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Circle time and psychological profiles

(46 Posts)
frogs Fri 14-May-04 21:34:23

My dd1 (Yr 4) reports the following, some of which is substantiated by a parent/classroom assistant I am friendly with.

Apparently the school now have someone who comes in to do circle time with the juniors, and is also writing psychological profiles of the children.

My dd hates the circle time, as do most of the brighter kids. They think it is cringy and embarassing -- it is also used by some of the kids to conduct nasty vendettas amongst themselves in a way that wouldn't be obvious to anyone who didn't know the children and their group dynamics very well.

The person conducting this is (again apparently) an ed psych or training to become so. She also takes groups of kids out to play board games, and is apparently making written psychological profiles of them. Another parent has seen her child's profile (which she disagreed with strongly), and there was a whole page for my dd1 (who comes after her dd in the alphabet) but she couldn't see what was written.

Question to all teachers: is this normal practice? Are they allowed to carry out psychological profiling without telling/asking the parents? Is this going to be part of the child's school records? Question to other parents: How would you feel about this?

All opinions gratefully received!

Janh Fri 14-May-04 21:57:24

frogs, must say (as a parent) I wouldn't be happy about it happening without informed consent. I assume the profiles are part of the ed psych's portfolio (?) rather than the children's school records but I would want to know that too.

I think you should speak to the class teacher about it and if what you are told isn't satisfactory then see the head.

shrub Fri 14-May-04 21:59:10

frogs - as a parent i would feel very strongly that my child wasn't used as some sort of experiment in this way. i would be horrified. so you weren't informed? is this legal? and the fact that this person is a trainee could potentially have implications that he/she is not qualified to interpret correctly the 'profiles'of the children he/she has created. in addition i have recently read that the children bill currently before parliament is seeking unlimited powers to share info about all children and their parents, (not just children at risk). there will be no rights to consent or to exercise control of the info. and we will not know if that info is correct.
this may become law by july 2004

WideWebWitch Fri 14-May-04 22:04:48

Agree with Janh. I wouldn't be happy with this either. Bloody hell shrub, really? Given the lost mothers thread amongst other things, this is terrifying.

frogs Fri 14-May-04 22:06:18

Don't know nuffink about it except what I've heard off the grapevine from daughter/friend. We don't know what the status of this person is, but think she's doing the profiles for the school rather than for herself. Clearly the circle time thing is designed to improve the kids' emotional literacy, but it seems to be wide of the mark as they're all very cynical about it.

I just found it alarming that this kind of work could be carried out without the parents being informed/asked.

Hulababy Fri 14-May-04 22:07:32

As a teacher I have no idea if this allowed or normal, sorry. As a parent I would not be happy if I wasn't asked and consulted with before and after it happened.

mummytojames Fri 14-May-04 22:10:15

in my opinion the ony things schools should be writing about is there grades or if they have and concerns (as in notes to discuss with the parent)

twogorgeousboys Fri 14-May-04 22:11:25

Am a teacher, but currently on career break.

Your post makes uncomfortable reading and you are right to question what's going on.

I don't know enough about codes of practice in relation to ed psychologists, but this does seem irregular to me. Even if she is training to be an ed psych and she is doing some sort of coursework/in school placement, then the parents of the children in the classes involved should really have had a letter from the Head explaining that this would be happening (in the same way as parents are usually advised when student teachers will be in school). If it is coursework, then I would have thought that when the info is used in any assignment, any observations about children are not personalised, ie are anonymous and would not be used in any school records.

littlemissbossy Fri 14-May-04 22:44:55

As a parent, not teacher, IMO the school should have informed you before the visits started AND asked for your consent. I'm quite disgusted that they haven't TBH.

jampot Sat 15-May-04 00:10:29

I would be absolutely horrified to hear that my kids were being profiled for any reason. My daughter's year are told they must not discuss circle time issues outside of the classroom and that includes telling their parents of any discussions. This really encourages children to have secrets from their parents IMO and puts an unnecessary burden on relatively young shoulders.

Jimjams Sat 15-May-04 08:18:14

This sounds really strange- mainly because most LEA ed psychs don't have the time to do something like this- huge caseloads and all that. It just makes me wonder whether its a student- and whether its for a project of something. Of course permission should still have been asked. I would ring the head on Monday am and ask what's going on.

Jimjams Sat 15-May-04 08:19:56

Thr profiling wouldn't bother me so much- but then I am used to reams and reams and reams of assessments and pages of profile on ds1. All starting with "ds1 is a delightful child" (at which stage you start to worry- it is professional colde - for run for the hills.


I luuuuurrve not having a single report on ds2!

hmb Sat 15-May-04 08:33:45

I don't know anything about this sort of profiling.

I am currently making a portfolio for an education qualification. I have to ask questions to students about a wide variety of things like what they think about trips outside school, and what they think about school reports. Their views are listed, but no names, or any identifying information of any kind is used. I have also written descriptions of how childeren respond to different learning environments. Would people be upset at this? (an honest question btw)

Ghosty Sat 15-May-04 08:37:38

jampot ... that is awful about not telling parents ... agree that it encourages keeping secrets from parents which is WRONG! I think I would complain if I were you.
When I was teaching we had a policy that basically said that the educational and emotional development of a child was a three way thing ... The Child, the Parent/Guardian and the School being the three points of the triangle.
Frogs, why don't you ask the teacher about it?

tigermoth Sat 15-May-04 09:21:23

this would worry me too. What happens if the ed psych tells the teacher 'x' seems to have a problem' OK the teacher may think 'x' has as small problem, but if the ed psych really builds it up, it could alter the teacher's attutide to 'x'. It depends on how much respect the teacher has for the trainee ed psych's views, but it she is respectful of them, these profiles could have a far reaching influence.

And the ed psych might be trying to find probs and issues where none exist, to make it look like she is on the ball. I mean, she can hardly put on her reports time and time again 'went to year x circle time, children happy and attentive, no specifically good or bad issues to report' Don't know much about ed psychs admittedly, but reading posts on here, it seems they do come up with a lot of odd, inaccurate stuff on occasion.

As a parent I would want to know much more about this - and, if my child was named, to see what has been written about them. I would want to know if the teacher, or anyone at this school would be looking at the report, whether my child was named or not.

jampot Sat 15-May-04 09:26:47

My ds had to complete (as did the whole class) an anonymous drug awareness questionnaire after listening to a passage or something. Can understand this and I wouldn't be upset about asking childrens' views on school/educational issues. However profiling is a completely different thing. When I worked for a large firm at our summer party one of the activities was handwriting analysis and various key members had had their handwriting analysed without their knowledge apparently. Of course everyone sat in for the anon analysis and the analyser said that a large percentage of them had homosexual tendancies - I think that activity was cancelled after the first sitting!!!


Having thought about it further, could it be possible the woman has to prepare a profile on just one child but is working round the class so as to not alert anyone?

collision Sat 15-May-04 09:28:40

I would be horrified and would go in and see the headteacher on Monday. When you think of the data protection act which is supposed to protect people this is surely contrary to what is happening at your school! You dont even know who this person is.....not that I am trying to scare you.....but honestly, you should have had a letter stating all the facts and then you should have to give written consent to allow your child to take part in this. I would be very cross.

jampot Sat 15-May-04 09:32:26

Just remembered another incident, a friend of mine who has not got the best reputation at the school has a son in the same year as my ds. He is behind in his work and goes out for special needs. He has been assessed by ed professionals and I think the diagnosis was that he was disruptive and unwilling to learn. It turns out he could barely see and was dyslexic and now he has his little glasses his work has totally turned around.

frogs Sat 15-May-04 09:54:01

jimjams at "delightful child"!!

Thank you for your responses -- I'd wondered whether maybe I was being a bit paranoid.

The notes are definitely being used by the class teacher, as another child's parent queried some aspect of her daughter's interaction, and the teacher trotted off to get the file with the profiles in. Her daughter's included a whole load of stuff on how upset the child allegedly was that her father didn't live with them and how she has a problem with authority, none of which really rings true, as the girl is a complete sweetie and they were all glad to see the back of the dad.

This same child, who is quite perceptive, has said repeatedly that she doesn't like this woman 'because she tries to change your feelings'. I was interested to hear jampot say that her daughter has been told not to discuss circle time -- I find the whole thing quite creepy.

You've all inspired me with confidence -- I shall go and see the class teacher after school on Monday and find out what the deal is.

twogorgeousboys Sat 15-May-04 10:14:21

If the notes are definitely being used by the teacher, without parental knowledge or permission, then this is deeply worrying. Hope you get it sorted out. I would be very unhappy as a teacher being involved in this without parental permission, particularly given the nature of some of the content of the profiles you have described.

Also, the attitude towards circle time sounds very unhealthy and IMO dangerous. It appears to be being used to write profiles of which parents have no knowledge. The children are told not to discuss it with anyone, including parents. When you speak to the head, bring up the whole circle time thing too - it sounds dreadful.

Jimjams Sat 15-May-04 10:36:58

frogs- your second post has me more worried! I think you need to find out what is going on.

The "evil" nursery kept a profile (done by the girls) on each child- and I read ds1's and was horrified- it was completely warped! So yes foind out what is going on- and ask to read your child's profile.

jampot Sat 15-May-04 10:54:52

Presumably parents have free access to their child's records? I'm going to ask my school on Monday if they keep profiles. Would be particularly interested in my dd's as the teacher put her on IEP for social and emotional development (she's a "not in your face" child)

marialuisa Sat 15-May-04 20:50:40

Just seen this is she's doing any sort of official Psychology based training you would have to have given your written consent for your child to be included in the sample.

This all sounds very odd, will be interested to hear what class teacher has to say...

tallulah Sun 16-May-04 09:33:40

My DS's primary had links with the local Uni & we regularly got letters saying they wanted to use the children for some sort of experiment (nothing sinister!) & would we send back the form to say whether OR NOT we agreed to them taking part. I didn't think schools were allowed to do anything like this without permission?

Does the Data Protection Act cover school records?

sammac Sun 16-May-04 10:15:54

About 4 years ago had a student ed psych in with class to do circle time BUT it was about circle time, not the kids. We had never done it before and she and 2 others were working with teachers and children to get it up and running. DEF no profiles of children or any other assessment of children. I am positive a leter was sent home, as it would when any student is working in class. Worst thing about it was that she sprinkled magic dust on them,ie glitter, and it was everywhere- could just picture the cleaner and the parents up at me complaining.

hmb Sun 16-May-04 10:19:04

I'm interested in some feed back.

I have asked children questions about the school's report system (ie how helpful they find it etc), also setting targets and out of school trips.

No names are used in the write up I do. Would you expect to be asked for your permision for this sort of thing? The children are 11-18.

jampot Sun 16-May-04 10:25:04

We don't get a letter when a student is working with our children!!!

coppertop Sun 16-May-04 10:26:16

hmb - That kind of thing wouldn't bother me personally. Asking about the opinions of an older age-group and keeping it anonymous is fine. I would only be concerned if someone was looking for personal info about my child and this was to be used to identify them. The psych profiling mentioned earlier sounds very worrying.

coppertop Sun 16-May-04 10:27:59

hmb - meant to add I wouldn't expect my permission to be sought for the kind of things you mentioned.

twogorgeousboys Sun 16-May-04 10:47:01

Jampot - well you SHOULD get a letter. Its not a requirement by the school but its polite and keeps parents informed.

When I had a student teacher on placement, taking my class (plus there were other students in other parts of the school) the Head sent a letter to parents, explaining where the students were from, what year of their teacher training they were in, and how long the placement would last.

If a school is very small, then I can understand why parents would not be informed about things like students coming in. A Head in a small school doesn't have the staff to delegate tasks out to and probably would like to send our more of the "keeping you informed" type letters but simply can't.

jampot Sun 16-May-04 11:02:12

Our school is smallish for a town (about 190 kids) J&I&Nursery school. We have a weekly newsletter sent out and still nothing gets mentioned.

HMB - I wouldn't expect a letter if you were asking for opinions about school issues.

hmb Sun 16-May-04 11:04:07

Thank you! I was feeling a bit worried!

gothicmama Sun 16-May-04 12:05:59

I would not be happy I would complain to head - yu should be told why and for whatpurpose and then decide to give consent under Childrens Act you have the right /responsibility to act in your childs best interest. If the profiles ar in accutrate then it helps no one
Under the data protection act you ca apply to se what inforamtion is held adn can if it is inaccurate ask for it to be changed.
I feel v.worried now about dd going to school esp if they are encouragerd to keep secrets and be under teh influence of people who may try to change how they feel to suit their own agendas. Will keep watching to see what happens.

frogs Mon 17-May-04 21:20:24

Thanks for all your messages.

As promised, I went to see the teacher after school today to ask what the deal was with the circle time and the games.

Apparently this woman is an Ed Psych who comes in to do circle time with all the classes in the school. The small group games was because my dd1's class is so problematic that they wanted to start them off in small groups first. The teacher didn't seem to know whether she was employed by the school or the LEA, and maintained that she only keeps working notes on the children's progress, rather than proper profiles, and it's not part of their records.

I'm not particularly convinced by this, as another parent who is also a classroom assistant has seen a profile on her dd and there were apparently reports on the other children too. However, I did get the impression that the class teacher thought it was all a bit of a waste of time, and said that he mention my comment that the children seemed to resent the circle time and dislike the person who does it.

I think I'll have to leave it at that, but it does seem a strange use of time and resources.

twogorgeousboys Mon 17-May-04 21:40:57

The class teacher is probably fairly powerless in this - if its school policy then he's probably having to just toe the line, even if he can't see any benefits to his class.

If you are still unhappy, go to the Head as obviously they control school policy.

It seems an unusual use of resources to me too, Ed Psychologists usually simply don't have the time for this sort of stuff. IME it could take weeks, indeed months to get them into school to see just one child who could have very serious behaviour problems, cos their caseload was so heavy.

Has the school got really bad behaviour issues throughout? Perhaps that's why the Ed Psych has been drafted in by the LEA. If so, it still seems really odd that parents know nothing about it.

Jimjams Tue 18-May-04 13:17:00

very very odd- I think its worth asking the head. As two gorgeous says really ed psychs are up to their eyeballs (LEA ones). My son who has pretty severe SN (most severe in his school) didn't see an ed psych for a year (I wasn't bothered as I happen to think most are a waste of space ) Do you have opportunities to ask questions? Our school has a parents coffee morning each term where the head answers any questions she has receievd.

katierocket Tue 18-May-04 13:21:17

frogs - no direct experience I'm afraid but it does sound really odd and i would say that if you are not happy call or write to the head requesting a meeting. You should definitely not have to feel worried about something like this.

frogs Thu 20-May-04 20:55:26

Am fast developing a theory that circle time may be a load of psychobabbly claptrap.

After my chat with the classteacher last week my dd1 came home today in a filthy temper as usual after circle time on Thursday. Clearly the teacher had relayed my point of view to the woman leading it. She is apparently a qualified teacher but doesn't take a class of her own -- as my dd (8) cynically said, 'Her discipline's rubbish'. dd also particularly resents the fact that this woman -- let's call her Mandy -- addresses her by the short form of her name which we do use at home but has never been used at the school.

'Mandy' apparently started off circle time this week by saying "Now it seems that some people don't like circle time. Put your hands up if you don't like circle time..." As dd said: ' As if we're going to sit there and tell her it's rubbish to her face.' dd managed to get herself sent out, and I have to say I don't blame her.

Now I may have a very low personal tolerance threshold for this kind of psychobabble, but it seems to me that rather than encouraging children genuinely to explore their feelings, it leads them to give the answers that the person leading it wants. I heard from another parent that there was a very nasty incident in another class in which one of the children started talking at length about a domestic violence situation at home, and 'Mandy' was unable to deal with the situation appropriately.

This is a school in which approximately 10 % of the children have Social Services involved with them in some way, and a significant proportion come from from very deprived and difficult backgrounds. Is this really the best use of resources? What do other mners think? And how can I broach it with eg. the head without breaking the confidence of some of my sources?

All thoughts welcomed.

ScummyMummy Thu 20-May-04 21:29:36

I think your daughter sounds great and very funny, frogs. "Mandy", on the other hand, sounds crap, frankly. I have no objection to circle time per se but to do it properly takes skill and it appears Mandy don't got skill. "Raise your hands if you don't like circle time"? Purleeeeeease. She's clearly got the cerebral and emotional intelligence of a particularly stupid plankton. I wouldn't hesitate to tell the headteacher so, personally.

tigermoth Thu 20-May-04 23:08:04

oh, I don't like the sound of this at all. It sounds like she could be messing with the children's heads, even if that is not her intention.

Can you write an anonymous letter to the head teacher, telling her of incidents but naming no names? Or can you ask if interested parents can sit in at circle time - parents come in to help hear children read, so why not this?

Tinker Thu 20-May-04 23:21:50

Um, what is circle time? I get the gist from this thread but is it a new initiative (I assume so)? From what age does it start?

Kittypickle Fri 21-May-04 07:01:43

I don't like the sound of any of this at all. I'm extremely dubious about the use of psychological profiles and quite worried about what the Ed psych is doing, it all sounds quite underhand to me given the fact the classroom assistant has seen a profile on her child, which you've been told isn't happening. A child saying 'because she tries to change your feelings' is very worrying as is the case of the circle time when the domestic violence came up.

I have a psychology degree and feel that psychology can be a useful "tool" but often that is all it is. I worry about how much emphasis is often given to things that come from the psychological literature and are treated as fact, whereas they are actually just theories and can only remain that as it is actually impossible to "prove" some of this. It's one thing looking at brain function using scans etc, but when you're dealing with theories of personality etc, I can't see how they can ever be anything else but theories.

I think I would be tempted to meet with the head with a list of things that are concerning you. Tell her these are all things that have come to your attention but she will appreciate that you have been told a lot of this in confidence, which you feel you must keep. You're daughter does sound great - I think that's the one occasion I would be quite proud of DD getting sent out!!

gothicmama Fri 21-May-04 07:19:31

Think youneed to approach head perhaps as an informal rep for the parents that way ou can mention what youhave found out with mentioning any one I would also say that the matterr was raised with teacher and MANDY has become aware of the concerns but has dealt with them in a not very professional way ie if children do not like her she should not be asking them questions like that Hope you can sort this out

Batters Fri 21-May-04 09:24:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

marialuisa Fri 21-May-04 09:58:10

I agree that you need to see the Head. I'm not convinced that the kids with problems such as domestic violence are really going to be helped by talking about it with their entire class and some amoeba with a degree....

As for "raise your hands if you don't like circle time.." well, the mind boggles. No doubt any child who had raised their hand would have had something inaccurate and derogatory added to their profile as a result!

At best "Mandy" is a patronizing fool, at worst she is potentially dangerous...

Jimjams Fri 21-May-04 10:03:09

dear god, what on earth is she doing. There was a bit of a discussion about circle time at my son's school. The head said the idea behind it is to get all children used to speaking, and those who are naturally loud used to listening! It certainly wasn't meant to be used to dicuss personal problems. I think maybe a group of parents need to get together and request a meeting with the head.

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