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Complaining about a teacher - would like some advice

(39 Posts)
muffinmonster Sat 15-Oct-11 20:06:24

DD has asked me if I could complain to her school about one of her science teachers (she has two). Her grounds for complaint are:
? poor teaching - teacher shows them powerpoints and gets them to take notes. (I asked what else she would expect, she said worksheets etc. - he is giving them information but not getting them to engage with it, I think is what she means).
? he has only done one practical so far this term (I don't know what would be normal, though)
? he sets very little homework
? he ignores them if they ask questions in class
? he has a very strong foreign accent which makes him difficult to understand.

(I'm particularly doubtful about complaining about the last one - on the other hand, if the children can't understand what he says it's hard for them to learn)

To put this in context, DD is in Y10. She has already sat two GCSE modules and will be sitting two more in January, one of them in this teacher's subject. She is putting together a revision timetable as I write and says she is 'furious' looking at the list of topics as she feels they haven't covered any of them properly.

Schools complaint procedure in the first instance is supposed to be to complain directly to the teacher involved but that doesnt' seem appropriate here; I'm thinking of contacting the head of Science. My questions are:

(a) are these reasonable grounds for complaint, and
(b) what can I reasonably expect the school to do?

(I'm trying very hard to be reasonable!)

kritur Sat 15-Oct-11 20:27:39

You are on shaky ground complaining about his accent, this could easily be seen as potentially racist and as soon as the teacher goes near his union then the rest will look a good deal less credible. As for only doing one practical this term, it's 5 weeks or so in so he may just be getting to know the group, the amount of practical will depend on the topic being taught as some just don't lend themselves to it, the behaviour within the class may not mean practical lessons are appropriate if they can't work safely etc.

Setting very little homework - I tend to think it's not the amount of homework set but the quality that is most important. Most of us could set kids homework every night of the week but realistically we wouldn't be able to mark it and it would pretty much be for the sake of keeping the kids busy. If the homework he sets is meaningful and is well assessed with good feedback then it's OK to be setting less. If it's rubbish and never marked then that is a different thing.

Ignoring kids asking questions in class....... Not sure about this one, might be just that he's busy trying to keep on top of a lot of things, could be lack of confidence with subject knowledge.

Poor teaching - in lots of good schools chalk and talk teaching is still farily common. Less commn where teachers are having to adapt to students who struggle with concepts or have issues engaging with the curriculum. His teaching style certainly wouldn't get him a 'good' from Ofsted but it sounds like he is just trying to get through the curriculum (I have seen quite a few new teachers do lessons with lots of PPT just so they can say they have actually covered things).

You should initially ring the Head of Science and outline your daughter's concerns, asking them if they could look into it. If that doesn't seem to get you anywhere then you may need to go into school and take your daughter's exercise book with you. The kind of things that could be done are that the teacher could be given extra support to plan lessons, be sent on a course say about practical work to support the curriculum, have resources bought for them so they can incorporate different activities more easily.

Kez100 Sat 15-Oct-11 21:27:06

What I would do (have done, in fact)

I would buy revision books specific to the papers she is sitting. I would print off past papers. I would empower her to take ownership of her own learning.

I'm afraid everything there is likely to have another side to the story and I wouldn't personally complain at all. When you look at every subject children sit there will be some better teachers than others (and some who individual children don't gel with too).

If I did feel very strongly (we cannot gauge exactly in here because we've not spoken to your daughter) I would approach it less from the complaint angle and more from the can you help my daughter as she is revising for x module and really feels she hasnt covered the work well enough to understand it.

muffinmonster Sat 15-Oct-11 22:52:51

Thanks for the answers, kritur and Kez. Now that I read them I realise that I left out one important point that my daughter made, which is that he has problems controlling the class. The picture I am getting from what she says is of a relatively inexperienced (or unconfident) teacher who is struggling.

I agree that the issue with his accent could sound racist (though in fact he is white European) - but if the children genuinely can't understand him, surely that is a problem?

troisgarcons Sat 15-Oct-11 23:15:53

You will be on very sticky ground regarding the accent.

You can make comment about class control - well you can comment on what ever you like. However schools feel the 'pinch' like any other business these days. If there is no set requirement for 'practicals' in the specification being taught then you arent going to get anywhere with that one. Eg I know of one school who simply ran out of funds to procure sheeps hearts for disection from the local butcher and that element had to be done via slides. Education funding, sadly, isnt an endless pit.

I would find it unlikely that the other classes are doing experiments and this class isn't.

If she's in the middle of her modules then she will have to do CAUs at some stage.

Science is a core subject - the school won't let it slide if this set of results (from the Jan modules) are less than anticipated.

kritur Sun 16-Oct-11 10:38:27

Children do exaggerate, especially about accents. If the kids have got it in their head they don't like Mr X then they often find lots of things to back up their argument. He may be inexperienced, he may be under confident, if that is the case then he is probably already getting some help at school anyway (if he is newly qualified). I am sure the school is already aware of class control issues. He may also be the best that the school can get, science (especially physics and chemistry) along with maths is one of the very few areas that continue to stubbornly have problems recruiting teachers. Speak to the Head of Science about your concerns but be aware that there is unlikely to be a wholesale change this year. Like another poster said, science is core, included in the eBacc and is a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for the school so they shouldn't let things slip too much.

rainbowinthesky Sun 16-Oct-11 10:46:43

I've made complaints about poor teaching in the past and have come to accept that nothing gets done that actually makes a difference. The two teachers I did it for didnt actually improve and I found out that lots of parents also complained. What I wanted was support for them put into place by the LMT of the school but in my son's school it just wasnt happening.
I also complained about homework but was told they were aware it was an issue across teh school and, again, had lots of complaints from others.
What we did was to buy revision guides etc for the subjects where he has poor teaching and also give him private tutoring for maths and the sciences.
Ds does additional work at home to make up for poor or no teaching in these subjects. He is in Y11 now and didnt even have a maths teacher for the last term of Y10.

rainbowinthesky Sun 16-Oct-11 10:47:44

Oh and I've observed teachers in schools where I couldnt understand their accent and their english on worksheets and what they wrote on the board made no sense.

Hassled Sun 16-Oct-11 10:54:03

I think it's certainly worth a chat with the Head of Science - you could probably email if you'd find that easier. It will certainly do no harm and it may well do some good - just having someone paying a bit more attention to that teacher/learning group will help.

I have complained about a teacher before - DS1's ICT teacher. At the time (I think it's changed now), each of the 4 bits of coursework warranted 15% of the total mark, so a total of 60%. DS1 got a D in the first coursework piece. DS1 getting a D wasn't my problem - my problem was that the D was the highest mark in the class. For 15% of their GCSE grade - and these were bright kids, no significant messing about etc. Anyway - my point is: the school staged some form of an intervention, the teacher got his act together, they threw in some additional twilight classes and everything improved.

stressheaderic Sun 16-Oct-11 10:56:40

I would def raise your DD's concerns to the Head of Science, they can then take appropriate action - maybe they were not aware of the lack of practicals? They would be happy to listen to any parental worries though, I'm sure (I would be).
This teacher, is relatively unconfident and inexperienced (sounds that way) may be wary of practicals, there is an 'out of control' element when students are out of their seats.
On the PPT note - we have been told in our school that photocopying is now limited to 30 sheets per week (I do a reusable set for 2 classes shrunk to A5) as the budget is now minimal, so maybe those resources just aren't available.
And the poster who mentioned going on courses - an excellent idea in theory - but I don't know a single teacher in any school who has been able to go on a course for the last 2 years, that area of CPD has simply been stopped, again due to budget cuts.

twinklytroll Sun 16-Oct-11 11:05:18

The worksheets thing is likely to be about cuts. I have almost used my allocation for this term so will probably have to pay for my own photocopying soon. We have been told to make more use of PP etc.

If there is a discipline issue I would complain , you may be doing the teacher a favour. They may be struggling in silence. Previous posters are right that in the current climate there will be no money to send the teacher on a course. However he may be able to work with another colleague and watch those with excellent classroom management at work.

I would not mention the accent.

twinklytroll Sun 16-Oct-11 11:06:35

I think it is common that classes who do not behave do not get practicals. It is a complaint I hear often. If a small number are preventing the class from doing practicals they can be removed .

breatheslowly Sun 16-Oct-11 11:31:55

I would raise concerns with the head of science. I doubt that they were keen to employ this teacher and he is just a qualified body in front of the class in a subject where staff shortages are an issue. So it is unlikely that they will be able to find an excellent teacher to replace this one and you probably do need to find an out of school solution. Given that your DD is bothered by it, is she willing to put the effort into fixing it out of school? Could you and a few other parents club together for some out of school tuition. I know it is a disappointing response and the school should fix it, but in all likelihood they won't be able to.

noblegiraffe Sun 16-Oct-11 12:44:43

I know at least one teacher who has had a GCSE class taken away from them and given to a more experienced teacher after parental complaints.

On the other hand it could just be that this teacher needs some more support, especially if they are new to the school as kids will always test new teachers. Sometimes kids get caught up in complaining that a teacher is rubbish and ignore the part their own behaviour contributes to the lack of learning in the class. In those situations the kids need to sit down with the HOD (and perhaps the teacher) and agree how they are going to work with the new teacher rather than against them.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 16-Oct-11 13:00:34

I am a head of science. It's worth contacting them, but be aware that you will not necessarily know what is going on behind the scenes. I have had the situation where I have fielded complaints from parents knowing that the member of staff concerned was on targets, and I'm sure the parents thought I was just fobbing them off (although I also suspect the students noticed and increased presence of other staff in their lab...). It's very hard to just remove a class from a teacher, because, well, there isn't the capacity to do that!

He should be getting support. If the department/school is a good one, he will be. Talk to the HoD.

mummytime Sun 16-Oct-11 13:26:07

I would raise your concerns with the head of science. I did the same for my DDs French teacher and she was moved sets with no questions asked.
Other than the ubiquitous Bitesize she could try scool or skoool which might also help. The podcasts by the "naked Scientists" on the Bitesize website are also recommended.

IloveJudgeJudy Mon 17-Oct-11 11:41:39

I also would contact the head of science. You can mention the accent as this happened in my DC's school. Teacher was Russian and very difficult to understand and in fact is no longer at the school.

It's also true that badly behaved classes don't get to do practicals very often. I know this as DS1 was in lower badly behaved sets and didn't do them and DD who is in top sets, has done loads. I know why this is - when DS1's class did practicals they mucked around too much and were a danger to themselves and others.blush

Y10 is too important a year to let this slide.

ilovesooty Mon 17-Oct-11 16:32:38

Have you established that he is in fact a teacher and not a cover supervisor covering long term (they shouldn't do that but abuse is common)?

I ask because CS don't teach (or shouldn't) and it might explain the note taking and the reluctance to answer questions about the work.

Pay for your own photocopying, twinkytroll ? Are you serious?

muffinmonster Mon 17-Oct-11 17:10:55

Thanks, everyone. There's lots here that will help me make a better case to the head of science. I'll come back and let you know how I get on.

MindtheGappp Mon 17-Oct-11 18:25:26

Not every science topic has a lot of practicals.

It will have even fewer if the class are rowdy.

What topic is she studying right now?

twinklytroll Mon 17-Oct-11 20:16:14

Yes I was serious . Many teachers print at home already especially if they need colour. I already buy stationary, artefacts, craft materials and books. Paying for photocopying would not be beyond the realms of possibility.

PotteringAlong Mon 17-Oct-11 20:30:34

I pay for my own laminating. Paying for photocopying is certainty possible

ilovesooty Mon 17-Oct-11 22:09:38

I suspected you were serious, actually. It's a ridiculous state of affairs. Can you imagine any other profession where that would happen? It just papers over poor resourcing, imo.

twinklytroll Mon 17-Oct-11 22:26:03

It does paper over poor resourcing and if I think the money is there I will kick up a fuss and get the school to pay. However the money is not there this time and my classes need to learn.

twinklytroll Mon 17-Oct-11 22:27:46

I suspect quite a few professions have to make a similar decision. My dp's work computer was too slow so he bought a new one. His thinking was that his time was worth the money. I will spend my own money if it saves me time.

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