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What can you do if you are unhappy with your school?

(14 Posts)
unhappywithschool Thu 09-Oct-08 10:58:09

I'm concerned at the moment with the quality of my daughters education. The work is in no way challenging for her, and since she has been back at school after the summer holidays she appears to have learnt nothing new, and in fact the level of work that her class are working at at the moment appears to be easier than the work they were doing at the end of the previous year. My DD is bright, but I wouldnt say she was outwith the normal range of ability.

This is not just my experience, there are large numbers of other parents with the same concerns, in the same year as my daughter, and in other years in the school.
Children are not being challenged, and some of them are struggling with the boredem of not having anything new to do.
Some parents have been to see the head teacher, and various promises have been made, but there is no improvement evident.
The last HMIE report from the school 3 years ago had commented on this being a problem, and an action point.

I feel that the school is generally good, and is the best one within the area I live, so would rather not change schools. The school is interested in the pupils, standards of behaviour are generally good, and I personally feel that socialisation is probably more important than academic excellence at primary school.
Neither myself or the many other unhappy parents are especially "pushy", but find it disheartening when the work is so easy that they are unlikely to be learning anything, and are also loosing interest in education. A large proportion of parents in the school are doing additional work with children at the evenings and weekends in order to try an maintain some progress, but I'm aware that moving them forward in this way will only make the time at school more boring for them.

What would be the route to go down as the current efforts that people have made in talking to the head teacher have had no effect( though the headteacher is actually very pleasant and I believe is genuinely interested in the school doing well).

As the HMIE have previously identified this as being a problem at the school would it be worth approaching them (I dont know much about these things, but that feels a bit severe?)
Would the parent council have a role here (the school is in Scotland). The majority of the parent council members are very concerned about the situation.
Clearly we are able to raise it as an issue, but Im unsure if we are able to do any more than that. Does anyone have any experience of using the Parents council in that way?

unhappywithschool Thu 09-Oct-08 11:54:44

bump

unhappywithschool Thu 09-Oct-08 16:21:49

anyone?

<looks hopeful>

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Thu 09-Oct-08 16:38:21

All my experience with schools (have been a governor for yonks) is in England, so I'm not sure how much of what follows would apply in Scotland, but here goes:

In England, the Head is responsible for the day to day management of the school, but the governing body is responsible for policies, monitoring the school's performance and supporting the Head in achieving improvements etc. I'm assuming that the Parent Council is more like the Parents and Friends Association, but if many parents feel as you do then it would be worth speaking to the chair of the governors (or the equivalent).

Check your school's grievance procedure. If you feel the Head hasn't done enough in response to your informal expression of concern, you could make a formal complaint. In England, that would normally be to the Head first and then to the governing body.

If the HMIE has previously expressed concern about academic standards, the school may well have some sort of action plan. It's probably not confidential, so ask to see it.

Ofsted in England work to a timetable of inspections and can't (as far as I know) come in at parents' request, but (again) it may be worth checking when HMIE next intends to inspect your school. Does your local education authority (or equivalent) have a standards unit? What advice can they give?

I have some similar concerns about the work which my daughter is doing this year being no different from (and sometimes easier than) what she was doing last year. But I think to some extent that's inevitable - the work is not going to step up a gear just because they've moved into the next year group and I guess we will see a gradual change. I also wonder whether the teacher is over-compensating for the fact that children do sometimes slip backwards over the long summer break.

Good luck!

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Thu 09-Oct-08 16:39:53

And PS: If your daughter is bored, try finding other interesting things for her to do outside school - music, gymnastics or whatever best suits her.

unhappywithschool Thu 09-Oct-08 16:51:48

Thanks for your reply.

The school doesnt have a board of govenors - Parents councils were only set up in Scotland 2 years ago, before that School boards were the way that parents represented thier views.
I dont know enough about the English system to know if the parents councils are equivalent to govenors.

The role of the parents council is described as:

Supporting the work of the school
Gathering and representing parents' views to the headteacher, education authority and HMIE
Promoting contact between the school, parents, pupils, providers of nursery
Fundraising
Organising events
Being involved in the appointment of senior staff.

Does that sound equivalent?

I am one of the parent council members, and the council are generally unsure what the extent of our "powers" are. These organisations are relatively new, and I think that in a lot of ways our council is still finding its feet.

I think that asking about the action plan developed in response to the HMIE report is a good idea, and a fairly neutral step that could be done by the parent council, I would be reluctant to make a complaint as an individual about the head teacher, especially when the concerns are so widespread in the school.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Thu 09-Oct-08 21:33:41

You're welcome!

I should have said more clearly that the 'you' who might want to raise a grievance would be the parent council collectively, not any one individual. I agree that it would be hard to do that as one parent (and, anyway, I'm sure it's better to try first to use the powers of the parent council; the grievance procedure wouldn't be my first choice for tackling an issue like this).

The parents council sounds to me as if it's a cross between what governing bodies (which have a more managerial focus and are supposed to act as 'critical friend' to the school) and the Parents and Friends Association would be and do in England. Does it have any formal responsibility for school policies, monitoring standards and performance? Your list suggests it doesn't, but the 'gathering and representing views' role seems like a good opportunity to put your concerns across.

The UK Governors website is always a good source of information and ideas. Is there an umbrella organisation for parent councils which might be able to advise on what powers you have and how best to use them?

newgirl Thu 09-Oct-08 21:38:55

have you spoken to the teacher directly?

how do you know the work is not challenging? it is still early in the term and maybe the teacher feels that the work needs reinforcement or is doing other things with them - eg topics/science/history that seems very different to the year before?

im not sure but i think it is hard to gauge the child's work when a lot of it is practice practice practice in different contexts

unhappywithschool Thu 09-Oct-08 22:17:19

madbad I think that you are right, the parents council does not have the same sort of "management" role as a governors body.
Interesting that in scotland parents dont seem to have the degree of influence they do in E&W. <feeling cynical now>

newgirl The work is not challenging, the work that my daughters class is doing at the moment, as far as I can tell from the maths homework and reading books is of a level that they were working at about 6 months ago. The children that I am aware of all find it very easy, to the point of being scornful about thier work, which is a shame.

This is a problem which seems to be across the school, not just my DDs class. My DD started school last year (which was fine as far as I was concerned), so I am relatively new to things, but I am now aware that as far as people with children higher up in the school are concerned, this has been a problem for some time.

I havent yet spoken to the teacher myself. There have been a number of people going to see the teacher and the headteacher, I was waiting to hear what they had to say. They have been told that it would be "looked into" and "dealt with", though there doesnt seem to be much change. I'll be making an appointment myself as soon as the children are back at school after the october holiday, though I think that as this is clearly a longstanding issue, given the opinion of the other parents and the content of the HMIE report, that it may take more than that to make a change.

newgirl Fri 10-Oct-08 12:31:29

i thought the reading books my child had were too easy so i asked if she could move up to another level - the teacher had her read to her, then moved her up - it might be worth making specific requests which can be met rather than a general agghhh everything is crap

you could also say the maths homework is not challenging enough or try the teaching labs they have at sainsburys so you can gauge more accurately the level for your child - it gives you more accurate ammo iyswim

unhappywithschool Fri 10-Oct-08 12:47:55

newgirl

Thanks, you probably have a point, very easy to get caught up in the group feeling that everything is crap, but probably more achievable to get the individual teacher to make small changes, than to get the whole school to make big ones.

What are the teaching labs at sainsburys - I havent heard of that?

newgirl Sat 11-Oct-08 21:46:16

i am racking my brain trying to remember the name of the company doing it - it is a professional teaching company based in the larger sainsburys - you pay for regular extra teaching by teachers and they do work on pcs with the kids, mainly maths and english - one friend did it with maths for her child and another for english - they tie in to ks1 and 2 so you would be able to get independent advice on how your child is getting on, and give your child more challenging work (or practice) - sorry not to be able to help more, but their website may have more info

MollieO Sat 11-Oct-08 21:59:03

Computer Xplorers?

newgirl Sat 11-Oct-08 22:01:20

xplorers sounds right! well done mollieo

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