I was headteacher at a large upper school. One day the head of Year 11 told me that she had concerns about a very intelligent girl who seemed to have "gone off the boil" as far as her studies were concerned and had performed poorly in her mock exams.
At almost the same time I began to get reports from residents that Anna* and her mother were indulging in regular shouting matches, audible through an open bedroom window, and disturbing the neighbourhood.
The girl was reluctant to admit that there was a problem, but it was apparent she was upset by something. As the situation did not seem to be improving I contacted her mum and asked her to come in for a chat.
Single mum duly arrived and proved to be an attractive blonde, of Dutch background, in her early forties. She was articulate, open and honest. She readily admitted that relations between her and Anna had gone rapidly downhill of late but was determined to try to ensure her daughter fulfilled her potential at GCSE. She went on to talk openly about the various personal pressures she was under. Eventually, she admitted that the main reason for her outbursts was that she "was just not getting a regular screw".
My entire professional career flashed in front of me. I momentarily wondered whether to summon help or raise a white flag. Finally, I blustered something about not being able to do much about that dilemma and ushered her out of the door.
I can't claim much in the way of pastoral success as a result of the interview, but at least the shouting matches ceased. Anna achieved a decent crop of A*-C passes, went to college and now has a successful career. Her mother left the area soon afterwards.
*Name changed. The writer is a retired head.
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