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Parent emails during half term and weekends!

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by mms1, Feb 23, 2019.

  1. mms1

    mms1 Occasional commenter

    Hi all,

    I already know the answer to this one but really wanted some input and possibly a nudge towards a directive or policy.
    I have a parent that emails and then complains that they haven't had a response by the next day. This follows meetings in person where they are given ample time to have their concerns heard. The last meeting was on the last day of the half term and emails quickly followed which were then followed by complaints of no response and threats to withdraw their child from my school. Anyone experienced this before?

    Thanks all.
  2. install

    install Star commenter

    Yes I have. Do not respond to emails outside of working hours. Check your school policy on sending email. Forward them to someone senior to you each time though to deal with.- again within working hours only. I never send emails to parents ever - but I do phone them within 3 working days to follow up an email. Again - never ever outside of working hrs.

    Constant emails may be a genuine concern - but even so you don't want to be harassed either or unduly stressed. Your lm needs to take this on for you - so pass it on to them within working hrs. :cool:
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2019
    Curae and bonxie like this.
  3. CarrieV

    CarrieV Lead commenter

    Just wait until Monday and then send them a link to admissions procedures for a couple of local schools and the phone number of the admissions team at your local authority. :D
  4. bonxie

    bonxie Lead commenter

    Set your email address to send a standard response out of school hours saying that emails will be dealt with during working hours.
  5. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    That’s what I used to do. It brought me a lot of satisfaction.
  6. Piscean1

    Piscean1 Senior commenter

    Our policy has a line about a response not being required outside school working hours.

    Either set up an auto-response outside working hours or put it in your email signature. Something along the lines of "School name supports staff in achieving a healthy work-life balance. Whilst we appreciate that people manage their workload differently and respect different working patterns, responses to emails are not expected or required outside working hours."
    supp likes this.
  7. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    Do not read emails out of hours ,and definitely do not respond.
  8. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    I know everybody will disagree with me about this, but I tend to respond immediately to these types of email, even if ‘out of hours’ or in a holiday. (That is on the assumption that I pick it up in the first place.)

    I find that a swift response often helps alleviate a complaint and, personally speaking, I’d rather just sort something out right away than have it hanging over me.

    If your in the HT’s position, I don’t think it really matters what the ‘policy’ says, it isn’t about exercising your employment rights, it’s about making a decision as to what actions will make your life easier in the long run. (And that will come down to individual preference...)
    nomad, digoryvenn, Stiltskin and 2 others like this.
  9. Lattelady

    Lattelady New commenter

    I would make sure that your complaint policy has a vexatious complainant component in it. It is especially useful when dealing with persistent complaints which have no foundation.
  10. abacus1982

    abacus1982 Established commenter

    I switched off having my work emails on my personal phone as I got a really nasty one late at night and it ruined my evening! This helped me massively as I was no longer heart in mouth when I get a ping come up on my phone.

    Thankfully where I am now parents don't communicate that much by email. Some do and I did have a spate of them last year from a couple of parents. I now have a work phone which is kept in my coat pocket when I get home in the evening. I switch it off on the last day of term/half-term and it only goes back on during the week if I need to check the school diary for something. I also reworded the complaints policy so that when replying to complaints it is now "school days" and not "working days" to remove the potential for there to be an issue if we get a complaint during a school holiday.

    Where I have worked before it was very clear that there was a 48 hour rule for responding to all parental queries. This did not apply during weekends or school holidays.
    strawbs likes this.
  11. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    What is needed is the ability to manage parents expectations when sending emails. As @Pomza says, sometimes a quick response is needed in order to reduce the chance of things escalating, but at the same track you can't be checking your email 24/7 just in case.

    If you are HT/DHT then I'd suggest putting something in your signature along the lines of:

    This inbox is checked regularly during term time, between the hours of 8am and 5.30pm. Emails received outside of these times may not be read until the next school day. If you receive this email outside of those times, please don't feel you have to reply until 'normal' working hours.

    This gives you leeway to respond outside the time and check your inbox, but not create an expectation of it.
    strawbs and Pomza like this.
  12. thejudgesscoresarein

    thejudgesscoresarein Occasional commenter

    Get a notice posted on the school website and in the school newsletter highlighting that emails will be responded to within 1-3 working days and if their enquiry is urgent they telephone the school and ask to speak to the staff member.
  13. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    If I ever had reason to email my child’s school, I would like a response a lot sooner than three days later...
  14. Nt31

    Nt31 New commenter

    Surely @Pomza if it was that important you would phone the school. If it was the weekend or school holidays then you would just have to wait. I can’t understand why some people think that this job is so important that you are not allowed to switch off and leave emails until the next working day. Somehow, before the age of the internet and mobile phones we managed so why should it be any different now?
  15. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    If a school advertises its email address as a means of contact, then taking three days to respond isn’t acceptable. I assume you wouldn’t take three days to return a phone call?

    If the objection is around the use of personal email addresses, then perhaps they shouldn’t be shared with parents in the first place?
  16. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    I would if I called a school during half term and left a voice message.
    NIHistoryTeacher likes this.
  17. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    Well, of course...
    nomad likes this.
  18. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    Three days. Depends. If it is about a serious incident then next day but if it is something like Can I discuss Jacob's maths, it can take a while to set this up.
  19. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    Acknowledge within 24h. Substantive response at that moment if possible. Otherwise the acknowledgement should state the expected time for a full answer, 3 school days unless it's complicated in which case include an explanation for the slower response.
    Pomza likes this.
  20. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    The problem with email - and more specifically, things like WhatsApp - is that some people have grown to expect an immediate response. If I email or tweet a company like, say, BA, with a complaint, then I'll get a response frequently in a matter of minutes - but that's because there are people paid to wait for my message and deal with it. Teaching is different, clearly, but some (many?) parents are now expecting that same level of service which simply can't be delivered.

    Manage expectations by creating a policy, and telling the parents about it. Make sure all staff are required to stick to it unless the situation is urgent - that way, someone who responds within 10 minutes to emails at ten to midnight isn't creating a rod for someone else's back.
    dodie102 likes this.

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