Would you sign an non-disclosure school agreement?

(29 Posts)
lockedinlockedon Fri 06-Nov-20 23:02:22

My child is in primary school and today has come home with an online safety parent agreement. I'm all for online safety and I am happy to agree to most points apart from this one… AIBU?

I/we also agree not to share school related information or images online or post material that may bring the school or any individual within it into disrepute. (Rather than posting negative material online, any parent, distressed or concerned about an aspect of school should make immediate contact for the member of staff. Negative postings about the school would impact on the reputation of the whole community. Parents are encouraged to report breaches so that we can protect the reputation of the school, staff, pupils and parents).

I wouldn't mind but this school sends out the most aggressive emails I've ever seen. At the beginning of Covid a poor parent was publicly shamed for recommending an online teaching website to other parents on WhatsApp. When the rule of six started parents were told they could no longer go to the park next door or the police would be called. We were also told that only the parents of a child could collect them from the school and no one could car share - giving working parents an impossible task. This latest rule seems to be an attempt to prevent any parent from voicing concerns publicly, which we are more than entitled to do.

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Zodlebud Sat 07-Nov-20 07:27:59

After seeing some of the things being discussed on our school SM sites (private ones) then I do kind of agree. It becomes a thing - people collectively ganging up against the school and in most instances the majority of parents hadn’t even thought of it until one mentioned it.

The best way to build strong and effective relationships with your school is to address any issues directly yourself. They are your issues, nobody else’s. If they have the same problem then they should raise it.

Also, you ARE breaking COVID19 rules if you are meeting in parks in groups of more than 6. We are “policed” at drop off and pick up. Straight in and out, no loitering around. From Monday face masks needed. School parents do loiter and I miss my chats hugely but this is to keep schools as safe as possible and open.

Likewise if you are car sharing, even if your child is part of the same bubble. At our school special permission needs to be obtained for car sharing in that it is a regular and consistent arrangement with people in the same school bubble and on a route / location that makes sense. Everyone must wear a mask. People were using car sharing as a back door for play dates. This was an arrangement worked out individually with parents as it arose and could prove a need for it and they were asked to keep quiet about it.

It does sound though like the school has been exceptionally heavy handed with its communications though. We are not in a police state but it must be very frustrating to put all these safety rules in place at school and see them then blatantly flounted by parents.

Break down the communications and try and relate it to “the rules” as opposed to getting cross with the style. It would get my back up too but if we don’t all behave, thousands more people will die and Christmas as we know it won’t happen.

Tardigrade001 Sat 07-Nov-20 07:39:04

So you can't ever say anything about the school online unless it's 100% positive?
No way.
Not that I've ever discussed schools online or planning to do so, but it just feels wrong.

TheSeedsOfADream Sat 07-Nov-20 07:42:25

Standard wording.
If more parents actually spoke to the school when issues arise instead of "fuming" on SM, the problems might get resolved sooner.
You only have to look at the "livid with school" threads here where, when asked "what did the school say when you told them" how often the response is "I haven't been in/phoned/written yet"

JMG1234 Sat 07-Nov-20 08:37:01

Can't say I've ever been asked to sign an agreement like that. I know that our old prep school head was very sensitive about parents commenting on school matters in WhatsApp groups.

Our secondary school head recently shut all the year group WhatsApp groups school had rather unwisely set up. On the basis that some of the opinions expressed by parents were either ill judged or verging on the offensive.

They were a nice idea but weren't monitored (mind you, when I wake up to 566 unread messages, I can't blame them). This led to wild discussions such as "the boys tell me they can order drugs on Snapchat for delivery to school at lunchtime" and a couple of fairly awful disagreements between a small number of parents who felt some comments had racial undertones.

I really dislike large school WhatsApp groups. There's inevitably a handful of people who use the group to preach their opinions to around 300 parents in the year they've not actually met. Or work each other up into a frenzy of slating school over some minor issue. When I think back to my parents' involvement in school life, I feel very sorry for schools as most (though not all) of the criticism is unjustified and some parents put school under a constant microscope.

Of course, now the same people just vent on the unofficial year WhatsApp of which school has no visibility, so I think school may be damned if they do and damned if they don't.

lockedinlockedon Sat 07-Nov-20 09:03:58

In my experience, no one vents on WhatsApp for fear of the repercussions from the head (she has been known to shout at parents across the playground and publicly shame via email).

Sometimes we do need to get together to get our voices heard. Social movements would never happen if we didn't have the basic human right to freedom of speech.

If the school deals effectively with parents concerns then there would be no need to discuss them online. Sadly that's not the reality though is it.

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lockedinlockedon Sat 07-Nov-20 09:07:34

Also the rule of 6 meant that nobody could meet up in a group of more than 6. That is very different to not being able to go in the park if there are 6 people already in there

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Zodlebud Sat 07-Nov-20 09:26:47

@Tardigrade001 it’s not so much not being able to say anything negative but more about is it the right platform to do so?

I feel there’s nothing wrong with posting a genuine school review but if it’s full of grievances I would expect it to highlight how the school failed to work with you to resolve them (without going into personal details).

But to just air your grievances without first trying to sort it with the school is like talking about someone behind their back. It doesn’t really help, doesn’t solve the problem and just gets more people involved than necessary.

Cazkc164 Sat 07-Nov-20 09:39:04

I think parents have every right to voice their concerns, obviously there is an appropriate way of doing so and being outwardly offensive or breaching privacy is never acceptable however forcing parents to sign a gagging agreement is in my opinion totally unacceptable. There are occasional where parents voice concerned to teachers and the school and these are not dealt with or ignored. If parents sign this agreement and then discuss any concerns online with other parents does this mean the school can expel your child, sue the parent for money ? It’s totally ridiculous and an attempt to silence parents out of fear of repercussion, a school is not a dictatorship. They should be open to feedback and constructive criticism. It seems to me like the head of this school has serious authority issues. I would never sign a “gagging agreement”.

wellthatsunusual Sat 07-Nov-20 09:44:58

At our school special permission needs to be obtained for car sharing in that it is a regular and consistent arrangement with people in the same school bubble and on a route / location that makes sense.

That is a massive overreach by the school. It's like all the posts I see on MN saying 'our school doesn't allow children to walk to school unaccompanied' or whatever. It is absolutely none of a school's business how their pupils arrive, just that they actually do arrive. That's when their responsibility starts. Beforehand it's the parents responsibility. The school can advise but it's just advice.

PresentingPercy Sat 07-Nov-20 11:28:39

That’s not actually quite true. A school can discipline children for unruly behaviour on their journey to and from school and in school transport. Their responsibility does go beyond the school gates. However as long as dc are arriving on time and there isn’t inappropriate behaviour, all will be well. Most schools won’t have time to monitor car sharing. They can, of course, advise parents on the safest way to get dc to school at the moment.

PresentingPercy Sat 07-Nov-20 11:30:54

I think parents who use public forums to shame schools are a big problem. Sort out the problem with the school. Most sensible people can do this. I would imagine being the nasty parent who stirs things up would mean the school would rather they took dc elsewhere!

lockedinlockedon Sat 07-Nov-20 12:13:04

I must be living in some alternative universe because the majority of parents that I've met just want the best for their kids, fight hard to get them into the best school they can, want to be treated with respect and have a voice in their child's education. Yet it would appear there is an abundance of 'nasty parents' whose sole purpose is moan and discredit schools via WhatsApp.

We cannot as parents be silenced because of a few professional moaners.

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Cazkc164 Sat 07-Nov-20 12:14:32

That’s all well and good if the school is reasonable and prepared to “sort out the problem” what avenues do parents have however if they do not. A school cannot “gag” parents and have absolutely no right to do so. The same as any other company, business, employer. They are not above criticism just because they may not like like it.

rorosemary Sat 07-Nov-20 12:18:46

So what happens if you just don't sign it?

lockedinlockedon Sat 07-Nov-20 12:41:21

I'm not sure what will happen if I don't sign, I was hoping someone could tell me on here.

I imagine I will receive an antagonistic email suggesting I should remove my child from the school if I don't agree to the policies. I don't think it's enforceable though. I should mention it's a state school.

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PresentingPercy Sat 07-Nov-20 14:35:58

You don’t get a voice in the way you think. Schools are supposed to foster working relationships with parents but not listen to every single voiced criticism. Mostly schools forge relationships by having parents evenings, having parents make appointments to see staff, sending home newsletters, having a PTA, organising parental forums, having open days, giving parents info on the curriculum, having curriculum evenings, inviting parents in to see plays, music and assemblies and other things I’ve no doubt forgotten. Parents don’t have the right to carp and criticise via social media and ignore the schools complaints procedures or parental contact measures.

It’s a sad state of affairs when parents are so belligerent about their rights. There are rights for teaching staff too. There are responsibilities for both. Working together is always the sensible way forward.

You cannot be asked to remove your child. Children can only be excluded for serious misdemeanours by the child. You really do need to do a bit more reading about how schools and parents should work together, tone down your “rights” and definitely read up on exclusions. I rather suspect you have a defensive head due to parents who use SM and are somewhat aggressive. You are not a customer in the traditional sense. You are not buying a product. So try and be a bit less demanding.

They cannot make you sign anything. Don’t do it if it upsets you. If you have concerns, speak to the Head directly.

lockedinlockedon Sat 07-Nov-20 15:17:28

I'm not demanding anything. The school is demanding I sign a non-disclosure which I believe is an infringement of my human right to freedom of speech.

To quote Universities UK:

“NDAs shouldn’t be used to stop open conversations about harassment or other legitimate complaints."

Unfortunately the school does not create an environment whereby open conversations can happen and as a consequence they've had to ask for an NDA. Perhaps they need to educate themselves on the parent / school relationship.

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Zodlebud Sat 07-Nov-20 15:45:11

I think it’s also about what’s on and off limits.

Is it ok to talk about another child publicly? No

Is it ok to talk about a teacher publicly? No

Is it ok to disagree with the rules? Probably, but you also probably find out you signed up to agree to them at the point you joined.

Is it ok to talk about the curriculum? Sure if it’s, “Is anyone finding this certain homework hard?”. Not so much if you disagree with the way your child is being taught a certain subject or the content thereof - raise it with the teacher.

Where does it end? Unless you have a finite list of what’s allowed and what’s not then how can you possibly manage it? Much easier to have a blanket ban.

Our school has private Facebook groups for each class where people can post. The admins are volunteer class reps who act as the go between the parents and class teacher, highlighting any common themes or replying - I think this is something you need to deal directly with the school on. It might be old school but it’s really effective at managing communication between parents but in a respectable way.

@wellthatsunusual. It’s not overstepping at all. The school can only be accessed by car or official school minibus because of its location. Access is through security barriers and everyone has their temperature checked before being allowed entry. They don’t have to let anyone in unless they want to but the parents are fine with it because the school is going above and beyond to keep everyone safe.

@lockedinlockedon please just get in touch with the school and say you understand the purpose of it and support the general principle but you do have some concerns and list them. These are not normal times and it’s obvious that some schools are being more strict than others. Just remember that their intention is to keep your children, their staff and all their families safe. It’s not a slur or attempt to take away your rights. Just stay professional.

lockedinlockedon Sat 07-Nov-20 16:18:45

@Zodlebud

I think when it comes to legal documents things have to be pretty specific. Perhaps if the wording was different - more of a recommendation. Then it would be a more reasonable a request. A blanket policy seems quite extreme and dictatorial.

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Onceuponatimethen Sat 07-Nov-20 16:24:01

I really dislike schools funded with tax payer money trying to take away legal rights of free expression.
I wouldn’t sign this op.

lockedinlockedon Sat 07-Nov-20 16:29:17

@Zodlebud
Thanks! I hadn't thought to contact the school and tell them my thoughts about it.

Might also be worth noting that some heads are only concerned about their reputation. I'm yet to meet a parent whose sole purpose in life isn't to ensure their child is safe!

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Zodlebud Sat 07-Nov-20 16:33:30

@lockedinlockedon

But is it a proper legal document or just a policy to which you are being asked to agree to? Proper NDAs often run to many pages.

Both kids and parents at our school have to sign an internet and social media proper useage agreement. I don’t see anything that would infringe my rights or those of my daughter in either. They are just both very sensible - no bullying, must not bring school into disrepute etc. If it was a truly serious issue I had with the school then it would not prevent me from discussing with a lawyer, LEA, OFSTED, Social services or other relevant person or body outside the school.

That’s very different to Susan complaining to the Daily Mail that her daughter was sent home from school for wearing trainers instead of shoes (when those trainers cost £80).

helloxhristmas Sat 07-Nov-20 16:42:01

How does the head know what's being said in WhatsApp groups?

MissLucyEyelesbarrow Sat 07-Nov-20 16:53:56

I absolutely would not sign this, as a matter of principle. While I sympathise massively with teachers, some schools as organisations seem to be totally out of control in their behaviour towards parents- this being a prime example.

It's not my area of legal knowledge but, assuming you are in England, it's my understanding that a one way NDA of this type usually has to be executed as a deed to be enforceable - so it's probably meaningless anyway.

I would either ignore the request- or ask the Head to explain under what contractual basis s/he thinks this can be enforced. Bet you s/he hasn't got a clue.

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