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Sensitive child, inexperienced teacher, what do you think?

(32 Posts)
Phoenix07 Tue 02-Jun-15 19:00:20

I set out the facts of this at the beginning, and the detail to follow afterwards.

My son is five, we live in South Africa. We are originally from the UK, but our children were born here. Our son left nursery at the end of last year, where he was happy. He started his new school in January.

The school he has joined has a fantastic reputation. There are three teachers in his year, all of them are new this year, his teacher is in her early twenties and this is her first full-time post.

Over the last term and a bit, we have had a series of concerns. All of the issues were raised with his teacher.

Our son is becoming increasingly unsettled.

Some of the concerns were addressed, some were not.

Two weeks ago we had a very serious concern, in my opinion, so after I spoke with the teacher, my husband went to see the head teacher.

The head teacher was defensive.

We set up a meeting with the head teacher, the principle of the junior school, and our son's class teacher.

My husband and I set our our concerns, said we were not there to complain, to get a common understanding and view, so that we could all manage our expectations going forward.

On every point we raised the school either gave different information to the information we had received in previous meetings, denied point blank our concerns had occurred, or dismissed our concerns as 'not being their responsibility.' i.e. It was not the school's responsibility to deal with the concern, but the other parents'.

Our concerns, in our opinions', were as follows:

1. Violent play in the playground.

2. Graphic violence in religious education.

3. A breach of their 'duty of care'.

4. The curriculum being ridgid and inflexible.

5. The lack of a school uniform in the first year (but for all the other years).

The first point relates to the children playing 'zombie' games in the playground, where a child who did not want to play was captured by the zombies and locked in the playground storage shed (against his will). My son didn't know what zombies were, but was 'captured' and locked up. The school's response was in summary, 'all the children play zombie games, and they were very sorry they didn't notice the children being locked in the shed'.

The second point relates to my five year old asking me one day after school if I knew that 'Jesus has be hit on the head with a rock, screwed onto a cross, and left to die?'

He claimed he'd been shown a YouTube video of the crucificition.

The school denied it.

When I asked another mother to ask her son how he had learnt about Easter, he described the same video.

A few days later he asked me, 'why did they put blood on the doors? What was the last plague anyway (death of the firstborn)? His teacher had shown him a video of Passover, not on the curriculum,,which she later denied when my husband spoke to her, but admitted when we were all together with the head teacher (he said, 'I haven't seen the video, but what is the problem, some people die and others get flies up their noises?')

The third concern was related to my son badly cutting the skin on one of his knuckles accidentally at home. The cut opened so badly (the GP tried steri-strips and glue) we decided to keep him home for a day to keep it dry and clean. His teacher complained that he was missing school, after I'd explained how susceptible to cut was to being opened) so we sent him in, against our better judgement. The first day we sent him he came home with it bleeding a little. The second day I collected him the bandage was hanging off and the cut was open, bleeding and dirty.

I asked the teacher if anyone could have helped him, or called me (my husband had said when he dropped him off that she needed to watch it carefully and make sure it didn't open - and if it did to call me so I could take him to the doctor/hospital). She said she'd only just put it back on. My son said she had offered him a safety pin during the day, nothing else.

Our forth concern is around intellectual stretch. Our son could read, write, do math, and had great manners before he joined the school in January. He has regressed in all areas. He will not tell his teachers he knows what they are teaching because, I quote him, 'I don't want to be rude'.

The school have responded by saying that they are thinking about how to stream the subjects in some way.

Our last concern raised with the school, was the lack of uniform for the first class. My son's teacher sent out a Whatsapp to the whole of the class parents with photos of the boys doing a math excercise with one of the older classes. One of my son's class mates was wearing a Nirvana t-shirt. Not a nice one. I don't think it's okay, but the school say they 'didn't notice'.

Anyway, you've come to the end of the facts, I'd really appreciate your views and questions on the facts.

As a mother, I am really concerned. I feel I have followed all the routes I can. I don't like to run away from issues, I think you should resolve them, but we are being offered nothing from the school to address our concerns.

This is a really reputable school. I feel really naive for raising these issues with the school now, as it's clearly a 'be quiet or go away' response from the school.


PenelopePitstops Tue 02-Jun-15 19:06:28

If he's that precious, keep him at home. Bloody hell I'm glad you are nowhere near the school I teach in. You sound up tight with ridiculous expectations.

Chill out.

Unexpected Tue 02-Jun-15 19:38:13

Maybe things are very different and there are different cultural expectations in South Africa but I have to say you sound ridiculously uptight about too many issues.

Violent play in the playground is not good but this sounds like a one-off incident of someone being locked up?

Is the school a Faith school? Is religion part of the curriculum? I'm sure they are teaching about Easter, Passover etc in an appropriate way. You don't say that your son was upset by what he was told, you just seem to be projecting your own concerns (not clear what they are?) onto him.

Simply cannot believe that you kept your child off school with a skinned knuckle!

Intellectual stretch - the school should be differentiating work for all children but again, you are in south Africa, very difficult for people to comment with no understanding of how schools work there.

No school uniform - presumably you knew that before you sent him there? I cannot believe that you have enough time to notice the slogan on a T-shirt of a group of children sent out as a WhatsApp message.

If you are going to pick up on every issue like this, both you and your son are going to have a very difficult school life ahead.

namechange0dq8 Tue 02-Jun-15 19:46:24

One of my son's class mates was wearing a Nirvana t-shirt. Not a nice one. I don't think it's okay

It's none of your business. A school without a uniform policy is perfectly entitled to tell parents complaining about other children's clothing to mind their own business.

You sound hard work, and if you continue in this vein each of the schools you briefly send your child to will be glad to see the back of you when you leave. It sounds like you need a hobby.

Our forth concern is around intellectual stretch.

No, no, it's just too tempting.

PerspicaciaTick Tue 02-Jun-15 19:49:57

Although each incident sounds pretty minor, I would be increasingly concerned about the amount of stuff the staff aren't noticing. It has a cumulative effect of making it seem like they are a little careless about the well being of the children.
If I felt as uncomfortable about my child's school as you clearly do about yours, then I would be looking for alternatives.

Littlefish Tue 02-Jun-15 19:53:53

I think that this school is going to continue to disappoint you. Most of your expectations (other than the locking in the shed) sound overly high for a reception class. Your concern at the uniform sounds completely nuts!

I think you need to go and look at other schools now that you know what questions to ask, and what issues to look out for.

cansu Tue 02-Jun-15 19:55:20

Sorry but you do sound very precious. You are blowing these things up tbh. Your child had a grazed knuckle and the plaster fell off. This is not really a breach of care! the violent play game is not great, but it happened once and just letting the school know should be enough. the lack of uniform in y1 is I assume something you knew about when you joined the school. Your concerns about the RE curriculum are legitimate to a degree. If graphic videos are being shown then you could raise this. I teach about Easter to Y6 and I do explain what crucifixion was but I would definitely avoid too much graphic detail. I would try and chill out a bit. Save your thunder for more important issues. You will be constantly pissed off if you continue like this.

undoubtedly Tue 02-Jun-15 19:57:35

1. I think if it's a one off its not great, but not worth getting het up over

2. Not a big issue

3. You were being precious

4. This could be how the school curriculum is over there. Impossible to comment.

5. Utterly irrelevant.

To be honest, with what I've heard about the SA school system, you sound like you're making a huge fuss over nothing. I know several SA families who have left because the country, and the education system is "on its knees". You might have to suck it up.

hedgehogsdontbite Tue 02-Jun-15 19:57:54

The only thing on your list which I think is valid is the locking little kids in the shed.

APlaceOnTheCouch Tue 02-Jun-15 20:03:10

You're conflating too many issues.

1) I don't think it's acceptable that a child was locked in a shed and they didn't notice. I would have complained about that and I would have asked what steps were put in place to avoid it happening again (eg increased playground supervision; keeping the shed locked at all times so DCs can't get access, etc)

2) As for them learning about Christianity in religious studies. You must have known it was a faith school. If you want your DS removed from religious studies then request it in writing or consider a non-faith school. (although most non-faith schools also teach the basics of religion so it's likely your DS would still be made aware of the teachings of different religions).

3) You shouldn't have sent him to school if you were concerned about infection. It's not the teacher's job to check dressings.

4) Your DS isn't showing them what he is capable of; he is taking time to settle. That's ok. Stop pushing him and them. Once your DS is comfortable at school and they see the level of his work, they'll teach accordingly.

5) Most non-uniform schools have some sort of guidelines eg no offensive words or images. If it was offensive then they should have noticed. But, they didn't. Or, they don't have that policy. You should probably have checked this before sending your DC to the school but since he has uniform for next year then it's not an issue.

Lastly, either calm down or choose a different school. You are one parent of many. Your DC is one of many. Your valid concerns are being lost in your complaints about the general ethos of the school. (2) (4) and (5) are fundamental to the school's ethos. If you dislike them so strongly that you've met with the head, the class teacher, etc, then you should consider a different school. (3) was your responsibility.

NickiFury Tue 02-Jun-15 20:03:47

A nirvana T-shirt?!!!! shock <<faints>>

That aside have you thought about home educating? I agree it sounds a little "robust". I think separate it those things aren't excessive but altogether I think I would be concerned too.

ValancyJane Tue 02-Jun-15 20:04:57

You say in the subject that your concern is with an inexperienced teacher, but you don't really mention the teacher at all in your post - I think all of your issues seem to be with the school in general. For what it's worth I do think you've blown it all a tad out of proportion.

I can understand some concern about a child being locked in a shed (though it does sound like it wasn't done maliciously by other children, and I wonder if your son has possibly exaggerated - i.e. a child was shut in for ten seconds as part of a game rather than 'locked in' which makes it sound much worse, and kids can sometimes get these things a bit jumbled). Absolutely fair enough to query videos that you might be concerned about being too gory though, think I would have done the same.

I think the uniform isn't worth getting upset over, and as for him regressing - it's possible that he's learning things in a different way, or they are focusing on consolidation? It's hard to say, but I'd be surprised if he is regressing in all areas!

m0therofdragons Tue 02-Jun-15 20:06:12

it's possible you have some legitimate concerns but because you have so many ridiculous concerns it's hard to see.
Dc play zombie games - my 3 year olds did this year after learning about Jesus coming back from the dead at easter and they love scooby doo. Combine those stories and we had zombie Jesus games.
Dc love a bit of gore - horrible histories is amazing on TV and the books. My Dd loved it at 5.locking away is worthy of a complaint - school apologised. Issue dealt with.
your son cut his knuckles so you wanted to keep him home? What? No a normal parent would ensure the injury was dressed appropriately and in such a way it wouldn't come off and send to school. The fact it came off means it was either poorly dressed or dc was not careful and it's therefore your fault or dc's fault - not the school unless teacher ripped the dressing off.
nivarna t-shirt? Dd's friends wear one direction t shirts which I don't like but it's clothing and what they wanted to wear. How is that the school's issue. Your child will mix with dc you like and others you don't - that's life.
That said, if it doesn't feel right then look for alternatives.

Newrule Tue 02-Jun-15 20:08:57

Dear oh dear! You are making mountains out of molehills and will seriously stress yourself and your family out.

TheRollingCrone Tue 02-Jun-15 20:46:39

MotherofDragons The Jesus Zombie game. Just fucking genius grin

Springtimemama Tue 02-Jun-15 20:47:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Phoenix07 Tue 02-Jun-15 21:37:58

Thanks so much for everyone so far who has taken the time to read this and respond.

KatharineH Wed 03-Jun-15 09:22:58

I wouldn't be happy about the RE lessons for five year-olds with its graphic details. Perhaps you could ask to see the teaching materials used, and make up your own mind if it is at all suitable.

However, was your DS upset by this? If he was, can you withdraw him from those lessons, and would it be worth doing so?

deepdarkwood Wed 03-Jun-15 09:43:10

As others have said - if you worry/go to the head about every little thing, you will both drive yourself mad, and get a reputation as 'that mum' - which means your serious concerns may hold less water. Keep your powder dry! Out of interest - you said you had a serious concern 2 weeks ago - which of these was it?!

I think you need to imagine for a while looking after 30 children (or however many there are in your son's class) - or even better, if they allow it, maybe go in and help out at the school (I suspect they'll suggest you help in a different class, not your sons...). You can't keep the same sort of watchful eye on 30 kids that you can on one - it;s something you just have to adapt to....

On the specifics:

1. Violent play: the locking in thing wasn't OK - but otherwise, sounds standard
2. I wouldn't be happy about this, and have actively avoided faith schools for this (amongst other) reasons. I wouldn't be happy about being lied to by the teacher, either. But, what are you trying to achieve at this point? I think you need to think through what it is you want
3. Annoying - but no, I wouldn't see it as a serious breach in duty of care.
4. Intellectual stretch - seems a bit late to be spotting this (assuming standard school years) - what did the teachers say at parents evenings? I think some regression in manners is totally normal - if your son's maths/literacy is genuinely getting worse, of course you should be concerned... HOWEVER be aware that LOTS of kids will perform differently at home, with one to one support/encouragement vs in a classroom situation - what you need to do is encourage your son to show his best at school - even if things are easy, I'd say
4. Not worth worrying about/not your counter.

Phoenix07 Wed 03-Jun-15 17:52:34

There have been some really constructive comments, I really appreciate them.

Here's a little more context around the points for the people who asked for it.

I'm really interested in constructive input, and I know we are 'welcome to look for alternatives'. I'm essentially after what people think is acceptable, and what is not, from the school.

I didn't give much detail on what the problems were regarding the inexperienced teacher. Basically, she's had a sense of humour bypass, never cracks a smile, seems to have the empathy and emotional intelligence of a pebble, there is no flex in what she teaches. Other than that she's a great teacher.

My 'sensitive' child is usually a bundle of friendly happiness, relaxed and bright, he loved school. Now he's often sad and doesn't want to go to school, is having nightmares and I've found him a play therapist to try and help with his anxiety associated with school. Some days he comes home with the buttons on his shirt broken because he's bitten them so hard while chewing on his shirt. He never used to do these things.

You've got this teacher, in her early 20's telling a bunch of five year olds that she will 'kick them out of the class room' if they don't do what she asks. My son says she shouts and screams, and he wants to know 'why she doesn't like him, because he likes her' he says it must be his fault sad.

1. Locking children in the storage shed wasn't a once off, it went on for several days, different children being locked in. I'm just surprised none of the teachers noticed.

2. I have no problem with him learning about religion. No problem at all. I'm just not keen on him being shown a YouTube video of all the gory detail of the crucifixion. The teacher is in her first full time post and seems to search YouTube often if the boys ask a question. Then they watch videos she hasn't watch herself first. I think it's a good idea to check something out before you show it to five year olds.

I also have a really fundamental issue with teachers telling blatant lies to get themselves out of a situation. For example, my son came home telling me abuout the video she showed them, but she denied point blank she'd shown them a video first time we spoke. When we had the second meeting with the head teacher, my son's teacher admitted she'd shown them videos, while she went bright red...

I'm being naive here, it's okay for teachers to lie, is it?

3. He had a large flap of skin hanging off the middle joint of his index finger. The doctor had tried glue and steri-strips to keep it closed. I've got full confidence in my doctor, the wound was incredibly difficult to keep closed.

I didn't want to send him to school, it was his teacher putting pressure on us to send him, in the knowledge she'd need to call us if there were any problems. In the end the doctor signed him off school for five days to let the wound heal.

I think my expectation here was that the teacher would respect our decision to keep him home, or, if we sent him to school, as she was insisting we did she'd call if the doctor's dressing came off.

Is that a ridiculous set of expectations?

4. When I brought up intellectual stretch, I just want to try and avoid him being bored at school. I'll manage my expectations accordingly. I'll also try to remember to check my spelling more thoroughly and not overlook the use of 'forth' instead of 'fourth' wink.

We've raise the issue three times with the school since the first term the beginning of the first term - this January.

5. There are no guidelines around what the five year olds should and shouldn't wear. I can understand why some people think this is a non-event, I guess I'm just utterly pissed off and there are a series of issues that aren't being addressed. I think it's fine for kids to express themselves through their clothes, perhaps the child is into Nirvana music.

Do teachers in the UK send out pictures of children via WhatsApp? Just wondering, that's all.

Thanks for your input. I'm not looking for advice (unless it's positive and constructive), I know we are free to look for alternative schools, or to 'put up and shut up' where we are. All I ask for is a view on the points.

I'd quite like to cut and paste the Headmaster's newsletter from today. There's a quip about how well the school is doing, and how some first world countries are struggling despite all their resources. Then he's included a list of excerpts from people's letters to their local authorities. They include things like 'It's the dogs' mess that I find hard to swallow' and 'the toilet is blocked and we can't bathe the children until it is cleared'.

I have a great sense of humour, these things are funny in context, but not two days after British parents come to see you with concerns - NOT DEMANDS.

The Headmaster's final comment in his weekly newsletter, which goes to the whole school, was around how important it is for boys to say 'thank you' when they received certificates in assembly for achievements.

He wrote about a boy receiving a certificate for 'Good Manners' and did not say 'thank you'. I asked my son what he said the other day when he was given his first certificate. Which was for 'Good Manners'. He said he was so happy and excited and up in front of the whole school that he said nothing...

I apologise if there are spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, what ever in this post. I'm tired, it's been a long day, I'm writing this on my iPhone.

APlaceOnTheCouch Wed 03-Jun-15 19:14:32

Your DS is biting his buttons so hard that they're broken. That sounds like quite a lot of stress. sad

tbh if my DS was that unhappy about going to school then I would move him. The videos; the Nirvana t-shirt would all fade into insignificance against such unhappiness.

He has to spend a lot of time at school, not just in terms of hours but all the years to come. Whether it's the inexperienced teacher or the ethos of the school, if your DS' anxiety is purely school related (ie there are no upsets at home) then I would move him now.

Sometimes schools are not the right fit for a DC. We had to move our DS from a school where he was bullied and incredibly unhappy. I don't regret moving him for a second. What I do regret is the time I spent trying to get the school to respond in the way I thought they should.

Springtimemama Wed 03-Jun-15 19:25:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FeijoaSundae Wed 03-Jun-15 19:34:54

I'm surprised at the reaction you've had.

I'd be looking for another school immediately, if not sooner.

mummytime Wed 03-Jun-15 19:51:14

In the UK a lot of that wouldn't happen/would be against guidelines for safeguarding. BUT you are in a different country, with a very different educational system - to some extend you need to adapt. How do you feel about children having to repeat a year if they don't pass it?

Its odd that the most worrying incident is one you are not that bothered by, ie. the locking of other children in cupboards.

Hypotenuse Wed 03-Jun-15 20:07:59

With the context you've provided now, I would definitely say it's time to move schools or home educate, this school is not a good fit and it seems like you/your son might be being singled out. He is showing clear signs of stress, poor little one. sad

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