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Parent accussed of 'agressive behaviour'

(17 Posts)
TAKENABACK Sat 30-Apr-05 11:40:07

Hi, this is my first posting on mumsnet, or any web forum actually, but I've got to find out if anyone out there has had the same experience as me or can offer advice. Sorry first of all for the length o this first message but it's probably best to put some background in.

My 5 year old started school in September, really got in to it, loving to do her homework and stuff. Then, in January, the new head has started a 'Foundation unit' with the teacher and teaching assistant (T/A) being replaced and new teaching methods brought in. To my husband and me, the introduction of sand and water play looked to be the same as she had been doing in Nursery. We didn't understand the different type of teaching and ended up speaking to the Head who explained how it all worked as there had been no explanation given to parents. Although we accepted her explanation we still had reservations but said we would support our little girl by trying to mirror the sorts of things she was doing at school, at home.

A couple of weeks ago a newsletter was sent out that included some information about one of my daughter's previous teachers being brought back in to the unit as a 'Nursery Nurse'. With our previous reservations about the unit and then this term being used in a school that only takes children from 5yrs old, I was worried. Dropping my girl off for school the next morning, but not wanting to be seen as pushy, I lightheartedly spoke to the T/A saying something along the lines of'how come you're a nursery nusre now then?'. (We'd had, what i thought was a good relationship then). She replied she didn't care what she was called and we had a little bit of a chat. One of the new teachers came to join us asking frostily if there was a problem. I told her I'd just got to understand the new routines and there was the school getting me worried again with 'nursery nurses' but I'd keep the situation monitored. All with a smile on my face, consciously trying to be light hearted. 15 minutes later at home I get a call from the head wanting me to go and see her that afternoon. Imagine, a 39 year old solicitor called to the head's office . She said she was aware I had some concerns and wanted to discuss them with me. I didn't, but I thought that for the head to phone me up so quickly after such a short conversation that I probably should have. I couldn't make it but sorted an appointment out a week later, yesterday.

I went, with my husband, and met the head and the other new (more senior)teacher of the unit. I was then informed I had been so aggressive that morning that the old T/A had had to go home at lunchtime because she was so upset. I was told I had undermined and embarassed her in front of parents and children, demeaning her profession. The head went on to accuse us of not respecting her (the head's)professionalism or experience as well. The whole meeting was aimed at giving me a telling off. What right have I to ask for information on how my child is educated? Surely a professional talking to a professional in a calm and considered way isn't threatening. I would like to have thought someone teaching my child should have the skills to tell me if the time wasn't appropriate or didn't agree with what I was saying. At one point the head even said that she didn't think that the school was somewhere we would be happy having my daughter attending and that we should consider her placement carefully. Surely any school should be trying to keep bright children and parents who are interested in their education, not pigeon hole them as aggressive for just asking for clarifcation. I'm so glad my husband was there, they didn't know I was taking him and gave no indication they were going to have such a go at me. It would have been awful on my own. What a wonderful bank holiday weekend I'm having! Upset and unable to think of anything else. I wouldn't mind so much if I'd not made the consious effort to be so lighthearted when I spoke to the T/A!

I'm now worried about being labelled as 'aggressive' and being grouped with parents that do go in swearing and shouting. The head teacher says I can't ask questions of my little girls teachers any more and must route questions through her and won't set up a meeting between myself and the T/A in order that we can clear the air. This can't be a good relationship can it? Has anyone got any suggestions about what I should do? I don't think the meeting yesterday resolved anything at all

SoupDragon Sat 30-Apr-05 12:07:47

Welcome to MN

Did the TA give any indication that she'd been upset? Maybe you need to write your side in a letter to the head and say that you do not understand where the "aggressive" tag came from. You may find it easier to write as opposed to speaking directly. Also explain the concerns you were trying to address when you spoke to the TA.

In DSs school, the reception year is part of the "early/foundation years" curriculum - ie part of nursery than KS1. I was under the impression that this was now standard.

flashingnose Sat 30-Apr-05 12:14:38

Agree with SD - our school has an "Early Years" unit which comprises the nursery (4+) and Reception. All the children mix in together and choose various activities (incl. things like sand) but are then taken in small groups to work on reading etc. This appears to be working very well and is a great move away from too much academic work too soon .

Twiglett Sat 30-Apr-05 12:21:04

I totally agree with SD, you need to write down your concerns from the conversation with the TA right through to the ambush meeting with the headteacher, then sleep on it, then re-write it (maybe even post it here for independent advice) then send it and consider copy it in to the governers / LEA

the thing that concerns me the most about your post is

the ambush meeting with the head where you were summoned

the concept that you have been tagged difficult

the issue with taking an interest in the direction of your child's education

the lack of communication from school to parents before and during any changes being implemented

I would say though that learning through play sounds right for 5 year olds

Caligula Sat 30-Apr-05 13:18:04

I agree with Twiglett. I'd certainly put all concerns in writing. This has to be cleared up so that you can have a good relationship with the school in future.

In the letter, I would emphasise that if the TA is upset by you questioning her, then perhaps there's a training need there about communication with parents. It sounds like she is feeling quite sensitive about her new role, and was not prepared by her management for the fact that some parents might be curious about it and might want to ask her questions. So the fact that she's upset, is not your fault, it's theirs, for not anticipating that some parent's were going to be curious and ask about it, and therefore she needed to be prepared to deal with that.

It's a bit scary that their first instinct is to haul you over the coals, rather than communicate properly with you.

TAKENABACK Sat 30-Apr-05 18:25:54

Thanks very much for the advice All. You've all given me something to start from. I was going to phone the Head after the holiday but I think the advice from C and T to get it down in writing is probably best. I just need to get something on a blank piece of paper. And I do now agree with SD and FN that learning through play seems to be the best concept. I'll keep you posted and show you my letter before I send it. Thanks for the support. I feel so much better already

lockets Sat 30-Apr-05 18:38:51

Message withdrawn

assumedname Sat 30-Apr-05 18:49:30

Unbelievable attitude from the school.

I think you ought to contact the School Governors and take it further or even your County Council education department.

lockets Sat 30-Apr-05 18:55:35

Message withdrawn

sis Sat 30-Apr-05 18:59:38

welcome to mumsnet Takenaback. I am sorry your first post is one about something you feel so upset and I, too, would be cross that the headteacher appeared to have decided what had happened between you and the T/A before she had spoken to you by saying that you had upset/undermined her etc.

You may want to consider access to the governers if the head continues to label you as 'difficult' without giving the matter fair consideration after hearing both sides of the story.

Donbean Sat 30-Apr-05 19:00:20

Another angle may be that these people are intensly intimidated by the mere fact that you are a solicitor questioning them. (Presuming that they know of your profession)
Daft i know because at the end of the day you are a parent first and foremost.
Never the less, in my employment if we are aware that a relative visiting is of the legal profession, we are guarded in our explanations and do feel intimidated and "on the spot" when questioned. This is regardless of how nice or approachable that person is.

Caligula Sat 30-Apr-05 20:50:19

I suspect Donbean's right - they probably are intimidated by the fact that you're a solicitor and assumed you were being aggressive because that's what lawyers are thought of as being! Perhaps you can set their minds at rest in the letter by reassuring them that now that you understand what their objectives are, you are perfectly happy about them and have no complaints about that, but you were just trying to find out what was happening. (Which is normally considered perfectly reasonable!)

swedishmum Sat 30-Apr-05 21:02:49

It all seems unbelievable to me - at our local school the TA in reception is fantastic - I can't imagine her being remotely upset by this!! Is this woman particularly young?

TAKENABACK Sun 01-May-05 16:09:05

thanks again all of you, it really is helpful advice. May be they are a little intimidated, but I specifically kept things "light" on purpose and would make an appointment to discuss things if I needed to go indepth. I wonder if anyone could explain to me about "foundation units" as the school don't seem to be prepared to do this. I understand the foundation stage, which the school were already running, but not the foundation unit concept. The school my little girl goes to does not have a feeder class as such and don't take children until the term in which they are five into a reception class. My little girl will move out of reception class this September into year 1. Will she still be in the foundation unit then? How long does a foundation unit last for? I am really confused. If anyone else knows anything about foundation units, or if anyone has been involved in an impelementation of a foundation unit from a "traditional" method of teaching it would be great to hear from you. As my little girl started in September when the traditional methods were used, which changed in February of this year without any information being given to parents, I am in the dark. I understand that the parents of the "new starters" in March who are in my daugher's class were given a talk and workshop about the new unit, but there are no plans to give another one to myself and the other parents who started in September, so I would find any info helpful.

SoupDragon Sun 01-May-05 16:13:50

I assume that "foundation unit" is just a name and actually makes very little difference what they call it. Maybe it's just to make it clear that it's part of the early years/foundation stage rather than Key Stage 1 (which is, incidentally, what your DD will be in when she moves to Y1. KS1 is the old "infants" years and KS2 "juniors")

geranium Sun 01-May-05 19:28:27

Obviously depends how you are going to play this but if you are going to copy in LEA etc you might want to refer in passing that during the meeting the head suggested this might not be the right school for your child so that you have a record of her/him having made this remark. Personally, I would find this quite a threatening and aggressive response to have the head threaten my child's place at the school in response to innocent questioning. However, so long as there are no repercussions for your child from her class teachers, then you may decide it is best to ignore this remark.

Mud Wed 11-May-05 18:06:17

what happened next?

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