The Bristol Guide: Professional Responsibilities and Statutory Frameworks for Teachers and Others in Schools.

Author(s) University of Bristol, Graduate School of Education
Editor(s) Malcolm Lewis
Publisher University of Bristol
Published 2007
Pages 80
Price 5.50 (for one)
Reviewed by Miss Emese Hall
University of Exeter
Review published 15 November 2007

Produced by the Document Summary Service at the University of Bristol Graduate School of Education, The Bristol Guide is recommended reading for trainee teachers, established teachers, teaching assistants and Higher Level Teaching Assistants; although I think that school governors and education studies students would also find it useful. Published annually, this is the 10th edition of the guide. You may well, like me, have heard of it before but perhaps have never actually seen a copy. I was intrigued to see what it contained and hope that this review will convince you of what I discovered to be its considerable merits.

Firstly, a great deal of important information is contained in just 80 pages. Divided into 20 sections, topics covered in the guide include Health and Safety, Child Protection, The Management of Personal Data, and Every Child Matters - to name just a few. Ranging from a couple of pages (e.g. School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions of Employment) up to 9 pages (e.g. Behaviour and Discipline), each section starts with a short introduction and ends with a list of references. This might seem like standard organisation, but the overall layout is clear and well thought out: e.g. key words are printed in bold and other presentation techniques such as bullet points, italics, and underlining are used effectively. At the back of the guide there is a list of ‘‘more useful references and websites’’ along with space to add your own.

I wouldn’t exactly say that The Bristol Guide is an enjoyable read, but it is highly informative and user-friendly. The writing style is accessible throughout and there is no unnecessary legal jargon. Although it is not the sort of book you have to read from cover to cover, if you are amongst the intended readership you should be familiar with its contents. Thinking you know the details of your professional responsibilities is not enough in the current climate of accountability and litigation; therefore The Bristol Guide could be described as the sort of reference book you can’t really afford to be without.

In addition to perhaps confirming facts that you feel pretty certain about, the guide may also shed light on some issues that you feel less certain about. A good example is given on page 29, where it is noted that ‘‘Since the Children Act 1989, there has been a common misconception that any physical contact with a child is in some way unlawful. This is not true.’’ Although I can’t adequately summarise the follow-on from this statement, I can say that the guide provides helpful advice about when physical contact with a child is permissible; and equally where it is prohibited. This also ties in with the guidance given on the use of force to restrain pupils. Did you know that, according to the guidance on page 62, immediately following an incident where force is used ‘‘the teacher should report the matter orally to the headteacher or senior member of staff, and provide a written report as soon as possible afterwards’’? In most cases the guide probably reinforces what is - or at least should be - stated in school policies, but it is reassuring that you can refer to the guide for additional support and clarification.

Education, as with many other professions these days, is full of acronyms and abbreviations. This is my one criticism of the guide. Although most of these are explained, a glossary might have been a helpful addition for some readers (e.g. it is expected that you should know what is meant by DfES, QTS and INSET). Also, in places the DCSF is mentioned but there is no explanation of this acronym (for those who don’t know, this stands for The Department for Children, Schools and Families – replacing what was the DfES: The Department for Education and Skills). I suppose this is one example of why it is necessary to keep track of changes in professional responsibilities and statutory frameworks as nothing stands still for very long.

In summary, The Bristol Guide is essential reading for all those listed above. As a PGCE tutor and school governor I think I can answer for the intended audience and will certainly be recommending it to others. Keeping a copy of this little book at hand is advisable – not least because it will save you from firstly locating, and then trawling through a lot of (mostly) very dull and long-winded documents. For £5.50 that’s money well spent!