Talking shop

26th January 2001 at 00:00
Former headteacher gets to the heart of the issues that concern you


I have just finished my first term as an newly qualified teacher in a large primary school. I have had to move away from my home town and my long-term girlfriend, whom I had met before I began my training. Another bloke at school and I have started socialising together - visiting pubs on quiz nights and that sort of thing. I met a girl at a local club, had a few dances and walked her home. Nothing sexual took place beyond goodnight kissing.

However, the week after, I bumped into her in school. It turns out that she is a parent of one of the younger pupils and is married. Since then she has tried to speak to me on a number of occasions, but I have managed to evade her.

I'm at my wits' end. I can't think straight and am worried that she might tell other parents, and that her husband might find out. What shall I do?


First of all, calm down and tell your head the whole story. Don't leave anything out and don't see the parent on your own. It was a genuine mistake and it could happen to anyone, but it could turn nasty if you don't handle it well.

I suggest that you ask your head to speak to the parent in your presence, setting out your standpoint and your wish not to pursue contact because of your professional position. This should take the heat out of the situation and things should die down.

She did hide from you the fact that she had a husband tucked away at home, which makes me think she might be out for the thrill of the chase. If that's the case then there could be trouble ahead and you will need the advice of your professional association. If this happens, then you will be glad you explained things fully to the head to start with.

You never know, however; the lady in question may be as embarrassed as you are and grateful for an end to the business.


I have taught for the past six years in a small village school where the community was very stableand there was little if any movement of families during the school year.

I have recently moved to a larger school where the situation is different. Although I am getting to grips with the effects of pupil mobility on curriculum planning and target setting, I am ashamed to admit that I find dealing with the emotional side of things quite difficult. There is a child in my class who spends all day quietly crying and swaying and I don't know how to reach him or comfort him. What can I do?


The fact that you are sensitive to the child's position and aware of your lack of experience shows you possess the qualities that can really make a difference to children's lives.

Put aside the plnning and targets for a moment and look at your instincts. What do they tell you about the child's need? I'm sure the words "love and stability" enter your mind. You can provide a little of the former by how you smile and comfort the child, and classroom routines can provide the latter.

The rocking motion you describe is worrying and can indicate severe trauma that needs immediate attention from specialist help.You will need to speak with the member of staff with responsibility for such matters.

In the meantime, the most important message to get over to the child is that you are pleased to see him each morning and are interested in what he has been up to and where he came from. Let him tell you his story any way he can.

The next important thing is to establish patterns to the day in the child's mind. Talk about similar events that took place the day before or the lesson before, so that repetition is identified. Give him a "welcome to our class" gift. Let him know, by the look in your eyes, that he is important to you.

As the days pass you should see him begin to relax and you can count that as real progress.


I have recently been appointed deputy head in a school with only four staff. I am amazed at the workload, but feel I can manage.

What bothers me is the lack of time to do justice to subject leadership. Some staff have responsibility for three or four subjects, as well as citizenship or special educational needs.

I was aware that curriculum development was a weakness in the school when I applied for the job, but the reality of leading on these issues while teaching full-time has shocked me. How do I begin to sort out the mess?


To quote a hoarding I passed recently: "To start is to be halfway there". However, you do need to do a bit of strategic thinking before setting off on any route. It would be a good start to identify the staff's strengths and curricular interests. From that you will see the gaps and you must think and act creatively.

How about contacting deputies in other small schools to set up or join a cluster with the same problems? Try sharing co-ordination around the cluster. Develop ways to work together, linking subject specialists and training events.

Alternatively, you could approach the issue of responsibility overload by everyone working on one project at a time, thus sharing the burden and allowing staff to work together.

Send your problems to Sue. write to her at tES Primary, 66-68 east smithfield, london e1W 1BX, or e-mail You can also leave hints about this month's problems at The TES discussion forum by visiting our website at

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