Learn to complain like a parent

6th February 2004 at 00:00
Robin Precey Answers your leadership questions

I teach in the school in which my child is a pupil. I am unhappy with the way in which a particular teacher is treating my child. The lessons seem to have no structure and pupils learn little. Exercise books are rarely marked. I really want to voice my concerns directly to the teacher. What should I do?

You are in a difficult position and need to think carefully before you act.

You have the privilege and curse of an insider's view as to how your child's education is going. It is important that you try to wear your parent hat rather than your teacher one in dealing with this concern.

If your school already has a protocol in place to deal with such events (and they are not uncommon) then obviously follow that. If not, then first be sure of your facts about the lessons and the inadequacy of marking. Your child and all others have a right to know the national curriculum level that they are currently at in each subject and what they need to do to progress. This also needs to be clear to you as a parent.

Without being devious it may be best if another parentcarer with similar concerns about the teacher voices these formally so that the situation improves for all pupils in the class, including your child.

Failing that, do what other parentscarers would do. Make an appointment to see the teacher after school and explain your concerns. If you have a partner then their presence and lead in the discussion may be good. Monitor the situation through your child's work. It would not be fair to take an inspectorial role in school.

If there is no improvement then follow the parental complaint route in your school, which may be to take it in writing to the headteacher.

Think through the possible outcomes of this process and how you would handle them. Teachers are human beings so they are likely to have one or a combination of several responses.

A possibility is that your child is picked on by the teacher because of the complaint. This would be serious and need action. Another is that your child receives preferential treatment because of your complaint and your position. This is certainly possible but unfair. The teacher may plough on regardless and then the school will need to follow the disciplinary procedures laid down. Let us hope, however, the outcome will be that the teacher herhimself will make improvements for all pupils, including your child.

There will also probably be an impact on your work relationship with this teacher. Make sure that it remains professional even if it ends up not being friendly. Your child's education is precious and you are right not to let the situation rest.

Do, however, think all of this through and act as a parent rather than as a work colleague of the teacher concerned. It will not be easy but it is necessary.

Robin Precey has been in education for 31 years, the past 12 as head of Seaford Head community college in East Sussex. He is also a consultant on the National College for School Leadership's new visions programme. Do you have a school leadership or management question? Email karen.thornton@tes.co.uk

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