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Should I complain to the school?

(139 Posts)
junerat Wed 28-Jun-17 13:01:50

My DD4 is due to start school in September. It is a brand new school - her year will be the first ever reception class, and I'm really excited about helping to "build the ethos" of a whole new school. I really, very much want to be an active part of her school community, not just someone who moans!

I am also very sensitive to feminist issues, and my DD is too - she will always notice when there aren't enough female characters in a book, for example.

We have just been sent the induction packs for her new school. They have a house system, with the four houses named after local famous historical figures. Every single one of the four houses is named after a man.

I sort of understand (but still hate) it when a school has been established for x number of years and has a patriarchal system, but this a brand new school, and they seem not to have taken the opportunity to start off on an equal footing.

When I met the headmaster, I mentioned to him that the "girls' uniform" didn't include trousers, was my daughter welcome to wear them? He was fine and flexible with this, so I do think he's a reasonable person. Though it is a part of an academy trust, so very, very likely not his decision re: house names.

It may be too late to change the names of the houses (literature has already been printed), but if it is an academy trust, could speaking up stop this from happening at the next school that opens?

My husband thinks I'm talking absolute nonsense and it's a total non-issue, but I hate that my daughter will see four male "role models" as the pillars of the school, and not even a nod to the (very eminent) female historical figures from this area.

I categorically do not want to forge a poor relationship with this school though and do not want to become "that parent". Any thoughts?

grasspigeons Wed 28-Jun-17 13:05:49

I would mention it
I think it's important
it doesn't have to be a complaint - you could say since they have already focused on male achievement could there be some prizes like the 'famous lady' prize

user1477249785 Wed 28-Jun-17 13:08:35

I absolutely think you should say something. Perhaps it is too late to change the names but conscious raising so that they consider equality issues in any future decisions has to be a good thing.

BigDeskBob Wed 28-Jun-17 13:13:46

I would mention it, especially if there is an obvious women they have overlooked.

PassiveAgressiveQueen Wed 28-Jun-17 13:14:56

Go in with women they could have chosen

OdinsLoveChild Wed 28-Jun-17 13:25:24

Are there any women locally historically that could be appropriate role models and inspirational to the students?

There's not much point going in and saying you object to having only men used as house names if they've been chosen because they're famous and would be excellent role models and aspirational to students.

For what its worth we have a lone female included in our house system just to tick that 'female' box.

She was famous for stalking a very respectable and well known historical figure. She wrote to him obsessively (dozens of letters on some days) with love letters and sent him odd gifts of her hair and other bits and pieces. He was a married man, she declared to the town that they had had an affair which he denied. She is not exactly the good role model type figure compared with the 3 other men chosen for head of houses. She was picked purely to add a female into the mix. I would rather they had chosen another man given the lack of women available. Theres several other historical men they could have chosen, one was very forward thinking and believed and campaigned for womens rights they dismissed him because they wanted a woman.

junerat Wed 28-Jun-17 13:45:46

Thanks all - glad to know the majority don't think I'm being oversensitive. Yes, there is one local female I can think of without even stretching my imagination, who is famous enough to have graced English banknotes...

Also @OdinsLoveChild, sometimes you do have to look "harder" for female historical role models because until recently (and some would argue even now) women were simply left out of history, their achievements largely unrecorded.

Clalpolly Wed 28-Jun-17 14:06:50

I'd mention it , if it's a new school. But you can always chat to your dd about it as a general point. Suggest some ideas to her and have her think about great female role models, especially local ones. I'm assuming you'll get nowhere with the school.

Cantseethewoods Wed 28-Jun-17 14:11:50

Yes- you can't be what you can't see.

junerat Wed 28-Jun-17 14:36:22

What do you think of this message? Does it strike the right tone? @Can'tseethewoods - I stole your epithet!

Dear team

I have thought really hard before emailing, as I really don't want to be "that parent"! However, I am always telling DD that if you think something isn't quite right, it's better to say something.

I noticed in your prospectus that you have four houses, named after local historical figures - but they are all male. I am a firm believer that "you can't be what you can't see", and I wonder about the message it sends out to the girls that the four pillars of <school> are all men.

I fully appreciate that it's harder to find female figures in history - because history for such a long time has been male dominated. I had hoped that a brand new school, without inheriting systems created in less-enlightened times, might have taken the opportunity to weave equality throughout the fabric of the school.

I also appreciate it is probably too late to change the house names, even if you were to agree with me. In this case, is there some other way that women's success could be celebrated at the school? Maybe a prize named after a notable local female? I noted whilst looking for my own interest that <named two very famous local females> are from <local towns>.

Kind regards

Junerat

Clalpolly Wed 28-Jun-17 14:42:25

New school- sounds ok to me.

VeryPunny Wed 28-Jun-17 14:44:45

I think your tone is too apologetic. Gives them plenty of room to ignore you. I'd be more strident, but then I am happy to be that parent.

grasspigeons Wed 28-Jun-17 14:45:22

Sounds reasonable to me. (I'm a school office lady so see a lot of parent emails - this wouldn't register as 'that parentish')

VeryPunny Wed 28-Jun-17 14:46:21

To add, it's nowhere near too late to change house names. And it would be good assembly material - we thought about calling houses A, B, C, and D, then we realised there was a problem with that etc. It's also clear your head doesn't give a fig about female equality and if it's not challenged at the outset it will become entrenched.

junerat Wed 28-Jun-17 14:47:07

@VeryPunny They have been collaborative to date, and I would be keen down the line to be involved as a parent governor etc., so I don't want to strike a sour note. I don't think they are likely to ignore me outright, but yes, it is fairly likely I'm going to be fobbed off.

It's so depressing isn't it that in 2017 we're still feeling tentative about pointing these things out - let alone that they're still bastarding happening.

dangermouseisace Wed 28-Jun-17 14:48:15

I think it's a good idea to send an email but I think that maybe the tone is a bit apologetic. You aren't doing anything wrong! I can't believe that they would be so myopic as to ignore women.

I would only suggest taking out the first line and just sign in with "I noticed"…take out the 'fully' before appreciate in 3rd paragraph.

BertrandRussell Wed 28-Jun-17 14:48:19

That is bloody outrageous! Why be apologetic about it? And it would make me worry a lot about the ethos of the school-sorry. Particularly coupled with no trousers for girls in the uniform list.

BE that parent!

grasspigeons Wed 28-Jun-17 14:49:10

Good point verypuny
Depends how much all that marketing cost and how stubborn the head is.

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Wed 28-Jun-17 14:49:21

I would leave out the first para, why are you pointing out you are that parent! Either you are or you aren't, and saying it won't prevent them thinking it.

I think it is a bit disappointing and surprised they didn't think it through.

The email is fine and they may be a bit crestfallen to get it, as that's the whole point with unconscious bias, you don't notice it! Hopefully this will alert them.

TheCrowFromBelow Wed 28-Jun-17 14:50:05

I completely agree, I don't think you're "that parent" at all.
And if all you can find in one category are men, then why not change the category?!

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Wed 28-Jun-17 14:50:06

Also- ridiculous not to have trousers or shorts on the list for girl's clothing. I didn't even ask at primary, I just sent my dd in shorts in summer.

OlennasWimple Wed 28-Jun-17 14:51:31

What dangermouse said

BertrandRussell Wed 28-Jun-17 14:55:05

I think you should be much tougher.
Dear team
I noticed in your prospectus that you have four houses, named after local historical figures - but they are all male. I am a firm believer that "you can't be what you can't see", and I wonder about the message it sends out to the girls that the four pillars of <school> are all men.

I had hoped that a brand new school, without inheriting systems created in less-enlightened times, might have taken the opportunity to weave equality throughout the fabric of the school.

I noted whilst looking for my own interest that <named two very famous local females> are from <local towns>.

I look forward to hearing from you. I am sending a copy of my letter to the Head of the Academy Trust.

Kind regards

Junerat

FurryGiraffe Wed 28-Jun-17 15:02:21

I agree it's far too apologetic. You're making an important point- don't offer them reasons to ignore you!

I think Bertrand's redraft is great.

Lancelottie Wed 28-Jun-17 15:02:38

My shortened version would be:
Dear team

I have thought hard before emailing, as I really don't want to be "that parent"! However, I noticed in your prospectus that you have four houses, named after local historical figures - but they are all male. I am a firm believer that "you can't be what you can't see", and I am dismayed at the message it sends out to the girls that the four pillars of <school> are all men.

. I had hoped that a brand new school might have taken the opportunity to weave equality throughout its fabric of the school rather than reflecting the bias of less-enlightened times,

As half your school population are girls, please consider naming half your houses after prominent female figures. I noted whilst looking for my own interest that <named two very famous local females> are from <local towns>.

Kind regards

Junerat

Good luck; our school houses are three male, one female. Better, but still why not make it actually equal??

(Their excuse, for what it's worth, is that they wanted to include 'a range of ethnicities, occupations and orientations' -- i.e. one black man and one gay man, plus that pesky token woman)

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