New term, same old complaints

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
As always with the start of the academic year, our telephone awakens from its summer slumbers to deliver the daily quota of enquiries and questions from parents. Amongst these, there is usually the odd complaint. However, this year, in the first few days, there was such a stream of complaints that I was left wondering about the nature of Scottish schools.

There was the case of a boy returning to sixth year with a good clutch of Higher results who was unceremoniously sent home for not wearing a white shirt. There was no word of congratulation, just criticism for the lack of white shirt. That's an interesting reflection on the relative value placed on academic success and school uniform.

Then there was the case of a parent who was exceedingly angry because the depute head had taken a snatch photograph of her daughter as she headed for the school bus and then displayed the photograph on a "board of shame" at a parents' night. The girl's "crime" had been to wear a light summer jacket over her day clothes which were in regulation school colours.

Then I had a complaint from parents who are angry that a school uniform had been introduced after they had bought their son a tracksuit in the school colours. The boy continues to wear the tracksuit in the absence of his parents buying him alternative clothing and, as a result, he is consistently punished, most recently being refused service in the dinner hall. What happened to the concept of not visiting the sins of the fathers on the children?

However, if headteachers are choosing to take a dictatorial approach to school uniform (and in the process conveying an important ethos), this is not the only cause of parental complaint. One set of parents phoned up because their daughter is not being allowed to take Higher biology, even though she has just got a Credit 2 in the subject at Standard Grade.

Offering my usual comfort that maybe she would be wise to take the Intermediate II course in S5 and move on to the Higher in S6, I was told that the school does not offer Intermediate biology and had already told the girl it was "unlikely" she would be allowed to do Higher biology in S6.

Finally, there was the more common complaint from a PTA chairperson about her headteacher and money; in handing over pound;3,000 to the school just before the end of last year, the PTA had inadvertently left itself short of the money necessary to pay the up-front costs of the next event.

However, its request to the school for an advance of pound;100 to cover these costs (the pound;3,000 donation has yet to be spent) was flatly refused.

Ah well, so what does this tell us about school ethos, the hidden curriculum and the involvement of parents in school?

Judith Gillespie Development manager Scottish Parent Teacher Council

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