23rd September 2005 at 01:00
I am a parent governor of an infant school where there has been a lot of parent criticism of one new teacher (appointed September 2004) who teaches Year 1. She seems to be impatient with these children who are, after all, very new to school. Parents say she does not explain things properly.

Last year one parent was having great trouble with her little boy (who has a slight hearing problem) because he was shouted at non-stop for inattention and was unwilling to go to school. She is still with that class and already the worried chatter among a new batch of five to six-year-olds'

mums is building up.

They accept she is a skilful teacher but feel she is too aggressive for this year group.

We do not have a meeting of the governing body for some time and I wonder if we should ask for this as a confidential item on the agenda when we do meet, with a view to getting this teacher swapped with the teacher of the next class up.

I hope you do not think this is a trivial question but some of my colleagues would be too timid to get involved, and what is the use of governors if they cannot put things right?

Certainly not trivial. These issues of intervention across the boundaries are perennial and difficult. I have heard your final question a few times, and it is not quite so simple, but I agree it is worrying to have a lot of parents pressing you to act and feeling helpless.

The decision to allocate classes or tasks to teachers is not a governing body responsibility: it is within the head's remit to manage the staffing of the school on a day-to-day basis and deal with concerns about teaching quality.

That does not mean governors are not entitled to bring strong feelings to the head's attention, but this is best done on an informal basis. An unthreatening approach is the only chance.

You have not mentioned your chair. He or she may be the best person to have an informal word, especially if the relationship with the head is easy.

Otherwise, the parent governors as a group might express some concern.

Your head may be aware of a problem though, and may be tackling it. Whoever mentions it must accept that a head often needs to give guidance to a new teacher, and that this is an issue on which governors have no direct influence.

Bear in mind that following Reception, more disciplined learning has to be introduced in Year1. Remember, too,that parents of this age group tend to take settling-in problems rather seriously. But I am concerned about the child with the hearing problem. I hope this has been made known to the school and support has been put in place.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202, or see where answers will appear

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