Talking shop

21st April 2000 at 01:00
Former headteacher Sue Mulvany gets to the heart of issues that concern you.

Q Last week, the headteacher in the nursery where I work announced that we should be on the look-out for a petty thief. We were told to keep our handbags and personal belongings secure, as there had been a spate of thefts of small amounts of money from various places. Most recently someone's purse had been tampered with. She told us that the likely culprit might well be one of the parents.

I am feeling dreadful about this because I know it was none of the parents - I am the culprit. I've never done anything like this before. I'm worried that I won't be able to stop and I don't know who to turn to or what to do. Can you help me?

A You must be weighed down, not only with the guilt of taking things that did not belong to you, but also with the knowledge that others are being blamed. This is a heavy burden and will be lightened considerably when you stop stealing. Talk to a counsellor who can help address the roots of your behaviour.

There are good signs that your conscience is working as it should, so now you need to think about ways of breaking the cycle of temptation. Try not to go into any places where you will be alone. Ask if the school could provide lockers for staff.

Articulate your disbelief about parents being the problem and think of little ways in which you can contribute to the team rather than take from it. You may want to think about admitting your failings to the headteacher. Only you can decide when, although it would help if there was a period beforehand when there were no incidents of theft.

Q Our new deputy head is rubbing everyone up the wrong way. He goes around giving out tasks to individuals that don't seem to have anything to do with any of the plans or ideas we agreed. Staff meetings have become opportunities for issuing instructions rather than discussion.

Some of us are getting really fed up. There is talk of reporting the situation to our professional associations. Some people are looking for other jobs. I'm worried because we had a good team spirit on the staff. I don't want to work in an atmosphere of resntment. How can we stop the rot before it gets any worse?

A The situation you describe looks as if it could escalate. I suggest you, or a small group of staff representatives, speak to the headteacher informally.

Couch your comments in ways which show that your concern for the good of the school is paramount. Take account of the fact that new brushes always sweep clean and be prepared to admit that there may be things that do need changing.

Suggest that the next initiative is guided through the tried and tested route of consultation, audit, decisions and targets and more consultation about the actions to take, as it makes everyone feel part of the development of the school.

You can ask the headteacher to express your concerns to the deputy. A former head once gave our staff invaluable advice: "Careers in education are like trains. As you go steaming down the track, look back now and then to check that the carriages are still attached." Your deputy needs to internalise that.

Q There is a boy in my class who has special needs. He is well able to keep up with the work but has difficulty eating. In fact he makes such a mess that it makes me feel sick. Although someone else looks after him at lunch-time I have to see to his snacks and milk. I really would rather not have to do this. Should I see the head with my concerns? What will she think of me?

AFar be it from me to question a person's honest feelings but are you sure you're in the right job?

Education, like society, is meant to be inclusive. It, above most things we engage in, is about looking into a person to search out the treasures that lie beneath the surface.

Are you aware of the unspoken messages of disgust your body language must be giving out to this child and to others? Try thinking about your responsibility as a teacher and not about superficial sensations.

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

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