top of page

Even experienced teachers are surprised at what the law allows them to do…

I have written and lectured widely on issues related to teaching ethics and values including the law - teachers’ legal responsibilities, authorities and powers. I’ll repeat that… teachers legal responsibilities, authorities and powers.

Most people know all about a teacher’s legal responsibilities – but few know that they have authorities and powers too. Even experienced teachers don’t always know what these are.

This morning I received an email from a SCITT Director in East Anglia who had just showed my video-lecture-module on ‘The Teacher and the Law’ to her large cohort of secondary trainees. It said:

Morning Alan

I hope all is well. The Secondary Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT Trainees have now watched and engaged with all three videos that we have subscribed to… I have attached the feedback from the secondary trainees about the ‘Teacher and the Law’ module and as you can see the feedback is very positive and I must admit, having been a teacher myself for eighteen years, I learnt some things from the video when I watched it too.

Thank you for the time you have spent in putting together such an informative video for our trainees on a topic which is very important for inexperienced teachers to get right.

Best wishes


There’s no room for all the trainee feedback but in virtually every comment – and there’s over seventy of them – they mention that the ‘stand-out’ information they got from watching the video was ‘reassurance’ about the clarity of the information on legal authorities and powers teachers have.

For example, many comments included surprise, even incredulity that teachers were allowed to restrain children…

they were equally surprised about the wide variety of reasons they could so…

not only that, they had thought they should not even touch children!

They were astonished that teachers had powers to impose a wide variety of disciplinary measures…

even for things that happened outside of school time…

and amazed that a head teacher could delegate them to search a child…

they didn’t know they could confiscate a pupil's property…

and it was a revelation to them that teachers could impose detention at weekends…

and an even bigger eye-opener they could do it without parental consent too!

It came as a whammy that while they could be sacked, barred and even imprisoned for a sexual relationship with a pupil at their own school (even a pupil that was over 16 years old and consenting) that it wouldn’t matter a legal jot if they did the same thing with a pupil from another school!

It was a shocker that teachers are expected – by law - to behave like ‘responsible parents’ and that this legal authority goes back over a hundred and fifty years.

The good news was that almost every single one of the trainees also commented they felt ‘reassured’ and ‘more confident’ about going into school now that they knew what the law said about their authorities and powers... as well as their responsibilities.

While I always advise trainees to follow school policies, you may have been surprised too about some of the legally sanctioned authorities and powers teachers have. If you were, then I suggest you do the video-module too.

You might learn something very surprising.

Watch this sample video of ‘The Teacher and the Law’ - it's free to share with your fellow trainees.

The full video-module – which has:

· 90-mins of HD quality video and full information about a teacher’s legal responsibilities, authorities and powers with:

· additional learning materials for extra study

· a self assessment exercise to test your knowledge, and

· a completion certificate that you can add to your ‘Evidence Folder’

available at the newteacherstalk website

Alan Newland worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and head teacher in London for over 20 years and then for a decade with the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures on teaching ethics and professionalism and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk.

His new book: 'Becoming a teacher - the legal, ethical and moral implications of entering society's most fundamental profession' is out now, published by Crown House Publishing.



bottom of page