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If you pay for private school does it seem reasonable to expect a better level of admin /organisation?

(43 Posts)
NormaSnorks Tue 04-Sep-07 09:23:34

I have just returned from dropping my DS off at his new school, which is a private prep. It is a very good school, with a good reputation, we have lots of friends who are very happy etc, but to be honest, I was disappointed by my first impressions this morning.

Although we'd had some communication from the school (uniform lists etc) we didn't have any kind of 'formal welcome letter' telling us exactly where to turn up, who to report to, what to do with bags/ coats etc.
And in fact we hadn't really had a proper confirmation of his class, other than a telephone conversation with the Bursar in June.

Anyway we arrived this morning and it was chaos. We kept being told to do different things by different people (go straight to playground/ go to the cloakroom etc etc). When we managed to find his classroom/ peg we discovered that they had labelled everything with his 'proper' name, rather than the name which we had indicated very clearly on all the forms that he uses (e.g. Andy, rather than Andrew).

There are a few other niggly things too, like the fact that you have to pay for everything by cheque rather than on-line/ direct debit, and send 'notes' (not e-mails) to teachers/ the office etc.

I can't help but feel a bit pissed off, but don't know if I'm being a bit over sensitive. I kind of expected a high level of 'customer service' for parents at a private school? I sort of feel that part of the private sector thing is about supporting parents (especially those working) and making life easier.

If I have bad experiences in a shop or restaurant I always give feedback. I can't decide whether at some point in the future I should tell the school that I wasn't very impressed with first impressions?

SSSandy2 Tue 04-Sep-07 09:26:48

Give it a bit of time. I think schools are often chaotic at first and it takes a couple of weeks to get everything sorted.

ladymuck Tue 04-Sep-07 09:29:38

Paying by cheque rather than online is standard unless you end up spreading payments on the so/dd route. Notes v email gets discussed a lot especially at our school. Their argument has been that if you send in a note with your child, it will get read. If you send an email and the teacher is off sick, or doesn't get any prep time until late in the day then it may not. Personally I think that that is a bit weak, but no worse than the state schools.

But in terms of arrangements for new joiners, that is truly appalling, and really without excuse. I would make it clear that it doesn't live up to any reasonable expectation. Whilst it would p* me off I don't think that it is a suitable way for a child to start school, especially if it is at a main entry point.

NormaSnorks Tue 04-Sep-07 09:38:00

Ladymuck - yes, I think the cheques/e-mail stuff I can probably live with, but the new starter thing is whqat really annoyed me.

It may well be that it's because he's joining NOT at a main entry point - Year 1, so is just joining an existing class. There were also lots of new Year 3s joining (which IS a main entry point) and I think that looked better organised.

I just feel very sad for my son. The name thing is something which really annoys him, as he really only likes being called by the shortened version of his name, and I now have this vision of him being introduced to everyone by the wrong name, (it was on his desk/ books/ peg etc angry) and him being upset, but too shy to say anything.

Hurlyburly Tue 04-Sep-07 09:38:53

My DS started last week at a similar school. We had been given a welcome letter, with an information pack, which told us where to turn up at what time.

The new boys were met by three teachers, and whisked off by "greeters" (other pupils) to show them their classroom, introduce them to their class teacher, find the pegs, show them the loos etc.

I echo the sentiment about giving it some time, but standards of organisation (like educational standards themselves) vary from school to school.

Why not wait and collate some suggestions? Maybe discuss with other parents and the "Friends of X Prep". Pull together a list of useful suggestions rather than a complaint. Like emails and welcome packs and greeters, and feed them back when they've settled into term?

NormaSnorks Tue 04-Sep-07 09:42:14

Hurly - yes, I've already told myself not to do anything immediate which I may regret later!

I think the idea of 'suggestions' not complaints is the right sort of approach.

AramintaVanHamstring Tue 04-Sep-07 09:45:28

I would call the school secretary at about 10am and ask if she can check if Andy is settling in OK. Then you can drop in that his confidence was knocked a little this morning by a surprisingly dis-organised start and finding all his stuff mis-labelled.

In my experience, school secretaries (in prep schools) are red hot on customer service and feedback will go straight to the head who will probably call you back to let you know that Andy is having a high old time.

I always give feedback. They don't appear to hate me.grin

SSSandy2 Tue 04-Sep-07 09:45:55

call a couple of the friends who have dc there maybe and sound them out a bit about the school organisation. Mull it over a bit today calmly and then decide whether to say anything. How would you feel about doing that?

You could call and say that you were disappointed that he was not met and taken to the classroom or whatever you would have expected. You could say that you were surprised and not very happy with the way things went. I don't find that totally OTT or anything. Obviously you wouldn't want to go totally on the warpath yet. How about - think of something you COULD say, have it ready, go in and see how he is, chat to the teacher when you pick him up and if everything is wonderful, maybe just drop it?

I can understand how you feel though. I took dd to a new school last week and left her with the maths teacher in her class. Went to get a coffee and came back. I stayed all day the first day observing the school. They'd moved her after 1 hour to the parallel class because apparently due to numbers or something she was supposd to be in the other class but no one had told me that and the maths teacher apparently hadn't known. Dd was totally bewildered. I did think the school was useless after that but dd seems very happy. Still just trying it out at this stage though, not yet committed.

It's tough, isn't it, leaving them at school?

NormaSnorks Tue 04-Sep-07 09:53:17

(He's not actually called Andy, BTW, that was just as an example wink )

SSSandy2 Tue 04-Sep-07 09:59:52

I like Araminta's suggestion, that's very good actually.

portonovo Tue 04-Sep-07 10:40:06

The lack of information and being called the 'wrong' name is disappointing.

However, the paying by cheque and sending in notes seems reasonable to me, especially the notes - emails often don't arrive or can take for ever!

The one thing I would act on swiftly is the name business, your son needs to feel comfortable and to get off on the right footing with everyone.

Hope everything else goes smoothly.

Judy1234 Tue 04-Sep-07 11:38:35

I think it's just because he's not standard entry. It's the price you pay for going in at a funny time. Whenever ours have started newly the organisation is fine.

Schools won't take emails mostly because of the chaos it causes and all those fussy silly parents who would then start writing all the time, and what you most want actually in some schools is keep the parents out and let the teachers get on with the job. You almost need a kind of moat and not let interfering parents breach it. The best schools get that right without being too apparently awkward about it. The main thing is they have time to get on with the job rather than dealing with 20 emails a week about little johnny's hate of carrots or whatever.

On names may be it's a useful lesson for your son to know there are official names as on his birth certificate bank account etc and then his non real nick name. The more challenges and difficulties he has sometimes the better actually. Anyway I'm sure it will be fine. I think a good attitude which few parents seem to have these day is that the school is usually right and even if it's wrong let's shut up about it and get on with it realising no one is perfect.

AramintaVanHamstring Tue 04-Sep-07 11:48:42

Very hard to develop the completely new-school-trusting stiff upper lip on your little boys first day I seem to remember.wink

I do agree about the name thing. I foisted hugely elongated family names on mine and then called them nick-names like 'ticky-toe-tap' and 'niblet' for their first five years. They were understandably fuddled to see their complete names under their pegs on their first day at school. Happily this did ensure that they had three pegs instead of one each to cram all their gubbins onto.

I thought that September was the usual month for new intake in most schools. Anyway I'm sure he is having an interesting day and will be full of beans at home time.

LIZS Tue 04-Sep-07 11:52:04

Think I'd be a bit disappointed too . ds had a personal letter from the Admissions Secretary with a map and instructions for his first day. We went to the main office and ds was escorted to his classroom. Then i took dd round to hers. Mind you the start of the second term was very chaotic (staggered start times for different ages and siblings) and generally it is mayhem due to the unusual volume of cars and arrivals but it settles in a week or so. Mention the name issue to hsi etacher - it is probably just a slip and easily resolved .

We can pay by cheque or bank transfer but a direct debit, credit card etc attracts an extra fee. Notes to and for are the norm too , as the email system is hopelessly unreliable ! You'll probably find your ds comes home with a communication/reading record book for you to comunicate informally with the teacher. I expect their system works but it will take a while to get used to. ime it isn't realistic to have higher expectations of a private school's admin.

NormaSnorks Tue 04-Sep-07 12:00:11

He's perfectly aware of his birth certificate names thanks Xenia, and of course will recognise the longer version. However given that the school made me fill out endless forms which included asking for his "preferred" name it would just be nice for them to bother using it. hmm

I'm quite happy for him to face "challenges and difficulties" as he grows up, but given he was only 5 last month I'm sure he has plenty of time for that.

"the school is usually right and even if it's wrong let's shut up about it and get on with it realising no one is perfect" - hmm - that would probably be why one of the other prep schools near us suffered from a major paedophile problem a number of years ago then....? shock

NormaSnorks Tue 04-Sep-07 12:01:58

LIZS - yes, I think I'm just used to the (very efficient) system at his old primary and just need to get used to the new...

Judy1234 Tue 04-Sep-07 16:48:21

Obviously not if teachers are hurting children but on the whole far too many parents seem to lose their humility and think they're God and only they know what is right whereas schools have dealt with loads of children over many years and often know better than we do. ALso many parents think their children is bright or wonderful and in fact it's not very clever and very disruptive. We had 20 years of being on both the parent and teacher side as it were and the things parents come out with are just ridiculous sometimes. I think the main thing schools can do is be polite and curb the worst excesses of parents and the best parents can do is try to back up the school and respect its authority.

Hurlyburly Tue 04-Sep-07 16:55:44

Xenia, in every single issue I have raised with the school about my DCs, the school has acknowledged that I was right and made appropriate changes.

The issues have ranged from selection for the hockey team to non-selection for the swimming team to not giving extension work to a very bright child obviously disengaging to child safety in the playground.

There haven't been that many, and I let most things go, but sometimes people make mistakes. The fact is that teachers know our children less well than we do. The mere fact that they are capable teachers does not make them infallible.

I don't go in all guns blazing insisting that I am right btw. I draw their attention to one or two things and hope they draw what I believe to be the right conclusions.

So I don't agree with your trust the experts philosophy.

Judy1234 Tue 04-Sep-07 16:59:35

I think sometimes children learn a better lesson that schools can make unfair judgments and leave XYZ out of a team than my parents can change a school decision by interfering. Obviously if it's the child being beaten up by a teacher that's a different matter but on the whole I think ti's better just to say to them - yes your teacher seems to have taken against you this year. This happens. It happens in life and in work so let's see how we can just put up with it until next year. Life is unfair is a good slogan to tell children.

jura Tue 04-Sep-07 16:59:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Judy1234 Tue 04-Sep-07 17:01:56

mmm but good thing to force those 4 year olds to learn how to change isn't it in one sense although I pitied the class room assistants when the twins were 5 - 40 boys virtually all unable to tie ties.

jura Tue 04-Sep-07 17:05:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ladymuck Tue 04-Sep-07 17:30:05

At the dcs school the boys are taught how to help each other with top buttons and ties (no elastic ones in our case). Naturally the different pairs race each other to get dressed first. Personally I think that they're insane having 3 sessions of PE/Games each week as well as a swimming lesson. They do ask for volunteers to help with swimming though.

scienceteacher Tue 04-Sep-07 17:30:29

I think the school is damned-if-they-do/damned-if-they-don't thing with regard to names. You simply can't please everyone all of the time. A prep school that I worked in insisted we use the registered name on everything, because some parents complained of getting the shortened version. It's easier and less controversial for the school to go with what they have in writing.

When our boys started at prep school, it was really clear when we got there where to take them. I think the vast majority of schools, private and state, have a special welcome for new pupils. You don't just leave them in the playground. Both the school I teach at, and DS's new school have welcome days for new pupils tomorrow. They go and get to meet their form tutors, have a tour of the school, etc., free from the crowds. We have had welcome letters for our kids, but I can't recall saying where they go - it's pretty self-explanatory on the day. If there was no other information, I would take them to the school office.

We are only allowed to pay by DD for the boys' senior school but we had a choice of DD, termly cheque, or termly bank transfer at their prep school. The cheque was better than the bank transfer because you kept the money in your account for 4 or 5 days longer .

I have a school email address that is published in the parents' handbook, and as a parent, have been able to email the teachers of the my kids in private schools. I think some computer-phobic teachers find this harder though.

I do think it best to hold your tongue for a bit, and give your feedback via the Parents' council or even at a New Parents' evening. Schools really do try hard to improve their communications - at my inset today, this was one of the things we were discussing. Perhaps schools are desensitised to the fact that parents find it hard to let go of their LO's, and fail to offer the appropriate level of reassurance.

portonovo Tue 04-Sep-07 17:41:23

I think in the case we're discussing though, the school had specifically asked to have in writing the name the parents wanted used for their child. And had then not used that name!

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