Talking shop

22nd June 2001 at 01:00
Former headteacher Gerald Haigh gets to the heart of the issues that concern you

Q All through my time at university my dad was overprotective. If the phone rang in our student flat everyone would shout, "I bet it's your dad, Sarah," and he'd arrive every other weekend to see how I was getting on.

That was bad enough, but two terms into my first teaching job, he's still at it. He turns up at school to see if I need a lift home - I found him chatting to the head the other afternoon. One evening he even looked in on our staff party in the local pub. "Just passing," he said.

How can I stop him embarrassing me without upsetting him?

A It's that dad and daughter thing isn't it? First, be assured that your friends and colleagues are more likely to be quietly amused by this than anything else - they're certainly not going to see it as any failing on your part. Maybe they even quite like your dad, incredible though this may seem to you.

I think it's more than just protectiveness on your dad's part. More likely he's genuinely enjoying revisiting his younger self, soaking up the laughter and energy that surrounds you and your friends.

Most dads know when it's time to stop. But some have to be told, even if it hurts. So, speak to him privately and quietly. Tell him he's welcome some of the time, preferably by arrangement, but that he has to let you go. Look him in the eye so he's assured of your love. It'll be fine, I promise.

Q A colleague in the school of which I am head has a child in a primary school in the next town, where she lives. For the past year she's been desperately worried that her son is being bullied.

She now proposes to move the child to our school, bringing him with her each day. She says it's because our anti-bullying policy is effective, but I know she's also told some colleagues that she'll be able "To keep an eye on him".

I'm very worried about this. What can I do?

A Many teachers have their own children in school - both my daughters were in school with me for a while, and although all seemed fine then, they've since mentioned feelings and incidents I knew nothing about at the time.

What's proposed here carries, on top of that slight awkwardness, an extra layer of complication. Suppose the child, despite your best efforts, is still bullied? What if your colleague finds her son apparently being mistreated? Wat if other colleagues insist that the boy is not always an innocent victim?

Put these points frankly to your colleague. Point out that her son is going to be in the difficult position of apparently being under protection. Offer your support in solving the problem in other ways - such as giving her time to see her son's head and teachers. Then, if the child does come to the school, tell your colleague that the chair of governors, your immediate authority officer and your teachers have to know the background.

Above all, resolve to deal with your colleague, and her son, as fairly, firmly and compassionately as you deal with all your children's families. If the boy is bullied, or if he misbehaves, tackle it as you usually would.

If the need arises to remind your colleague of the boundaries between her parental and professional roles then do it early and firmly. If you're brave, frank and fair, then you'll make the arrangement work.

Q I teach in an inner-city local authority primary school. On the whole, we're a happy hard-working team, but there's one little bit of grit in our relationships, caused by the fact that one colleague has placed her two children in private education.

It feels to some of us as though she's showing lack of faith in the system that employs her. Others say she's exercising legitimate freedom of choice. We wouldn't dream of falling out with her, but there's often a lively debate when she's not there.

A On the point itself, my view is that teachers in the state sector shouldn't choose private education for their families. This isn't a political point to do with private education. It's about credibility. The teacher who meets parents day-by-day, giving reassurance about the way their children are being dealt with, must be able to demonstrate his or her own faith in the system.

I feel sure there are cogent reasons why some won't accept this view and I'd ask readers to write in and tell us their opinions.

Q I retire from my headship this summer.The chair wants me to be on the governing body. I'd like to keep in touch, but should I be a governor of my old school?

A No. For the sake of your successor, the school and your own peace of mind you mustn't do this. Take some time out. Then, if you still want to make a contribution, certainly offer yourself as a governor - but in another school some distance away.

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