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An open letter to my daughter's headteacher

We have never met. You were not available when we were shown around the school. I felt misgivings even then. No signs of readiness for the term ahead, an air of abandonment and neglect. Her classroom was in a mobile, damp and flimsy. I saw no books or resources of any kind, but we assumed they would arrive as the term began, and she was so excited about her first job in teaching.

We were concerned to hear that there were at least four children in her class with very difficult behaviour. There was bullying in the corridors and the playground. She was shoved against some furniture and hurt her back. I considered ringing you then, but as a headteacher myself, I know how parents fuss.

She said she couldn't find a friend in her year group, someone who felt the same curiosity and commitment to learning. She felt lonely. She began to get tired and stressed. She started feeling ill. We encouraged her to find someone to talk to, someone in whom she could confide. Perhaps even talk to you.

And, finally, she did talk to you. She screwed up her courage and said that she had expected weekly non-contact time; back-up when she needed to manage challenging behaviour; professional advice on how to deal with autism, ADHD and dyspraxic pupils, all in her first-ever class of 10-year-olds.

She would have liked to have heard "Well done" from time to time; a comment on the hours of effort that went into transforming her bleak and dingy classroom; some reassurance that the relationships she quickly formed with the children who were delighted with her creativity and enthusiasm were not wasted by the dominant minority.

You told her that you were disappointed in her capabilities. You said you had assumed she could cope, as she had been so confident at the interview.

You were right. She did have confidence. She was confident that she would be welcomed, advised, supported and mentored through her induction year. She was confident that she would be treated as a learner teacher, one whose many ideas would be listened to and discussed, and whose enthusiasm and energy would be valued.

I have felt outrage, indignation, and despair this term on her behalf. But she's an adult and must make her own choices. She chose well. She chose to leave, before all her optimism evaporated.

As a fellow parent, headteacher and leader of a learning community, I hope never to forget the duty of care that I have for every member of our school, all of them someone's son or daughter, all with the basic right to go home at the end of the day self-esteem intact.

Karen B Shale is a headteacher in the south of England

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