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How do you argue with a Head?

(126 Posts)
RationalBrain Tue 09-Oct-12 13:44:15

No, its not a riddle, its a genuine question! In fact the question should be can you even argue with a Head?

In a nutshell, our DD has food allergies, started school lunches under the assurance procedures were robust, they take allergies seriously etc etc. First day, she was given something with her allergen in (thankfully didn't react). Since then we have been seeking more information to confirm it did have the allergen in, which we now have.

So emailed the Head very politely to ask about procedures, not robust enough (not identifying DD as a child who needs a special diet) etc. Head point blank refuses to acknowledge that DD ate the offending item, or that the procedures are in any way deficient. ("there is no way the staff would have served her that" - well, they did!)

So what do I do now? Can I argue with a Head? I'm assuming her word is law, and the reason this school doesn't have any problems with breaches of procedures is that she refuses to accept they have happened. Next time, a child could be hospitalised or worse. Apart from DD's word (which is 100% reliable in this case), I have no proof though.

I am at a loss. And also a bit concerned for DD's future at the school if we get earmarked as 'troublemakers'. (heaven forbid we are concerned that they could have killed her hmm).

Macarooned Tue 09-Oct-12 13:48:12

Wow that is awful, I have no real experience, but I would suggest another approach to the head with the evidence you have and if no joy from that then try to board of goveners or local authority...
Good luck i hope you get somewhere

ChocobananaBalls Tue 09-Oct-12 13:48:28

I'm a bit puzzled that she allegedly ate something she is allergic to but showed no allergic reaction??
Perhaps she isn't actually allergic to whatever it is after all?
Or mabe she is food intolerant instead?

As to what you can do about this particular incident, I'm not sure there is other than seek some absolute assurances that this will never happen again.

Could you give her packed lunches instead maybe?

madwomanintheattic Tue 09-Oct-12 13:48:52

Right, but what you are saying is 'you lie, and my dd tells the truth', which is never going to win friends and influence people, however right you think you are.

As you have raised the issue with the school, and caused a fuss, I doubt it will ever happen again anyway, as the ht will already have looked into it, and spoken to the staff involved, so anything else is just point scoring as you want her to admit she was in the wrong and dd was in the right.

Pointless waste of energy. It won't happen again.

mummmsy Tue 09-Oct-12 13:51:03

yes you can argue, absolutely, Head is head of school, not the parent - that is supposed to be a partnership. in this instance, since the partnership seems to have broken down, i would go over the Head's head as you seem to be in a deadlock with them

good luck!

seeker Tue 09-Oct-12 13:53:58

So she ate something that she is so allergic to it could kill her but didn't react? I didn't realise that could happen- if it can, please ignore me, but doesn't it seem more likely that she didn't actually eat it? And if she did eat it, and she is 100% reliable on this, why did she eat it? Am I missing something?

In any case, I would go for packed lunches- you will always be worried after this incident.

MrsTruper Tue 09-Oct-12 13:57:11

just do packed lunch .....because my experience of school 'robust' procedures is they are not robust should take this incident as a warning and do packed lunch. Actions speak louder than words.

mummmsy Tue 09-Oct-12 13:57:24

op's dc shouldn't have to modify her behaviour on the basis that the Head seems to be uncooperative, that's hardly inclusive. also there may well be a next time. head's are not the last word on everything

seeker Tue 09-Oct-12 14:01:50

Of course they're not- but if your child had a life threatening allergy then would you want her to eat in that school again? Whatever assurances you got?

MrsTruper Tue 09-Oct-12 14:02:19

...of course you should not HAVE to revert to packed lunch, but my experience of schools is they make a lot of mistakes regardless of whatever reassurances and procedures there take control and do packed lunch for the safety of your daughter...

RationalBrain Tue 09-Oct-12 14:04:11

Re the queries on how she ate it but didn't react - this is perfectly possible. Her allergies are getting better slowly, and she may not react to traces of the allergen, or it may sensitise her more for next time, or adversely affect her asthma etc. Or may react some times but not others. Either way, it is not for the school to take that risk with DD's life. And yes, she does have allergies, and an epipen. I know the difference between allergy and intolerance.

I know I can, and probably will, do packed lunches. DD will be gutted though. It will make her feel even more excluded than she does already.

numbum Tue 09-Oct-12 14:08:24

How old is DD? And how do you know what she said she ate is 100% reliable. Just asking, not picking a fight!

MrsTruper Tue 09-Oct-12 14:09:29

my dd has packed lunch for various reasons, and there is a flux between who has packed lunch and who has school dinners. I doubt your dd will feel excluded for long, as it will hopefully change and she will find a packed lunch friend soon....

RationalBrain Tue 09-Oct-12 14:11:18

Seeker - as to why she ate it - she is 5, and she eats what she is given unless it is obviously something she knows she can't have (eg cheese, cows milk). There are plenty of foods where it is not obvious that the allergen is in there, and so DD has to trust whoever is giving her the food to have checked. Which I assured her the school definitely would.

RationalBrain Tue 09-Oct-12 14:14:41

numbum - I know she is 100% reliable on this because she is very level headed and sensible around food, she has to be. It was the first day of school dinners, and she was very excited by eating this particular thing as she hasn't had it before (chocolate crispie cake). She told her childminder straight after school, and also me on pick up. It is definitely what was on the menu that day, and she wouldn't have made up that she ate it, she just wouldn't. She would more likely be upset that she wasn't allowed it, and tell me what they gave her instead.

Anyway, off the point. The point is the Head is effectively saying DD is lying. I can't prove it. I suppose there is nothing I can do.

SarkyWench Tue 09-Oct-12 14:17:47

Your school should have a complaints procedure which should be easily accessible to all parents (online or via the office).
This will explicitly state what you should do in the event that the head doesn't not deal with your complaint. Usually in the first instance you will need to make a written complaint to the head and if this does not resolve the issue to your satisfaction then you should make an official complaint to the Chair of Governors.

In this siuation it sounds like you need to go down't the official route.
And be clear about what outcome you want.
Her word is not law. But on the other hand be aware that you can't prove what happened so the most likely positive outcome is that they will agree to tighten procedures without admitting that this actually happened.

SarkyWench Tue 09-Oct-12 14:18:34

sorry about the inept typing.

gabsid Tue 09-Oct-12 14:46:24

If you have proof I would go down the official complaints procedure.

Your Head sounds a bit like the one at our infant school where I went back reapeatedly to find out what DS was doing in maths as I assumed the work was too easy (he was adding single figues at the start of Y2) and he had progressed quite a bit as I supported him at home. I was told he was 'fine' and differentiated appropriately and that its school policy to not give out levels. In the end DS was reasssessed and moved up 3 groups!

But the Head insisted that DC don't progress in a linear fashion and that his achievement was in line with expectations from YR to Y2! There was nothing more I could say to that and as DS was leaving the school there wasn't any point either, but I felt there was no way the Head would admit that they got it wrong.

gabsid Tue 09-Oct-12 14:50:22

Sarky - good point, think about the possible outcomes and what can be achieved.

To be honest, I would't be able to trust the school again and do packed lunches.

ScallyFloss Tue 09-Oct-12 14:51:41

I think I would firstly go in and meet with the head in person. Don't do it over email and do it face to face.

hellymelly Tue 09-Oct-12 14:51:49

We have a similar head who would rather lie than say "yes we made a mistake, how can we ensure it doesn't happen again?" I think they sometimes assume we all have the kind of five year old who makes things up, and that lets them off the hook (my dd doesn't do that, and sounds like yours doesn't either)
The only option is to complain to the Governers, and possibly to the LEA as in your case it is a serious health issue.

sooperdooper Tue 09-Oct-12 15:00:32

Aside from whether the head should believe you/your dd (which I understand could cause a bigger issue if they did serve something they shouldn't be)

If she did eat it, and she didn't have a reaction, surely she's not allergic anyway so does she actually need to be so careful?

simpson Tue 09-Oct-12 16:03:27

Is the food cooked on the school premises or elsewhere??

My DD has severe food intolerances and as the food is cooked at a neighbouring school (by a catering company) I have been able to liaise with them directly and have the menu at home (and another one pinned up in DD's classroom) with everything crossed off that she cannot have iyswim.

I tell DD every morning what she is having for lunch we are 3 weeks in so far (she is in reception) and there have been no mistakes (don't want to tempt fate though!!)

insanityscratching Tue 09-Oct-12 16:38:02

Dd has a severe allergy to fish, generally fish is served Fridays (we get a menu) and so I send in a packed lunch. But dd's photo is displayed at the serving hatch with a warning as are other children's photos so as they aren't served in error.
One particular Friday dd's lunchbox went missing, the HT contacted me and accompanied dd to the lunch hall to ensure that she was safe to eat food from school on that occasion.
Children with anaphylaxis who have epi pens have their photos displayed on the classroom doors along with procedure.
I would send in a packed lunch if it was something that was served regularly tbh.

madwomanintheattic Tue 09-Oct-12 16:57:57

Blimey, insanity, we aren't even allowed to send tuna sandwiches to school. Your school still serves fish every week?

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