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Parent complaint following school trip...

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by nickster82, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. nickster82

    nickster82 New commenter

    I was informed today that a parent has made a complaint following our recent school trip.

    Half way through the visit, during a rest period, I left the building to smoke a cigarette outside.

    At no time were the children left unsupervised and the other staff members knew were I had gone to.

    The mother has today complained that I took too long and returned smelling of smoke. As a result, my mentor has informed me that the school will begin a formal investigation on monday morning.

    As an NQT, this was my first school trip and I was not made aware that this was not allowed verbally or by way of a designated school rule.

    I do understand how a parent could be upset by me returning smelling of cigarette smoke and I am genuinly sorry that I have upset a parent who I have had a good relationship with upto now.

    I would appreciate any advice anyone may have regarding the seriousness of the complaint and also how best I can respond to the investigation.

    Thank you in advance,

    A very worried NQT...
    Teacher-in-Training42 likes this.
  2. frustum

    frustum Lead commenter

    If the other staff members knew that you had gone out to smoke, then I think you could argue that you had implicitly asked more experienced staff and they had not told you there was a problem. As an NQT, I think that should mean nothing more than a "don't do it again".

    When I was on teaching practice, the departmental book cupboard was the smoking hole used by three of the four members of the department. Not only did they reek, but so did all the textbooks! I offered to select the textbooks to be put out at the open evening, in the hope that I would be better placed to find the ones least affected.
  3. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Lead commenter

    Firstly, Union

    Secondly, ...... well actually that's it. Only a union rep can give you the precise advice and hold your hand through what could be a very trying time.

    My (much less useful) advice is
    1. Read the school disciplinary policy, there will be a process and the school will follow it......
    2. Most likely a member of SLT will be tasked with investigating this and you will be asked about it directly with a friend/union rep present. Forget friendship, go for the expert, even though they will probably do very little at this meeting.
    3. Be honest, stick to facts only and do not allow yourself to get riled/defensive/tearful..........
    4. Another most likely, after all facts have been gathered the SLT will report to the Head who will decide if it will go further. Again the Rep and policy will lay out options but "No case to answer" should still be a possibility.
    Sorry, this is far too vague but realistically the HT has the decision to make and no-one can read minds that easily.
    knitone, FrankWolley and nickster82 like this.
  4. modgepodge

    modgepodge Established commenter

    When I've been on school trips, smokers have been permitted to smoke eg at lunchtime , as long as children are supervised and it's not in sight of the children. Do you smoke during lunch at school? You could equally come back from that smelling of smoke. It's not nice for non smokers but it's a fact of life and I can't see how it's a disciplinary offence. Even if you just went for a walk and walked past some smokers you could have come back smelling of smoke!

    I don't know, but I think, that you cannot be required to attend school trips. I would say that you are happy to no longer attend trips since this incident. If this means trips can no longer happen, that's a shame. I'd make the reason known to the parent who complained too! I mean, seriously!
    asnac, sabrinakat, les25paul and 4 others like this.
  5. delmamerchant

    delmamerchant Established commenter

    I hope all goes well and try not to worry too much about it. I am sure it will work out once you have explained yourself.
    Teacher-in-Training42 likes this.
  6. EmanuelShadrack

    EmanuelShadrack Star commenter

    Excellent post.

    It might be news for the parent in question, but some people smoke. It's not just teachers too - office workers go outside to smoke, then come in smelling of it. It's not illegal.

    I don't smoke, and I can't stand the smell of it. The smoking ban was long overdue, but a knock-on effect is that the outsides of pubs and cafés are taken over with smokers. Extremely annoying, but that's the way it is. At least it's smoke-free inside.

    It's a shame your SMT haven't supported you, and told the parent in question that her opinion is all very interesting, but that they will not be taking any action.
  7. bevdex

    bevdex Star commenter

    Everything that Emanuel Shadrack said
    sabrinakat likes this.
  8. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    It's not the child's place to judge whether your rest break was too long!
  9. george1963

    george1963 Occasional commenter

    Same, if you'd returned smelling of coffee they wouldn't have complained. Seems like an 'angry' parent looking for a reason to 'be angry.' Shame on your school for adding to it by not squashing it.

    What is their issue? a) you smelled of smoke? That's not wrong. (Maybe not nice but definitely not wrong) b) you went off on your own? Again that's not wrong as people go off on their own to the toilet c) you had a cigarette in work time? To me that might be the issue. Mitigated by you asking/letting others know. But it still could be an issue depending on school policy. Best wishes.
  10. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    What a difference in age groups makes. At colleges it is normal for staff to smoke. They can be seen scurrying in the pouring rain for a quick fag in the smoking area. They have to stand there with groups of teenagers who are also having a fag.
    Not my cup of tea at all but I'm sure it ticks an equality and diversity box and ticks a health and safety box by removing them from non-smokers.
  11. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Yes I ' d like to ask the parent what he / she expects to happen as a result of their complaint ? Other staff ( more experienced ) members knew where you were and what you were doing ? so should they not have advised you of school policy ? They are also ' culpable ' Perhaps you should don a hair shirt at you meeting ? Good Luck
    Idiomas11 likes this.
  12. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Agree with all the comments above. Union, and no more trips for a while, perhaps a long time.

    But I'd also suggest you take these two points on board for future reference:

    1. Your HT is a tool. A weak incompetent. When I was in SLT (incl. as Acting HT) I supported teachers unless they actually did something wrong. On the facts provided, I would have told the parent that there were no issues here, that staff running trips do so for the benefit and experience of the pupils and often work hours more than they have to in order that such trips are successful, and that smoking outside the building, whether we like it or not, is not an illegal act.
    2. Also learn that you NEVER have a good relationship with a parent - they are all able to stick a knife in your back for the least reason. Treat them all as you would an untamed bear - keep your distance and feed them titbits through bars. A frosty and 'professional' demeanour is how to treat them in meetings.
    Piranha, jlishman2158, asnac and 16 others like this.
  13. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    You might also consider giving up smoking!
  14. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter


    Foul habit!
    EmanuelShadrack likes this.
  15. pennyh.

    pennyh. Occasional commenter

    Welcome to parents and the modern lot of a teacher. I think any teacher on a school trip is a brave soul these days. I especially resented the 'fun' trips and the fact that staff could not appreciate how quickly they could be hung out to dry on the say so of a parent or child.
    Yes a weak Head - be very icy and formal to the parent and child and never say anything without a witness.
  16. meggyd

    meggyd Senior commenter

    On a day trip you are entitled to some kind of break. I've forgotten the exact regulations regarding lunchtime but on a working day you should reasonably have a break of some sort. Now that should apply on or off site. I know it is different on a trip and the fact that you are actually doing extra is something the head should be pointing out to the parent.
  17. harsh-but-fair

    harsh-but-fair Lead commenter

    Sounds like a load of Jackanory to me ...
    pepper5 likes this.
  18. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    How do you respond?

    Apologise profusely and say you won't do it again. Wipe the slate clean. What can they do? They can tell the parent they have "followed up" on the complaint. Tick. VG. Done that. But I doubt they can do anything to you except get a bit holier-than-thou. Unless there is a policy and you didn't read it and fell foul of it. We don't know. Have you checked yet? What the "rules" are.

    But you're an NQT and so you should just basically make it go away ASAP by telling them what they want to hear. Mea culpa.

    And the next trip? Ask for instructions in advance re smoking. If you feel you couldn't manage without a fag then you will have to decline the offer. You are entitled to a lunch break so you can refuse to go.

    SEBREGIS Senior commenter

    "Half way through the visit, during a rest period, I left the building to smoke a cigarette outside.

    At no time were the children left unsupervised and the other staff members knew were I had gone to."

    And your HoD hasn't told them to go get a life?

    Were you lead teacher on the trip? If not, I assume you told whoever was in charge where you were going and what you were doing. If the school has an issue with that, responsibility lies with the lead teacher on the day. I'm not aware of any school that has a 'no smoking during your break' policy, nor do I think one would be legal. So don't worry too much, as others have said this is probably just a tick box exercise so that any complaints can be said to have been investigated,
  20. Tinycat1234

    Tinycat1234 Established commenter

    Outrageous... You went for a cigarette because you smoke. What else were you supposed to do? You ensured the children were safe! I dislike the smell of smoke around children but I know it’s not something I can complain about!
    jlishman2158, les25paul and pepper5 like this.

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