Grumpy school secretary

(35 Posts)
MrsWinnibago Thu 05-Jun-14 14:54:54

My DD's go to a lovely small primary school. It's got a great ethos and wonderful teachers but the main school secretary/receptionist is just AWFUL!

I understand she's busy and probably has to field all kinds of daft/irritating phone calls but aibu to think she should try to sound a bit more friendly?

I just called to ask if it would be possible to get a message to my older DD that her schoolmate's Dad is giving her a lift home after school today...the receptionist speaks in the flattest possible voice without any intonation and manages to make me feel unreasonable for this request and that I'm interrupting important things...it's just the way she speaks with a sort of a sigh in her voice....long suffering kind of thing.

AIBU to think she should be a leeetle bit more friendly on the phone? And IABU to ask her to get this message to my 9 year old?

BigbyWolf Thu 05-Jun-14 14:58:24

Yanbu. Secretarys (school or otherwise) should always be happy, polite and helpful. I know because I used to be one grin

Perhaps she's having a bad day.

MrsWinnibago Thu 05-Jun-14 15:03:10

She's always this way Wolf! If you go in to hand in a form or some money she's exactly the same. A friend of mine went to pay some dinner money a little late and when she'd left, the door didn't quite close and my friend heard the secretary make a remark like "And we've STILL got to get the trip money off her...." as though my friend wouldn't pay!

Sparklingbrook Thu 05-Jun-14 15:09:14

I knew one like that. Everything was way too much trouble, and god forbid anyone questioned anything. It was a nightmare. There were only 55 children in the whole school too. hmm

For balance DS1 is at secondary and the receptionists there are lovely, nothing is too much trouble and always smiley and a bit of a laugh can be had. shock

Hamuketsu Thu 05-Jun-14 15:13:10

Dear me. I used to be a school secretary and - although you're bombarded with constant requests from parents who all think their request is the only one - it's a fundamental part of the role to be polite and friendly. The "sigh in the voice" is one of my pet hates among people who you're only asking to do their job. Especially in the case you mention. If another Dad is giving your dd a lift home, it's important that both she and the school have that information.

NoodleOodle Thu 05-Jun-14 15:19:41

YANBU

The secretaries at my DDs middle school were so grumpy compared to primary and high. I'm glad I've had the other two schools to compare with, so I know it's not my expectations but genuinely their mood.

sunshinecity17 Thu 05-Jun-14 15:21:46

YANBU, I have comer across some right miserable/officious/gragonlike secretaries!
Mind you , you never know what else is going on in somebody's life.

Stinkle Thu 05-Jun-14 15:21:52

Our school secretary is like this too.

Even when you're doing school a favour she acts as if you've asked her to fly to the moon

She's absolutely brilliant with the kids though, my DD loves her

MrsWinnibago Thu 05-Jun-14 15:28:51

I couldn;t be sure if I was BU to ask her to pass the message on...but it's not is it? I mean the kids have to know who'se taking them home nd the school need to know too! Otherwise she could walk off with any random person....I know she's 9 but it's still smallish.

Charlie01234 Thu 05-Jun-14 15:29:47

Do you live near me? Ours was like that too. Glad my 2 have left now but every conversation with her left me feeling crosser and crosser. I did my best to be polite and respectful of her but she was so rude - made me feel like I was interrupting her day every time. Gave up trying in the final year - she was just a miserable cow and a very bad advert for the school.

Nocomet Thu 05-Jun-14 15:36:30

YANBU
Primary had one secretary who was mostly great, but could be a bit short when stressed (understandable as she had her hours, but not her work load cut).

Then we got one who didn't seem to want the job. Everything was too much trouble, if you could find her at all.

Secondary admin are brilliant, reception are quite happy to deliver messages like the OPs, baby sit PE kit and cookery and the attendence lady is lovely.

DDs say finance are always nice and very patient about lost forgotten locker keys and any confusion over trip money etc.

(The old matron (medical officer was lovely) the new one isn't, sadly)

BigbyWolf Thu 05-Jun-14 16:16:05

Just seen your other posts. Not just a bad day then! She does sound grumpy and a bit rude.

It's definitely not unreasonable to ask her to pass a message on to your dd. It's part of her job!

WorraLiberty Thu 05-Jun-14 16:20:02

YANBU

There are about 4 admin staff at my son's Primary school and they're all really lovely.

Especially the Scottish lady who sounds like Mrs Doubtfire! grin

When I rang in a few weeks ago to say my son was ill, I started coughing my guts up and she said "Ohh you poor wee lass, you don't sound so well yourself. Away to bed with you and take some hot lemon".

It was like being comforted by my grandmother blush

Three out of the four office staff at dd's school are awful and really project a poor image for what is a wonderful school. I thought that it was just parents who received the brunt of it but ds works for the LA in schools support and he and his team all speak badly of the ignorant and ill mannered reception from that school. What they don't seem to realise is that they get standard service whereas the team go out of their way for schools who have pleasant office staff and have got them out of scrapes many a time.

Wigglykitten Thu 05-Jun-14 16:35:50

I'm a genuinely happy smiley school administrator, and at 3pm I probably get on average 6 calls within 5 minutes altering pick up arrangements for children. That then gives me 10 minutes to track the children down and give them the messages all the while interrupting assembly or whatever the teacher is doing with the class at the end of the day. It's part of my job, and I'd never ever let a parent know that I might feel a bit grumpy about it, but it is really awkward for me and disruptive for the classes. The more notice you can give of changes of arrangement the better (emergencies excepted).

There's no excuse if she's like that all of the time though, if she can't be pleasant to parents and children even if she's stressed then she may be in the wrong job!

tisrainingagain Thu 05-Jun-14 16:45:19

One of our school secretaries is like this too. I thought it was only us who had to put up with the unpredictable moods and frequently cold attitude. Plus she sometimes makes it difficult for people to do the things they legitimately need to do - she has been known to send people who are due to volunteer away, despite the fact that another member of staff within the school knew they were coming. She is capable of making people feel that they have just crawled out from underneath a stone.

tisrainingagain Thu 05-Jun-14 16:45:47

One of our school secretaries is like this too. I thought it was only us who had to put up with the unpredictable moods and frequently cold attitude. Plus she sometimes makes it difficult for people to do the things they legitimately need to do - she has been known to send people who are due to volunteer away, despite the fact that another member of staff within the school knew they were coming. She is capable of making people feel that they have just crawled out from underneath a stone.

tisrainingagain Thu 05-Jun-14 16:48:55

Oops, apologies for double post.

WyrdByrd Thu 05-Jun-14 17:10:27

She has been known to send people away despite the fact that another member of staff within the school knew they were coming.

Then those people that knew should have communicated that - school secretaries/receptionists are not bloody psychic!

OP, Yanbu - if she's always like it then it sounds like she's in the wrong job.

Having said that, it would be nice if people gave some thought to what people in this type of support role have to deal with in a day. 'Only' a secretary (as I've heard on too many occasions to count) can include secretarial/admin work, reception, switchboard, first aid, events organiser, dealing with finances, diary management, fundraising, ad hoc childcare and all sorts.

There's no excuse for being constantly rude and grumpy, but it's probably come about through years of people treating her like an 'ignorant' skivvy who has nothing better to do than their bidding the moment they snap their fingers.

Bet you can't tell what I do for a living... wink

WyrdByrd Thu 05-Jun-14 17:13:01

Didn't mean to imply that you're one of 'those' people btw OP. The majority of parents are lovely but you can guarantee the ones that aren't are the ones you have to deal with most often (not to mention the staff)!

KnittedJimmyChoos Thu 05-Jun-14 17:33:08

I had one today, it made me depressed being near her as she doesnt give off any vibes at all, and I get anxiety and nerves just being in her vicinity because she sort of sucks my enegery out somehow and is flat and unhelpful.

KnittedJimmyChoos Thu 05-Jun-14 17:34:41

* Plus she sometimes makes it difficult for people to do the things they legitimately need to do* people like this scare me

tisrainingagain Thu 05-Jun-14 17:36:45

If a parent says somebody inside the school is expecting them, surely the person on reception should get in touch with them on the internal phone to check. The parent in question was too cowed by her manner (which everybody comments on) so left. Our other school secretary is much easier to talk to. I too have been a secretary and I can't imagine ever talking to anyone as rudely as our rude one sometimes does. I am sure she gets stressed out but her job does involve being interrupted. Maybe she has no idea how intimidating people find her.

We used to have the most grumpy and foul tempered secretaries ever, they were a kind of freak double act.

One of them had to phone staff regularly to apologise for her rudeness. Even the head was scared of her. But she was a giant softie really and used to hand knit us all baby blankets for our babies and she is lovely when I bump into her now!

It wasn't pleasant at the time though and I did feel sorry for parents.

This sounds like me tbh. I think from childhood issues with a domineering mother that didn't like emotion, I've developed a very flat voice, it comes across as if I'm in a bad mood, or sharp, or 'off' as DH says. But that's just how I talk. after 10yrs you'd think he'd see that

Which is exactly why I never wanted to be a receptionist. I had to do a little in a previous job, and my boss offered to send my on kind of speech/elocution training blush. I had to really force myself to be chirpy on the phone.

RockinHippy Thu 05-Jun-14 17:44:30

YANBU - DDs old school had one exactly like this, if not worse - I even found myself wondering if it were the the same schoolgrin - & according to DD & her friends she wasn't great with the kids either

After 7 years of grumpy holier than though belittling attitude, I'm finding myself quite shocked at how lovely DDs new school secretary always is & its a much bigger school too
smile

foslady Thu 05-Jun-14 17:45:27

Try having a Burser who stockpiles cheques for five and a half months and cashes them (all �200) the day before the school hols. When you question why emails back 'sorry for the inconvinience, will be cashing weekly' .........and then stock piles for 2 months and cashes the day the Easter Hols start.......and ignores any further emaols asking when the weekly cashing is going to start.....ggggrrrrrr

CheeryName Thu 05-Jun-14 17:49:36

DD leaves her school soon and I am really going to miss the secretaries, they are awesome and cheery and helpful and hardworking and kind.

At DS' school its a different matter, they sound utterly pissed off about everything, and totally snotty.

Hamuketsu Thu 05-Jun-14 18:02:47

In many schools, particularly small primaries, the role seems to be quite poorly defined, in that the "ad hoc enquiries" part of the job is actually most of it, whereas in job descriptions it's a footnote at the bottom.

Being a school secretary basically consists of being interrupted. That would be fine, if you didn't have a mighty list of financial admin/official returns that need concentration, but the phone is constantly ringing and people are queueing to see you, many of them with the "snap your fingers" attitude towards lowly admin staff that a previous poster mentioned.

In larger schools with a proper office and multiple staff, one person presumably fields enquiries whilst the others can get on with the admin. But if there's only you, it's a pain in the arse. I left in the end, because I was only filling in anyway, and the only way I could get the admin done was to do it for free in my own time (minimum wage job). The interruptions literally took up ALL my paid hours. I was amazed at how stressful I found it, being the secretary in a tiny rural primary. Pre-children I was in a management role in central London, so I'm not a stranger to stress - but at least the pay was better!

Not that there's any excuse for outright rudeness, especially on a regular basis. But it must take a very special person to be uniformly cheerful in the job.

WyrdByrd Thu 05-Jun-14 18:31:44

Hamu you've articulated that so much better than my attempt!

I was taken on as Secretary/Receptionist, after 3 years they recruited a dedicated Receptionist. 18 months later I still spend a third of my time helping cover Reception because the Receptionist is also being swamped with other jobs confused.

RedRoom Thu 05-Jun-14 21:57:46

YANBU. Complain to the head! I'm a teacher and rude receptionists give a terrible first impression of our school.

WooWooOwl Thu 05-Jun-14 22:10:05

A nice school receptionist makes so much difference to a parents experience of having a child in school, good ones are worth their weight in gold. Especially as in my experience, they don't get paid to work for enough hours to cover all the jobs that they actually have to do.

I was incredibly lucky with primary school receptionists, ours always got included in the teacher and TA gift giving at Christmas/end of term because she was just so lovely.

Nocomet Thu 05-Jun-14 22:18:21

Ham, you hit articulate the problem very well.

In DDs old small school the secertary ends uo doing everything, especially in the run up to SATs when the HT takes Y6 out of their mixed age class.

Every single interuption is her problem.

Therefore, occasionally grumpyness is excusable, but not the secretary who just behaved as if she didn't want the job at all.

My DDs school secretary is like this. Tbh she's downright rude. I'm a public facing secretary, i'd genuinley be fired if I was half as rude.

MrsWinnibago Fri 06-Jun-14 09:43:00

I actually sigh with relief if I have to call school and the Head Teacher answers! Our HT is very scary (brilliant woman but scary) but on the phone she's SO helpful.

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