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How to deal with a friendship issue at my (my daughter's) school

(20 Posts)
Roseformeplease Mon 02-Jun-14 17:05:05


My DD is in S1 (Scotland - first year at secondary) in the school in which I teach. My DS is 2 years above, DH also works there, but not as a teacher. The school is small and remote so I teach both children and all their friends. In my DD's year there are 16 boys and 8 girls. DS is very happy and settled and doing well. DD is doing fantastically well academically and is streets ahead of all the other girls and only really matched by one boy in my subject. All classes are (very) mixed ability. We do set a bit but that just removes the very weakest handful, leaving things as 18 in the class I teach.

DD was one of only 2 pupils to come up from her primary school and had a very good friend from another school. She desperately wanted a strong group of friends and seemed to have this to start with - a gang of 4 formed in which she was a part and she was also on very good terms with the other 4 although not quite at the visiting each other's house stage.

Sorry - just setting the scene.

One weekend we were away and some of the others got together and began sending evil texts. She didn't reply as we were in the cinema but when she switched her phone on she was being accused on breaking up the group, being aloof, not caring, treating them like dirt etc etc. She seemed to handle it well but her trust was broken a bit and she felt uncomfortable with all but original friend.

Now, some months on, they have moved to quite unpleasant behaviour. Not quite bullying but close. They ask her to move seats if another girl comes along. They accept birthday presents but when she asks if they have tried them on (both times clothes) they say they have forgotten, or haven't had time and she is upset because she buys these from her pocket money. They criticise every lesson, loudly, saying lessons are boring, especially when it is a subject she loves (they avoid criticising my lessons but she is becoming nervous they will). They told her close friend, who was musing about being a goth, that they would never speak to her.

But now it transpires that this is all being driven by one girl who is pushing the others to confirm. Only original friend is resisiting. DD feels very isolated and even told me she would just have to wait 5 years to make friends when she goes to University.

It breaks my heart.

Do I raise it with management or pupil support? I have done so obliquely but not directly? Will this make things worse? Looking at the above objectively, would you pick up the lead girl on the above? I have to teach them ALL so don't want this to impact on my lessons, their learning but I want my daughter to be happy.

Help, oh wise teachers of Mumsnet.

She can't move schools - too far and nor can I - too far.

Roseformeplease Mon 02-Jun-14 17:10:10

Sorry, happy to answer any questions or anything but have to go back into school now for a meeting so back later on. Help!! Please!!

temporarilyjerry Mon 02-Jun-14 17:46:21

Would it be more normal for parents to raise such issues with management or pupil support? I think you need to do what most parents from your school would do in a similar situation. The fact that you teach in the school does complicate matters somewhat but should not impact on how issues are dealt with by the school.

Roseformeplease Mon 02-Jun-14 19:18:54

Thanks. I am thinking of doing that but am concerned about repercussions as my DD is concerned they won't like her even more and keeps saying that I can't force them to be her friends. Which I understand. Do you think the behaviour described above is typical of this age and ignore or should I take action? I can't see past her upset.

beatricequimby Mon 02-Jun-14 21:44:55

Just tried to send a long response and lost it.

I think you should definitely speak to Pupil Support or Year Head. Whoever parents would normally go to or whoever you think would tackle it best. At this stage maybe not to speak to the girls but to ask for advice, strategies, depending on what they think.

I think you are being objective and realistic in describing it as not quite bullying. Sadly I think girls of this age often find themselves in a similar situation which is often resolved by moving onto a new and nicer friendship group. But that probably isn't possible with only 8 girls in the year.

I also think you could consider whether the school could work on whole school policies to promote mixing between year groups to give all the pupils a wider social pool. There must be quite a lot of other pupils in the same situation as your daughter across the various year groups. Particuarly with CforE (not that I am a fan) there should be scope for more interaction and events involving different year groups. That might be a more realistic prospect for your daughter finding some better friends, and would benefit the whole school.

Other than that is there anything you can do to foster other friendships out of school?

NCFTTB Mon 02-Jun-14 22:10:17

Tricky, but you are a mum first and you should address this with the school through the appropriate channels, just as a parent who didn't also work at the school would. Your daughter is unhappy and it need to be addressed and she needs to know that her emotional well-being comes first.

Roseformeplease Tue 03-Jun-14 17:54:41

Thanks so much. Not much I can do for friendships out of school as there are no other teens except for those at our school. She is in a traditional music group and will do the school play, plays football and has a wide circle of friends in other parts of Scotland (our friends' children) but she is finding day to day a bit grim.

However, more positively today, I bought her a book about a girl being bullied in the US called, "Popular - vintage wisdom for the modern geek" and she is using the lessons in it, and keeping a diary which is helping her to detach a little.

I hope she knows she comes first. I have agreed with her a policy of wait and see and she is writing things down. I will engage with Pupil Support and see their take but will wait a bit longer. I think the idea of addressing it as a school is a good one, however. Thanks all.

Roseformeplease Thu 12-Jun-14 21:15:09

Well, update.

We "pimped" her school uniform (her words - very loose uniform policy) and she goes to school feeling as good about herself as she can. This has helped. She has also set herself (.thanks to the book) a daily task of speaking to someone outside this group about anything - weather etc.

However, the group of 8 has fractured further and my DD is being increasingly isolated by some of the others. She has her long-standing best friend but the friend is being ostracised for wanting to try and be more of a "goth". 2 other girls have already been pushed out and keep to themselves. My DD has always been friendly with them but they are a fairly impenetrable pair.

The other 4 are getting worse and worse. Today, my DD and her friend sat at a large empty table at lunchtime. The 4 came over, the first one walked towards their table (space for everyone) and then moved off very obviously to sit elsewhere.

I had already raised this with HT. No action really. It was raised generally with the staff in a "keep an eye" sort of way. When I pointed out (sitting next to HT at next table) the lunch behaviour it was brushed off as, "Well they must have queue jumped" - they didn't)

Roseformeplease Thu 12-Jun-14 21:16:16

Tears nearly every day.

And, to top it all, I have to teach this bunch and my next unit is on bullying - not planned, just the way it is.

WaffleWiffle Thu 12-Jun-14 21:30:49

I think you need to separate being a mum from being a teacher (easier said than done, I know) and deal with each as a separate issue.

Talk to your line manager about finding it difficult teaching this group, especially given the upcoming topic. See what support you can get.

The hard part is detaching yourself from the friendship issues. Try to think/remember how you would deal with this if it did not involve your own child.

NoEgowoman Fri 13-Jun-14 23:06:43

I don't think you need to be going through the normal channels. You do whatever you can for your child and use the few perks there are in teaching to try and sort this out. I would do some activities that bring the other girls together and get them talking together. Leave the bully girl out working with some other strong characters that won't be impressed with her. Possibly you could try befriending her when your daughter isn't around and wouldn't be offended by it so you can break the barriers down a little but only when she is on her own.

Roseformeplease Sat 14-Jun-14 17:11:04

Thanks everyone. My DD has been working to build friendships outside her year group and is now in a band, which helps as it is mixed age and sex. The horrible girl (or 2) have done some fairly unpleasant things but we are working on resilience and on other friendships as the school don't seem too bothered. The head sees my DD as outgoing and confident and doesn't see the floods of tears or the self-doubt. The latest is HG (horrible girl) going on and on about not liking someone's accent on telly (my accent and my DD's are similar) and making a sort of spitting noise when England or English are mentioned. I am English (British) and my DD is Scottish (British) but the girl concerned May well be getting the whole independence thing / football and taking it too far. Very difficult.

beatricequimby Sat 14-Jun-14 23:03:01

Poor you and your dd. I think you have to force the school to tackle the anti-English thing. When I was growing up in Glasgow in the 80s I was picked on as the mixed race kid and my friend was picked on as the English kid. Both were racist bullying but I think sadly the latter is sometimes minimised and brushed away as 'banter'. It is awful if the current political context is reinforcing this sort of behaviour.

I very much appreciate its hard when you work in the school and you are part of a small community but I think you have to be a Mum first in this instance and make the school take the anti-English issue seriously. I am assuming you are in the Highlands and I don't know what their policies are but where I am racist incidents have to be logged although headteachers may not want to do this as it looks bad for the school. I think you need to tell your headteacher this is racism, needs to be tackled, and it needs to logged as racist incidents.

Roseformeplease Sat 23-Aug-14 18:17:53

Well. New term update, and advice please!

It came to a head this week when my DD asked to go home a lunchtime on Thursday after throwing up. She was taken home and slept for a bit. When she woke up, she was in hysterics. The HG (.horrible girl) has now amassed a group of most other girls of the same age and they are all ostracising her. Nothing violent or overt but not leaving space at tables, moving, conversations stopping when she arrives etc. DD was looking up boarding schools (I went and it has a kind of Blyton glamour to her) and refused school yesterday, eventually being persuaded in by her evil parents. The Deputy is dealing with it now. DD finally showed her level of upset by sobbing in the office. We were pleased, in a way, as out in the open with her showing how she feels makes it easier to deal with. Our reports, as staff, were being ignored. Other teachers have now come forward with observations about the situation. Also, HG, when interviewed, openly admitted to "hating" my DD.

No solution as yet and DD is now very worried about Monday. She is relieved it is all in the open but wants to know how to "act" around everyone. I have told her to "fake it until you make it" and by acting as if they are still friends (the others who were turned, HG is unlikely to speak to her) she might start to build friendships back up.

But they have been very cruel. This is to an outgoing, cheery, hard-working girl who has always had loads of friends. All turned against her by one girl.


Happy36 Sun 24-Aug-14 18:45:24

Can she get involved in an activity, e.g. a sport or music, at lunchtime(s) that will enable her to make new friends?

Glad to hear that the school is finally helping. Sometimes bullying is invisible to teachers but things like not leaving space at a table etc. (if it´s repeated) is very noticeable in the classroom. Sounds like the school needs to increase its awareness of, and response to, bullying. I hope your daughter can move on from this unpleasantness and enjoy the remainder of her schooldays.

RandomMess Sun 24-Aug-14 18:54:12

Urgh, exclusion IS bullying and the school will have to deal with it.

Is there anything on locally that is mainly people away from the school for her to get involved with? It sounds like a small community?

Roseformeplease Sun 24-Aug-14 19:54:26

Thanks both. She plays in a band with others who are older and that helps. Unfortunately, our school is the only place for miles and miles so all local children go there and, even then, the school is tiny.

The main culprit will now be being watched by everyone and DD is scared of things being made worse by the thing being dealt with. I think it is like a spot being lanced and it will improve, slowly. However, we are working hard to encourage other friendships in other years and hoping that some of those HG has influenced will see the error of their ways and go back to involving DD and being kind and friendly to her. Fingers crossed, although I think tomorrow will be tough.

RandomMess Sun 24-Aug-14 20:17:43

This sort of behaviour makes me so sad, life is so bloody hard anyway without people being vile to one another sad

My youngest has on going issues with other dc not being permitted to be her friend by one girl in a particular she is just so controlling. Fortunately dd4 is no wall flower and there is lovely gang of girls but I feel wretched for the latest girl being controlled. One has been forbidden to come to dd's leaving party sad

Roseformeplease Sun 24-Aug-14 20:23:13

Random, that is really, really tough. The book I mentioned up thread "Popular" was a great source of humour and wisdom for my DD. Are the school being helpful?

RandomMess Sun 24-Aug-14 20:37:00

Well my DD is fine and has great friends it's the girls who are being bullied that are missing out we're relocating so there isn't much I can say or do now, I was in blissful ignorance until recently!

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