Nepotism is “the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs,” according to the Oxford Dictionaries. Eleven million people got a job through a relative and 34 percent skipped the interview stage after getting hired through a friend, according to a 2011 survey by Aldi Graduate Recruitment. In teaching the idea that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” can apply to headteachers abusing their position and hiring relatives as teachers or school staff. However, the rules regarding nepotism in education are not clear-cut.
Hiring a relative to teach or work in a school may bring advantages -- the person is known and likely to be honest and trustworthy, and is often willing to work hard to prove they are capable of the job on their own merit. However, the downside of this practice is most significant. The appointed relative may lack the skills or experience to do the job, and could be taking the opportunity away from a more qualified unrelated candidate. This decreases morale in the school, causes conflict between teachers and staff, and can carry legal risks.
Appointing a teacher because of who they are related to, not what they know, is not illegal and there are no specific rules against nepotism that apply in law. Similarly, there is no specific law or statutory requirement that schools advertise every vacancy that occurs, either externally or internally. However, recruiting a family member or friend without first advertising the job to others leaves the employer open to charges of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 because the selection procedure disadvantages disproportionately more people from a particular group.
The General Teaching Council for England (GTC) was the profession’s watchdog body until 2010, responsible for improving standards of professional conduct among teachers including investigating allegations of nepotism and discrimination. Education secretary Michael Gove abolished the GTC and the responsibility of policing issues like nepotism now falls to individual heads and the Department of Education’s Teaching Agency.
A headteacher in south-east London was banned from teaching in 2011 after appointing her daughter as a reception teacher without previously advertising the job or giving the opportunity to apply to other teachers; creating a computer technician role for the partner of another daughter; and giving her family special privileges, according to the General Teaching Council for England. Other cases involving the promotion of relatives to school positions are being investigated by the Department for Education.