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head teachers sanctioning the disposal of children's workbooks

(132 Posts)
bullethead Tue 03-Aug-10 23:16:07

There is no valid reason for this; so far on the TES forum, where I have put the question to head teachers about why they destroy the children's workbooks rather than give them out, none have come forward. The only replies I've had are from a TA who has to do it but disagrees with it, and a head who does not have a problem with letting the children take their books home.
Please ask your child's school's head why they weren't given the option of keeping their books if your child did not bring them home. Chances are you won't get a straight answer and they'll hope you forget about it.

hocuspontas Sat 07-Aug-10 16:34:19

All the books are available to view at two open evenings during the year (primary). They all come home at the end of the year. At secondary all the books are available to see when they come home for homework and again come home at the end of the year. The only exception to this was end of key stage 1 when an OFSTED inspection was due and the books were retained. We never got those back. I remember asking and the HT looking surprised that I wanted them!

I'm surprised that schools don't just want to get shot of them.

bullethead Sat 07-Aug-10 17:35:42

I suspect you are right! I used to love getting the children's books and it never occured to me to criticise them as they were fine. However some parents do and their complaint may be perfectly valid. This isn't aggressive behaviour, it's just parents questioning the school's actions.

If parents do complain, whether it proves justified or not does not mean that heads should use it as an excuse to destroy the children's work.

Glimpsing it at parents' evening for half an hour is no substitute for keeping a book of your child's creative writing efforts for them to have fun looking through when they're older. It is their intellectual property.

If schools have consistent marking policies in place and an open attitude to parents then complaints should be rare. Getting rid of the work, unfortunately, seems like hiding something, whether or not it actually is.

bullethead Sat 07-Aug-10 17:37:53

That reply was to Elbowfan.

bullethead Sat 07-Aug-10 17:41:05

hocuspontas - I'm surprised too. They do get shot of them though, by shredding/binning them. This cost money from the school budget so it is surprising they're not just sent home.

There is some confusion as to whether Ofsted are really that interested in a previous year's cohort's work - especially if they're year 6. Generally they want to know that the current class's needs are being met when they inspect.

ElbowFan Sat 07-Aug-10 18:03:51

The only other thought that occurs to me is that you raise the issue with the parent governor and ask if there is a policy about this and if it could be reviewed?
Most schools are only too keen to have parents 'engaged' in the education process, albeit at arms length! If keeping the books were a requirement of Ofsted, no school would send them home, so I suspect that explanation to be mere excuse. (Ofsted are usually looking at progress of the current children, not historic records.)

It would be interesting to learn whether the HT could explain to the GB the destruction of children's work when parental opinion is largely that they would like the books to go home at the year end.

lucykate Sat 07-Aug-10 18:09:37

i hadn't really thought about this til reading this thread but ds didn't bring home any exercise books at the end of term. he's just finished reception. dd brought home loads when she was in the same year group, and did do this time too (she's just finished yr3). they're both at same school, so it did seem odd ds didn't bring any home, will have to ask around amongst the other parents, make sure it wasn't just ds!

bullethead Sat 07-Aug-10 19:12:44

Thank you elbowfan I think the school governor route is a good idea. I don't dislike the head, just what he has done, which should be beyond his remit. So it might be a good idea to approach both about this. Also, Ofsted may be able to provide some answers themselves.

lucykate asking around will be interesting; likelihood is they didn't get the books either.

Parents don't get a chance to be unified whereas schools do and can close ranks; but if enough parents cared about this, then maybe the head could be approached in an organised way, if people felt strongly enough. On the whole though, parents don't like to bother schools as individuals too much, as they don't want to cause trouble while their child is at the school. It's very tricky.

emptyshell Mon 16-Aug-10 14:21:52

I don't know why I'm replying since you've obviously got an axe to grind here and will disregard what I say.

My old head never let any books go home - because of various incidents where parents had taken books home, mulled over them all holidays and gone back the first week in September and screamed at class teachers about work comments made back in October the previous year. We also had parents cross referencing what colour and number reading book siblings were on on set calendar weeks in corresponding years and all sorts of other nonsense.

Personally - I don't care. Sometimes we had to keep a lower/middle/upper set of books for future comparison purposes - again, not my fault, I offered photocopies of stories or whatever parents wanted keeping - but again, got screamed at for that.

You send the books home - people come in complaining about how we're jamming up THEIR bins rather than the schools and sending home rubbish - you don't send them home - you get people trying to stir up mutinies on here.

I only replied to this because I find the tone that you're taking that schools and teachers are closing ranks to be utterly ridiculous and offensive. I followed the line given to me by the Head Teacher - like all class teachers do - yet it's the class teachers who get yelled at and blamed for the decisions. If you've got a problem - take it up with your child's individual school - I fail to see how harvesting posts on Mumsnet is going to achieve anything other than making you look rather petty.

The issue is dictated by individual heads by the way - not the governors, not Ofsted, not the class teachers who get sick to death of being bashed for this.

fabsoopergroovy Mon 16-Aug-10 15:20:19

emptyshell - I understand your point and indeed your frustration with this thread but it seems to me that peoples experiences are different in different schools.

I have known a school where some of the year groups got to take their books home and others didn't. Where does this fit into your assertion that 'the issue is dictated by individual heads'? By stating this you are confirming to me that HT's allow those competent teachers to send their books home and back those they know lack competence to keep their class books behind.

This is wholly wrong.

bullethead Wed 18-Aug-10 22:02:43

Hello emptyshell- of course I have an axe to grind, that's why I posted this thread. That seems to be what a lot of threads do - it's a way of letting off steam, hence it's a forum for parents to air their views!
Seriously though, I also wanted to get an idea of whether this is normal or unusual for schools. Your reply confirmed what I already suspected - that head teachers take it upon themselves to decide whether a child's academic work is destroyed or not, before the child or parents are consulted.

This thread does seem to have touched on a raw nerve with you and your rather defensive reply reflects that. I haven't disregarded any replies to this thread, in fact I have tried to answer them whether positive or negative. Disagreeing does not mean disregarding.

My point is that fear of parents complaining should not be put forward as a valid reason for not allowing children to keep their work if they want to. I suspect that parents rarely complain but it stands out when one or two do, hence the upset.

The 'clogging up bins' argument - if it is true that parents actually do complain about this - could be circumnavigated by simply asking parents if they want it via a form sent home. That is if heads are getting nervous about criticism that they are clogging up people's bins.

It may seem petty to you, but not quite petty enough for you to ignore.
- Or me, as I have taken this matter up with the school repeatedly but been fobbed off and lied to for three academic years after simply asking for my child's work.

mrz Thu 19-Aug-10 14:47:53

Just for arguments sake can I just throw in the fact that the books actually belong to the school (not to the child) so really it is up to them what they do with them at the end of the day ...

TheFallenMadonna Thu 19-Aug-10 14:52:57

I've recently thrown away a whole bunch of exercise books (secondary), but that's because my students didn't want to take them home. I'd rather they had because it's a right pain separating the cover and the rest fo the book (can't throw anything away with the child's name on).

I don't get my children's (primary) exercise books. I see their books at parents' evenings, so I know they are marked, and properly. And I have no worries about their teachers. I don't know why they don't send them home. Never really though about it.

bullethead Thu 19-Aug-10 16:42:31

Thanks to anyone who has kindly replied with their opinions and further insights into the reasons heads do this. I'm quite sure it's not because it's the school's property. That wouldn't make sense; it's chucked out anyway.

I can only say that it's amazing how many people seem to have no interest in what their children have been DOING and LEARNING at school all year. Parents' evenings are only a chance to see the best books, buffed-up-specially-for-the-occasion workbooks, surprise surprise, all marked and up to date, in an allotted time slot, usually no more than half an hour.

What concerns me is that we are talking about are STATE schools, and the heads who hide their incompetence (practically admitted by emptyshell a few threads back) by stopping parents from having their children's work 'in case they complain', are behaving like tin pot dictators over their own little empires.

Still, if no-one really cares, what the heck. Just send them to school and be glad they're there 6 hours a day 5 days a week.

TheFallenMadonna Thu 19-Aug-10 17:10:08

Yes, that's it exactly bullethead hmm.

I know what my children are DOING and LEARNING because I can see it demonstrated when I talk to them, and when they talk to me, and when I watch them. I see all their books at parents' evenings, not a selection, and I also realise that most of their learning does not take place on paper.

collision Thu 19-Aug-10 17:14:05

We destroyed all our books at school.

Broke my heart tbh. sad

The HT's stand on it is that parents will criticise marking and that the marking might not be up to scratch!

Shocking (and I work at school!)

TheFallenMadonna Thu 19-Aug-10 17:23:26

Parents will criticise the marking though wink

I marked a piece of homework once and said that althought he child had obviously worked hard, he hadn't quite addressed the real point of the question and gave him some pointers as to how he could have done that. His stepfather scrawled in red ink across the page "I made sure X spent 3HOURS on this homework, and you are telling him it isn't right? X is SPECIAL NEEDS!".

X, although not academically able, did not have SEN. His classmates took great delight in reading the comments out.

That was one book I "lost"...

fabsoopergroovy Thu 19-Aug-10 17:39:36

collision - sharp intake of breath shock!

Why does your post still make me respond in this way? Surely after all I've been through recently I should not be shocked at anything school related. I think there must be a bit of me that is hoping that surely this must only happen to a few state schools.

Time for change, time for change, please how can we make it happen?

Feenie Thu 19-Aug-10 18:52:30

All books are in trays and on show for every parents' evening, to look at for as long as parents like!

ShellingPeas Thu 19-Aug-10 19:49:47

At my DC's STATE primary all books are returned at the end of each academic year. And, tbh, expect for particularly exceptional work, I recycle it.

Throughout the year any homework is marked and you can see the marking in the homework books. All work books are available to view at parents' evening, not just the 'buffed up' versions.

And as FallenMadonna say, you can tell what they're DOING and LEARNING by what they say and do when talking to you. It's not all down on paper.

ShellingPeas Thu 19-Aug-10 19:50:21

Agh, should be except not expect. Doh!

mrz Thu 19-Aug-10 20:13:09

I always think that the end of the year is too late too worry what's in your child's books anyway.

collision Thu 19-Aug-10 20:17:25

<whispers> I acshully asked both my boys' teachers if it would be possible to have their Literacy books and they said that if I didnt tell anyone then I could!

Have to wait til after Ofsted have been in.

crisproll2 Thu 19-Aug-10 20:31:53

I have no idea about the rights or wrongs of this situation. I don`t pour over my DS`s written work on parents` evenings, or when he brings it home. It is pretty easy for me to tell how/what he is achieving by basic chats every day and watching him when he is reading/completing homework.

What does concern me though is someone on this thread who works in a school sharing a headteacher`s policy on disposal of children`s work and his/her reasons for doing so (which appears to be based on the headteacher`s belief of his/her staff`s inability to `mark` books!)

This may well be an anonymous site but I am more unimpressed by this than I am of the disposal of workbooks!

notagrannyyet Thu 19-Aug-10 20:35:07

Mine have always brought them home. I did enjoy looking through the primary stuff, and have kept a few books and pieces of art work.....and 3 tudor houses, a mott & bailey castle, and a church!

I did look through secondary books through the year but leave it up to DC what they keep. Even so with 6 DC we have boxes of school stuff in the attic. We also have DH's college notes, DS1 & DD university notes, and the stuff DS2 did during his apprenticeship.

OneMoreCupofCoffee Thu 19-Aug-10 22:41:41

Interesting thread. We see their exercise books twice a year at Parent's consultations - they were useful to look at as they backed up what my ds had complained of - so I can see why schools with something to hide would try to remove them from parent's claws. We do receive an enormous amount of worksheets (yawn), artwork etc- but never their exercise books which is a shame becuase I'd have loved to have my dc's literacy books as a keepsake.

I can't help but feel that schools shoot themselves in the foot over issues like this. If you have nothing to hide then send everything home...why only send home a selection? Comments like - it belongs to the school - who owns and paid for the school? Schools may have the legal right to destroy children's work but do they have they moral right? And "parents would ask too many questions" - only add to the suspicion that schools are hiding something, what's the big problem with transparency? The old professions like to hide information - you remember when your medical records were for the medical profession's eyes only.
A teacher should be able to explain to a parent why they have made a comment on their child's work.

My OH is a Civil Servant and he sees himself as just that - he serves the public and he gets his fair share of abuse but he can defend every decision he makes. Everything in his job is open to scrutiny - every email can be dragged across the tabloids.

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