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Am I being unreasonable?

(26 Posts)
tabitha Wed 18-Aug-04 16:07:54

This is a bit of a long story, so bear with me please. Last year, when dd1 was 16 we moved house about 25 miles away. Dd was then going into 5th yearafter having sat her 'Standard Grades' which are, I think, the Scottish equivalent of GCSEs. She was adamant that she didnt want to move school and for a year she travelled in every day. This meant early starts and late finishes for her. She recently got her exam results (Scottish Highers) and didn't do as well as expected. Part of the reason,she thinks, was tiredness although discovering drink and parties may also have had something to do with it. After a lot of thinking she decided that she wants to do her 6th year at a local school, the one her younger sister goes to. She is very nervous about this but is prepared to do it to try and get better exam results. Also, she now has a part time job near where we live and has got to know a few people who will be in her year.
I have contacted both her old and new schools and there is no problem about her changing. I spoke to the Depute Headmaster at the new school on Tuesday and we arranged that dd and I would go into the school the next day to discuss things. I took a day off work and turned up, as arranged, at 9 am to talk to this man and waited and waited. Eventually at 9:35, the school office said he was on the phone and wanted to speak to me. He then apologises and tells me that he has slept in and isn't going to make it but to fill in the registration forms and take the course choice booklet for dd to think about what subjects she wants to study. I'm not particularly happy about this, especially as he can't ask the couple of questions I need to ask but accept it.
School starts tomorrow and I have spent most of today trying to get in contact with this man (or another teacher) to see when dd should turn up and who she should see. All I get from the office staff is that all the staff are in meetings (fair enough it is their in-service day) and despite numerous requests that they call back, I'm still waiting. According to the office, dd should just 'turn up' tomorrow when school starts and go to the assembly hall with the rest of the pupils. She is nervous enough about starting and wants some definite instructions about where to go and who to see.
It's now after 4pm and despite calling since 9:30 this morning, I still haven't managed to speak to any of the staff to find out what's happening. Am I being unreasonable and is there anything else I could / should be doing?

MeanBean Wed 18-Aug-04 16:36:03

I don't think you're being unreasonable to expect decent communication from your DD's school, but TBH I think it's highly unlikely you'll ever get it. Public institutions like schools and hospitals don't have a strong customer service ethos, and they don't consider issues like communicating with their "clients" a priority - it just isn't the same as a supplier/ client relationship. I wouldn't worry too much about it - your DD should just take the same attitude as them, turn up and go to the assembly hall, and no doubt someone will ask her who she is and what she's doing there! I don't think there's anything else you can do at this late stage, but if you're quite matter of fact about it, you might convince your DD not to be too nervous.
Blimey, school starts early there! 19th August!

hercules Wed 18-Aug-04 16:53:54

In our school these are the instructions for all for starting 6th form, whether they are are new or not. In the hall they will probably either do an assembly or call them into tutor groups. Dont forget she wont be the only one starting and not knowing anyone.

tabitha Wed 18-Aug-04 17:00:54

Thanks for the replies. MeanBean, I know I should be able to take all this in my stride, but I'm just getting so stressed by it all. A quick five minute phone call from the school seems so little to expect...
I think dd will just have to brave it out tomorrow. She does know a few people there, so that's a start. Hopefully once she's there, things will get sorted out for her.
Hercules, I don't know whether there will be anyone else new starting - I think it's fairly uncommon to change schools at this stage in Scotland - but I don't know.
Yes, our schools do go back early but then they've been off since the end of June so they've had 7 weeks I think.

donnie Thu 19-Aug-04 15:24:35

schools and hospitals do not have 'clients' or 'customers' meanbean.They have students and patients. And while I agree that Tabitha has not been dealt with very professionally I would also say that schools ( IME) definitely DO regard communication as a priority. But no, there is not a 'customer service ethos' as you choose to call it, because there are no 'customers'. Terminology ca be quite telling don't you think?

edam Thu 19-Aug-04 15:58:28

But Donnie, MeanBean made a valid point about schools and hospitals treating pupils/parents patients/families with contempt. It's downright rude to ignore phone calls. I don't care what the school's policy is, if someone takes the trouble to phone then, it is only polite to call back. It's similar to the way the NHS keeps spinning the line about x number of patients miss their appointments  – it's no wonder when you can't actually get through to cancel or rearrange.

MeanBean Fri 20-Aug-04 09:46:19

I agree Donnie, schools, hospitals and other public institutions don't have clients and customers, but I have never understood why patients, students and stakeholders can be treated with less consideration and courtesy than customers or clients.

hmb Fri 20-Aug-04 10:21:11

Well I have never treated any of my students with less that a high level of consideration, or their parents for that matter. I just wish that I could say that the opposite was also true.

I don't think that the school acted well in this situation, someone should have phoned. However schools don't employ customer service departments. The companies that I have worked for in the past did. With more funding possibly this could be done.

MeanBean Fri 20-Aug-04 11:23:23

Sorry, but I don't think you need to employ customer services departments to return phone calls. I don’t think this is a resourcing issue, I think it’s one of culture. One of the things I was always taught when I worked in the private sector, was that it was my job to deal with an enquiry, not someone else's. Fobbing it off onto a customer service department is something badly managed companies do – you don’t need a customer service department unless you are a really massive organisation. In well-run, well-managed companies, customer service is incorporated into every department and every employee. And I don’t see why that shouldn’t happen in the public sector too. It doesn’t cost any more to communicate effectively than to communicate badly. (Having said that, I’m not saying that private=good, public=bad – I’ve come across some piss-poor customer service in the private sector, and some excellent customer service in the public sector – even though I’m not a customer!)

MummyToSteven Fri 20-Aug-04 11:25:16

tabitha - how did you daughter settle in on her first day?

hmb Fri 20-Aug-04 11:40:22

No, but if you do have customer services, or a department that *normal* liases with the 'customer, this will be their primary job. Whe I worked in the pharmaceutical industry this was my job, to give information to our customers. Now I am a teacher *part* of my job is to liase with familes and carers. But the primary part of my job is being in the classroom. When I am in the classroom I cannot be in contact with parents.

I do feel that a phone call wasn't asking too much, and it should have been arranged. That said the start of term is amazingly busy and I also know just how overworked members of staff can be, and how difficult it can be to find a time when I am 'off duty' and the parent is available as well. If staffing levels were not so tight this *would* be improved.

It isn't simply a case of 'culture', how can we be in instant communication when we are in the classroom?

tabitha Fri 20-Aug-04 11:43:24

MummyToSteven, thanks for asking. She got on okay. I didn't get a phone call from the school at all on Wednesday despite assurances from the office that I would, so I was well pi**ed off with that
However, she went in yesterday and got a lift with this boy she has got to know from her summer job. Went to the office and after waiting for ages they eventually told her to 'just go along' to the Assembly Hall. By this time everyone else was already there so she had to walk in on her own in front of everyone. Not great for her nerves but she did it. Apart from that, the day went okay and she is getting her course choices sorted out. It looks like she will be able to do everything she wanted to except for Spanish, which she was going to do a 'crash Higher' in.
Funnily enough, when I turned on my mobile last night after driving home from Dundee, there was a message on it fro the teacher who was supposed to phone me the day before asking how dd had got on!

hmb Fri 20-Aug-04 11:47:19

I'm glad that your dd has got most of what she wanted. Will she be able to do the 'crash' higher in Spanish aywhere else? Ae there any night school courses that she could look at?

And I'm also glad that someone phoned you even if it was after the event and not when it was most needed.

I know Dundee quite well, dd was born in Ninewells!

Hope that the courses go well for her.

MummyToSteven Fri 20-Aug-04 11:48:58

Hi Tabitha, glad that your daughter got on okay. Hope she sorts out the Spanish - was the spanish going to be on top of the subjects she had done the previous year, or was it going to substitute for one of them?

tabitha Fri 20-Aug-04 11:50:09

hmb,
to be fair to the school, I think much of the fault may lie with the individual teacher who was supposed to contact me although why the office couldn't have sorted something out or put me through to another teacher who was 'less busy' I don't know.
My other dd already goes to this school and up until now I had actually been quite impressed with it. When she was in the process of transferring a year ago, the staff I spoke to were very helpful.
I think part of what got me so stressed about it was that dd was so nervous herself (understandable) and also because I started back at work after Maternity Leave on Monday so it's been a stressful time anyway. I think this was the last straw in a way.
Anyway, she's there now and (fingers crossed) will settle in and get the exam marks she needs. I'm off to the pub now for a 'welcome back to work' drink with some of my colleagues.
Thanks for all your replies.

MeanBean Fri 20-Aug-04 11:53:00

I don't think anyone's suggesting that teachers should be in "instant" communication HMB, just reasonable communication - like saying, "she's teaching now, so she won't get the message that you called until x o'clock, and may not be able to call you back today".

It's encouraging that Tabitha received a message from the teacher afterwards - she obviously didn't have time the day before term started, but imo was communicating reasonably well by following it up at an appropriate opportunity. I think it's a really good sign that she bothered. Sounds like your DD coped OK, Tabitha.

MeanBean Fri 20-Aug-04 11:53:43

Sorry, posts crossed.

hmb Fri 20-Aug-04 11:56:24

I agree 100% meanbean, that the school should have ontacted the family.

However I don't agree that this is because schools treat families 'with contempt' as another posted stated. IIt is bad organisation and rude not to return a call, but it doesn't mean that it was deliberate or calculated to show contemt.

Have a good night out!

sis Fri 20-Aug-04 13:23:47

But as a parent, it can often feel like you are being treated with contempt when you ask for information from the school and they agree to provide it and then repeatedly fail to do so!

Tabitha, I hope your daughter's will be happy in the new school.

hmb Fri 20-Aug-04 13:26:24

That is obviously not satisfactory. Does it happen a lot in your child's school?

MeanBean Fri 20-Aug-04 13:41:33

I don't think schools actually mean to treat parents with contempt Sis, any more than hospitals, GP's, Social Services Depts, the CSA, or any other public body do. It's just that they aren't trained in customer service techniques because traditionally, it just hasn't been a high priority for them. The problem of course, is that as we get more demanding as consumers, we also expect a higher level of communication from public bodies who are just not geared up to dealing with it. Although there is a slight glimmer of consciousness of how much change is needed; I have been very impressed whenever I have dealt with the new style DWP employees, who have obviously been trained properly in modern service techniques. They are friendlier, nicer, more helpful, more efficient and probably happier in their jobs than they would have been under the old "them and us" mentality. And I bet it doesn’t cost taxpayers any more money to enable them to behave like the decent human beings they are, than it did when they had to behave like complete tossers!

hmb Fri 20-Aug-04 13:47:42

I also think, meanbean , that schools hospitals find it harder and harder to cope not just because people expect higher standards (completely reasonable), but also because a significant part of society now has regard only for their right and not their responsibilities. Larger and larger members of the teaching professions and hospital staff etc have to put up with increasing amounds of unreasonable demands and abuse from *some* sections of society. It is a two way street.

As a very minor example. A child was taken out of school in term time and the parents expected me to provide work for the holiday. This was the childs GCSE year so I spent a lunch break sorting out work, photocopying stuff etc. the parents felt this was their 'right'. What they didn't think was their 'responsibility' was to ake the child do it, and the child didn't.

How will I feel the next time I get a request like this? Possibly a little less keen to give up my time.

Rights are great as long as they come with responsibilities.

sis Fri 20-Aug-04 22:06:05

Yes,they may not mean to do it but at the receiving end, it does feel as if we are being treated contemptuously. I know some parents are not very considerate towards teachers but I go out of my way to comunicate with them but they often don't seem to get how small things can make a big difference in a parent's (and the child's) life.

In Tabitha's case, why weren't the school office staff more knowledgable and helpful - they could have found the answer to her query and got back to her but all did was pass her message to teacher. I don't want to take the thread away Tabitha'a post but in answer to your question, Hmb, yes, despite frequent requests from us and assurances from the school, they still find it impossible to provide us with a list of 'dates for the diary at the start of each term, so children whose parents both work, often lose out as we cannot attend/help out at school events because we don't get enough notification to keepthe day clear in our work diaries/ book leave etc - it makes me cry with frustration . In other ways, the school and staff are fantastic.

hmb Sat 21-Aug-04 08:04:28

It seems strange that they cannot do this as both the school I work in, and the school my children attend manage to do this. Can you bring it up at the annual goveners meeting, have dates to back yourself up etc. Could this sort of thing be put onthe school's website (assuming they have one).

This is very poor management but I wouldn't say that it is designed to show contempt.

sis Sat 21-Aug-04 20:26:26

Thanks Hmb, I may well try the governers next as nothing else seems to have worked (eg polite requests, written request, reminders...).

As I said, although I know they are not being deliberately mean, it does feel very demoralising and I hate missing out on my son's school life because they do not give enough warning about special assemblies, local and day trips etc.

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