way as they would correspond to anyone on college headed notepaper and must remember that all electronic mail falls within the framework of the Data Protection legislation. Employees must not correspond on any aspect of College business, unless it falls within the employee’s job description and should not be treated as a confidential means of communication.

35. Use of Social Media

Introduction

Social media is the term commonly given to websites and online tools allowing users to interact with each other; by sharing information, opinions, knowledge and interests. Social media can include any website where comments and or information can be shared and are considered to be in the public domain for example photo sharing, blogs as well as the more well known social networking sits such as twitter and facebook.

This guidance aims to help college staff make responsible decisions to ensure they are using them in line with the College’s Code of Conduct. They must be used carefully to avoid potential pitfalls. Where actions in using social media are judged to contravene the college’s Code of Conduct employees may face disciplinary action and potentially summary dismissal (dismissal without notice), this may include activities outside employment.

Protocol

The basic premise is to exercise common sense. What you write on social networking sites is essentially in the public domain, even if you have privacy settings or material is posted on a closed profile or group.

1. You should only use social media in your capacity as an employee of the college where this is an appropriate communication tool which must be specifically endorsed by your Headteacher.

2. If you are not using social media to support you directly in your employed position, you should always access this in your personal time.

3. In any circumstance:

  • Be accurate, fair, thorough and transparent
  • Be mindful that what you publish may be public for a long time
  • Respect copyright and data protection laws as well as maintaining confidential information.
  • Do not publish or report information or conversations that are accessed through your employment at the college without explicit permission. “Conversations” may be oral or e-mail exchanges
  • Do not use swear words or use derogatory language.
  • It is unacceptable to use social media in a manner that would generally be accepted as a hostile attempt to hurt, upset or embarrass another person, or groups of people, associated with the college.
  • Never refer to stakeholders, suppliers or staff in a way that they can identify individuals
  • Never represent or reproduce the Southwark logo or the college logo without authorisation
  • Do not publish images relating to users of the college’s services unless consent has been given in writing
  • Be aware of safeguarding issues and materials which may adversely impact on student and vulnerable adults. Challenge and report inappropriate use of media.

4. In addition, in your personal use of social media:

  • Ensure that your online activities or expressed opinions do not interfere with or conflict with your job or your colleagues (for example many roles within colleges are viewed as role models, views expressed should not conflict with this).
  • If you are identifiable as a college employee on social networks, ensure your profile and related content is consistent with how you should present yourself with colleagues and users of college services
  • Do not download or copy college materials without permission
  • If you publish content to a website not owned by the college, and it has something to do with work that you do as an employee of the college (e.g. evident from your profile), use a disclaimer such as: “The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer.”
  • Maintain boundaries between your personal and professional lives, including customising your privacy settings and avoiding inappropriate personal information becoming visible to members of the group (please note that information can be passed on by individuals that have been allowed access to and any inappropriate views or content will be viewed as contravening the code of conduct)
36. Health and safety issues

All employees should ensure that they are fully aware of their own duties and responsibilities under the health and safety at work legislation. A copy of Trist’s Health and Safety Policy is available for each employee.