Ask Tom

Teacher, TES Connect blogger and behaviour expert Tom Bennett puts on his agony uncle hat and answers your education questions

I believe that one of my students is being abused at home. I have contacted the relevant government services, but they have told me that without proof they can do nothing. I know this child will never fully admit to what is going on. I want to help, but what more can I do than I have done already?

A teacher, via email to

If you haven't yet done so, talk to your child protection officer (CPO) - every school must have one. They are the best people to liaise with as they are trained in responding to these issues. Sadly, this may be as far as you can go, because your suspicions (while well-founded and intentioned) may be without ground. Let the CPO deal with it, let the student know you will always be ready to listen and then keep your cool; sometimes these issues are more complicated than we realise.

The parent of one of my students appears to be on a mission to make my life a misery. She constantly comes in, accusing me of ignoring her child or giving others more attention. It's all false, of course, and the school is being supportive, but it is getting a bit silly and beginning to impact on how I view that child. What can I do to manage this parent?

A teacher, via Twitter to @tes

When you deal with large groups of people, you will always come across the odd person who's a bit "from the internet", if you know what I mean. It is great to hear that your school is being supportive. Log every incident and report any issues with the pupil concerned. But don't for one second treat them any differently than you normally would. If the parent gets to untenable levels of harassment, as they seem to have done here, then ask the school to intercept all communications with them in future, and make it clear that this is now the standard path of contact.

Our department head is a workaholic and is very keen to have the rest of us follow his lead. It has got a bit crazy now, with no one willing to be the first to pack up and head home and "let the team down". I am all for putting in the hours, but how do I get myself out of a situation where we are just sitting around waiting for someone to be brave enough to leave before 8pm?

A teacher, via email to

Long hours don't equate to efficiency, otherwise every student in school would get A*s. The problem with workaholics is that work becomes an obsessive activity, with concomitant levels of irrationality - for example, they can't understand why someone wouldn't want to do the same. Of course, working hard is a great thing, but there is a difference between time well spent and the miserable life of the job addict. Here's the solution: simply walk out when your work is done and, if anything is said, challenge the challenge. Become task-focused rather than time-focused. If you've completed your projects and if your work is managed professionally, you can demonstrate by results that you are doing your job.

Tom teaches full-time at Raine's Foundation School in London.

Do you agree with his advice? To have your say or ask a question, visit www.tesconnect.comasktom or email

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