And one more thing...;Talkback

20th March 1998 at 00:00
I have a complaint - not a medical condition, just a need to vent my irritation on someone else. Not five minutes into the new half-term and I have a queue outside my office lining up to complain. Ever since our new security system was installed, each parent is preceded by a raucous raspberry on the buzzer, usually setting the tone for the following interview.

I thought the half-term break would give us all a breather, but the complaints come thick and thicker - and we are still suffering from sick teacher syndrome. Before the break, teachers were going down like ninepins. Recovery has been slow and the most common activities in the staff-room are coughing, sneezing and smiling bravely. All this and complaining parents too.

Top of the complaints list at the moment are school dinners, puddles and headlice - again.

Last term, a lunch-time mix-up ended in a child being served beans, even though he had an allergy to them. They were not eaten, so no harm was done. The parents settled for an apology and promise of increased vigilance.

Another child recently walked through a puddle and was told off by a teacher. Two parental interviews, an extended absence and many tears later, all is resolved.

We have also had an outbreak of headlice. Which school hasn't? One parent went ballistic, accusing us of negligence and indifference, even though we had just finished the round of videos, talks by the school nurse and advice leaflets. This, it seems, is not enough - the parents are transferring the child to another school, with the same degree of headlice infestation as us.

Such incidents are a daily occurrence in schools. What is unusual is the exaggerated reaction of some parents. We live in a culture where people are becoming increasingly litigious. But if we all complain at the drop of a hat, rather than try to drive standards up, we risk driving spirits down, particularly in people-centred organisations such as schools. Now I've got that off my chest I feel much better. There's a message there somewhere.

Bob Aston is head of a primary school in Kent

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