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Warning: Very Long First Post! Looking for advice!

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by benefitjunkie, May 10, 2015.

  1. Hi,

    I am looking for some advice. I don’t know whether this is the right forum for this problem, but would be grateful for some insight, or pointing in the right direction.

    I am an English HOD in an international school overseas (kindergarten & primary) and am currently having a few issues with the Admissions officer. Our relationship is generally good, and we get on well. Her role is essentially a sales and marketing one, and her mindset is the ‘customer is always right.’ As such, she is also the first port of call for local parents when they perceive that there is a problem. I am used to getting emails from her along the lines of “So & so’s parents are concerned because they looked in the classroom and saw the teacher playing a video clip.” I am gradually encouraging her to set up meetings between parents and teachers to open dialogue and allow the teacher to explain the whys & hows of their approach, instead of keeping parents and teachers at arm’s length which creates a culture of distrust. (Why ‘the parents are ‘looking in the classroom’ is another issue entirely!)

    This is gradually working better, and she is starting to come to me to request teachers meet with parents, and there is a better understanding between teachers and parents as a result. However, this week a more serious issue arose, hence the request for some advice!

    One of the KG teachers approached me saying that the parent of one of the girls in her class had her skirt pulled up and was touched by one of the boys (they are both 4 years old). The situation took place in the toilets. I advised the teacher to contact the boy’s parents to arrange a meeting to discuss the issue and to make sure that the girl’s parents knew we were dealing with the problem. The girl’s mother then informed the teacher that the same thing had happened to another girl in the class, so we contacted her and gave her the same information: we are dealing with the situation and taking measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

    I later received an email from the Admissions officer informing us that the mother of girl 2 had come in to see her, very upset. She had therefore scheduled a meeting for the following morning (before we had the chance to talk to the boy’s parents). The mother arrived at the meeting in tears, with her sister and brother-in-law (who have a child in another class) in tow. The sister announced that they were there to “discuss the safety issues in the school.” I politely responded that I was under the impression we were there to discuss another issue, and that out of respect for confidentiality, I felt it was inappropriate for them to be present. At that point they, and the Administration officer insisted that they were there at the mother’s request and that they would be staying.

    The brother-in-law speaks very good English and at once commandeered the meeting, bandying about words like ‘molestation’ and speculating that the boy in question was probably being abused, and that every other parent had the right to be aware of this ‘problem’. I replied that such terms were inappropriate, and that while unacceptable, his behaviour was most likely a case of natural curiosity. In addition, we also had a responsibility to ensure that the boys case was heard and properly investigated, and that ‘informing’ other parents would most likely foster a ‘lynch mob’ mentality among them and do much more harm than good. Nevertheless, the teacher and I both told him of the measures were implementing in class and during playtime, to resolve the problem. His attitude was condescending and aggressive – “How can you call yourself professionals if you let this happen in the first place and can’t guarantee it won’t happen again?”

    Afterwards I spoke to the Admissions Officer and told her that it was not acceptable for the sister and brother-in-law to be in such a meeting. Her response was “I cannot say ‘no’ to parents,” In short, I feel that the teacher and I already had a grasp of the situation and were trying to deal with it calmly. Suddenly the involvement of the Admissions Officer, with her insistence that she ‘cannot say “no” to parents, blew the situation out of all proportion and undermined the job we, as teaching staff, were trying to do. I really do not want to have to go through a similar situation again. As far as I am aware, there is no policy in place that states her job stops when the child starts school, and parents are obviously more comfortable going to her than to an English teacher. However, how can I communicate to her that her actions sometimes just create more difficulty, both for children and teachers?

    Sorry for the long-winded effort at a first post, and thanks in advance for any advice!
  2. Malaguena

    Malaguena New commenter

    As a parent, I wouldn't be too happy with how you are "dealing" with the situation. A boy has inappropriately touched at least 2 girls in the class and as yet you haven't even had the boy's parents in school? No wonder the girls' family are concerned about the "safety" of the children in school! The boys parents should have been in straight away, the evening of the incident if necessary, before the girls parents had a chance to come in. You aren't having issues with the admissions officer ( though this person certainly seems to wield a lot of influence) you have a problem with a safeguarding issue in your school. Where is the head of the school in all this? Why is a HoD dealing with it? I would be concerned about this issue, I have to say.
  3. What is your Senior line managers take on this? This is a worrying situation that has to dealt with at SLT level. Are your CP team fully aware of this situation, they also need to be involved in this. Safeguarding is paramount, your school needs to really deal with this.

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