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Should I complain about this Headteacher's letter?

(101 Posts)
ImperfectTense Sun 11-May-14 11:03:14

Name changed for this...

Background: DD in year 10, has already done 2 GCSEs in year 9. Doing 2 more soon. Been staying late in school during the week and going in on Saturdays. DD's natural ability is B level (she has a spld). We received this letter from her Head recently which I assume it is sent to all exam students. DD is upset about it and wants me to complain. She feels pressurised and doesn't like the tone of the letter. The school is a comprehensive, Ofsted Outstanding, converter academy (recent). Any thoughts?

Text is below:

^Dear (name of student)

It is currently Bank Holiday Monday at 11.10am and I am at my desk writing to you, thinking about you; I am not doing what I came to school to do because I am worrying whether you are fully prepared for your forthcoming examinations. Have you/are you revising as I write? Are your revision notes complete? Are you testing yourself? Have you reduced your knowledge to some small notecards? Do you know you can write fast enough? Have you got in mind your exemplar answers? Have you been to all the exemplar activities? Have you considered that the examination boards are likely to have made it even harder this year? Have you ignored your friends when they have said 'I haven't done anything'? (They're fibbing).

Your future rests on your results. It is a time of pressure. It is a time of sacrifice. Time spent studying now will reap a reward. You are growing to adulthood at a time when educational qualifications are getting harder. I can only hope that you have grasped that and that you are working extremely hard indeed and I applaud that. I am sure that they will be successful. Remember, just being in school does not guarantee automatic success: you have to USE the time. Practically, I hope you have a revision timetable and that you are practising past questions in timed conditions - this is the key.

You know me sufficiently well to know that I am ambitious for you and want you to excel. It is, however, not something that I can conjure up for you. Please take these next few weeks very seriously and ensure that you capitalise on all of the support that is available to you.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely

Mr X

LaurieFairyCake Sun 11-May-14 11:05:06

It's fine. Can't see anything wrong with it confused

scarletforya Sun 11-May-14 11:06:15

I wouldn't like that. The tone feels invasive. It's too personal.

ImperfectTense Sun 11-May-14 11:07:47

Thank you for your comments. DD feels the message is that results are the only things that matter and some students like herself are not going to get A or A* in most subjects. DD is working hard and is exhausted.

shakinstevenslovechild Sun 11-May-14 11:08:30

I can't see anything wrong with it either. What is it she wants you to say in your complaint exactly?

Lancelottie Sun 11-May-14 11:10:28

That would have annoyed the hell out of me as a conscientious and nervous teenager.

DS would probably rip it up and dance on the pieces, having first pointed out the uselessness of telling people they should have been to 'exemplar sessions' that have presumably already happened.

It's a weird writing style, too. 'Extremely hard indeed'? 'Sure they will succeed' but 'doesn't guarantee success'? 'Applauding' his hope that they're working?

Gileswithachainsaw Sun 11-May-14 11:11:52

I think it's piling on yet more pressure to already nervous students.

Where's the "remember to take regular breaks"
"Please make sure you don't stay up all night studying"
"Rest and fresh air is as important as anything else"
"I believe in you all"

Have I missed the bit where it says "I woks all of you the best of luck"

littleducks Sun 11-May-14 11:11:57

I don't know. I can see that it could be motivating for kids who are time wasting. But it sends harsh on those who are trying hard.

Maybe rather than complain you could contact the tread and explain how stressing and upsetting the extra pressure is for your Dd.

Gileswithachainsaw Sun 11-May-14 11:12:13

I wish

HoneyDragon Sun 11-May-14 11:12:47

I don't like it. I find passive aggressive, I think the head needs to focus on his work more and less on what students are doing then no one would have to be stressed on a bank holiday Monday.

There is no enthusiasm, or offer of support in that letter. The onus is entirely on the child.

The message clearly states, excel or be a failure.


SauvignonBlanche Sun 11-May-14 11:12:51

He sounds like a knob!

EvilTwins Sun 11-May-14 11:13:14

It's a tricky one. As a secondary school teacher with a Yr 11 tutor group, I have been increasingly concerned at the amount of "one size fits all" pressure being put on the students by our Head of Yr 11 - his assembies tend to have an "inspirational" quote (like "success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration" - that kind of cliché) and then involve him ranting about how they're all lazy. The bright, dedicated students in my tutor group have been getting really pissed off with it - they are working their socks off and don't need the same message as the kids who are literally doing nothing. I've had one email from a parent who, whilst she wasn't complaining exactly, said that she was worried about the amount of pressure being put on her DD - the DD in question puts quite enough pressure on herself.

I'm guessing that the HT who wrote the letter to your DD and her fellow students felt that he was doing it in a caring way - and TBF, I think the letter is written in that way, but I think it's short-sighted to send it out to the whole cohort, when there are clearly students like your DD who do not need to be reminded of the things he's putting in the letter.

If I were you, I wouldn't "complain" as such, but I would definitely raise my concerns - contact the HT (or her form tutor or HOY) and explain that she was upset by it, that she feels she is working hard and point out that they know your DD and know that she is doing her best, and that she was worried that the letter suggests she's not. Tell them she's taken it personally (even if that's laying it on a bit thick) - hopefully someone will speak to her and reassure her.

It makes me a bit cross when schools do this - we, as teachers, are told that differentiation is absolutely essential, and then HTs send out the same letter to everyone!

blueemerald Sun 11-May-14 11:14:12

I'm an NQT so have my first batch of GCSE students ever this year. That letter freaked me out. The problem is that the ones who need to read that letter won't and the ones that have the situation under control will read it and worry.

noblegiraffe Sun 11-May-14 11:14:54

Results do matter and there is nothing in that letter that suggests only A stars or As will do.

Lovelydiscusfish Sun 11-May-14 11:15:53

Awful. Ridiculously pressure and inappropriately personal in tone. Also I would think it is pretty bloody obvious to the students that the head is only so worried because of how the exam results reflect on him - the letter screams this! I think it is a bizarre thing for a head teacher to send.

HoneyDragon Sun 11-May-14 11:16:16

Also they should know their head as the bedrock of the school, not ambitious. And certainly their shouldn't be the implication that the heads personal success is solely tied in each students results

PacificDogwood Sun 11-May-14 11:17:55

He sounds under pressure himself - v odd letter IMO and likely to increase pressure.

I am not sure what you'd complain about though…. hm.

KleineDracheKokosnuss Sun 11-May-14 11:19:18

The letter sounded OK to me. Could have done with some more practical tips for those who don't know how to revise (including the 'don't work all night' etc ideas). I wouldn't complain though.

PacificDogwood Sun 11-May-14 11:20:10

Results do matter, I agree, but they are not the be all and end all.
I see too many teenagers ill with exam stress and the perception that their life will be ruined forever if they do not excel which is just nonsense, but impossible to see when you are 16 or whatever.

Inappropriate letter.
Personally, I'd have a long chat with my child and not add to the pressure by complaining. An informal word about how adversely it affected your DD may well be in order though.

rookiemater Sun 11-May-14 11:20:25

Wow - I don't like that letter at all. It will pile pressure on the already conscientious students and I imagine the less so will just go <meh> about it.
It also smacks a bit of "Well we, the school, have done everything we can do, so if you get poor results don't go blaming us."

A variant of the last paragraph on it's own might have been acceptable. Something along the lines of letting the pupils know that she is thinking of them and wants them all to do well, then reminding them that whilst the next few weeks of study will be hard for them, it's only for a short period of time. That would be helpful and make the same point, without being so overbearing.

I think it's a great letter for some pupils - my DD would definitely need it (though I suspect it would be water off a duck's back). I personally wouldn't complain, I'd just stress to your DD that the fact that she's doing all this already is sadly not the norm, and some of her year mates do really need to hear this message - I'm sure she knows that's true. Go through that list of questions in the first paragraph with her, and prompt her to answer (correctly I assume) "yes, yes, yes, yes" - she might find that reassuring, apart from the "they're going to make it harder" bit which isn't constructive for anyone apart from the most complacent slackers thinking "well, my older DB skived all year and still got a B so I'll be fine"

NearTheWindymill Sun 11-May-14 11:23:21

Your future rests on your results. It is a time of pressure. It is a time of sacrifice. Time spent studying now will reap a reward. You are growing to adulthood at a time when educational qualifications are getting harder.

Totally inappropriate and that message should have been conveyed months and months ago; not now when it might be too late for many children and not now for those who have already put themselves under pressure and might be on the edge of eating disorders/self harm, etc.

I think it's ill thought through and extremely insensitive. Girls who haven't gone to exemplar sessions should have been picked up at the time - no need to rub their noses in it now.

In any event GCSE's can be retaken. Not every child, teenager human being is suited to an academic school education and many leave school without a GCSE to their name. Always have; always will. Doesn't mean they will fail in life.

Viviennemary Sun 11-May-14 11:24:07

This letter is wrong. It is putting pressure on children making them feel guilty about relaxing on a bank holiday. Silly woman.

KatyMac Sun 11-May-14 11:24:40

EvilTwins we are living with this "the DD (in question) puts quite enough pressure on herself"!!

'I'm not doing enough for my GCSEs' warring with 'I need to be ready for September' means that letter would push her over the edge

Like Blueemeraald says "The problem is that the ones who need to read that letter won't and the ones that have the situation under control will read it and worry." & worry & worry!!

NearTheWindymill Sun 11-May-14 11:24:52

Oh, and I think it makes the head sound completely and utterly nuts and I would have concerns about his judgement as the overall manager of a school responsible for my child's welfare to be perfectly honest.

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