7 common school life problems solved
‘My child is really unhappy’
Who to speak to: The class teacher is the first contact if your child is miserable at school.
How to approach it: ‘Rather than grabbing the teacher in the playground, arrange an after-school appointment so she can give you her attention,’ suggests Sam Murray, head of advice and information at ACE Education, who offer parents independent avice on a wide range of education issues. Keep it informal, but make a few notes about what to say and the outcome you’re hoping for.
The evidence you’ll need: ‘List specific examples of things that your child has said or done that illustrate that he’s unhappy, as well as examples of how his unhappiness is affecting his school or home life,’ says Sam. ‘If you’re too vague, it’s hard for the teacher to help.’
Following up: ‘At the end of the meeting, confirm what the teacher has agreed, so there’s no uncertainty,’ says Sam. This could be done verbally – ‘So, you’ve agreed that Harry can sit next to Grace next week, not Billy’ – or by letter or email. Arrange a follow-up meeting for a week or so later to check on progress.
‘My child is struggling with school work’
Who to speak to: Initially, your child’s teacher is the best person to approach.
How to approach it: Again, arrange an appointment – parents’ evening, when there’s a queue of families waiting, is not the time. ‘Explain your concerns: is your child struggling with a particular area, or not making progress across the board?’ says Sam. Be willing to listen to the teacher’s suggestions, including things to try at home.
The evidence you’ll need: ‘Bring some evidence of your concerns, for example, your child’s school report that highlights a weakness, or two pieces of work done a year apart that demonstrate slow progress,’ Sam advises.
Following up: If problems persist, you may need to involve the special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). ‘Many children without diagnosed special needs still benefit from extra support,’ says Sam.
‘My child’s teacher has it in for him’
Who to speak to: Avoid an awkward confrontation with the teacher and go to a member of the senior leadership team (SLT), such as the head of Key Stage or deputy head.
How to approach it: Carefully! ‘Focus on your child and his feelings, rather than personally attacking the teacher,’ Sam advises. ‘Put your concerns in writing first, rather than going straight to a face-to-face meeting, as this gives the school time to talk to the teacher involved.’
The evidence you’ll need: ‘Provide examples of how the teacher’s treatment of your child has differed from her treatment of others,’ says Sam. Be objective: rather than saying, ‘Miss Brown is really harsh on George’, say, ‘George and his friends were misbehaving during assembly, but only George had to stay in at playtime’.
Following up: Give the school time to respond, but if the problem persists, request a meeting with the head teacher.
‘I think my child has a special educational need’
Who to speak to: This is best broached with both the teacher and SENCO.
How to approach it: You’ll need to arrange a meeting with the school. ‘Read the school’s special educational needs policy, which sets out what you can expect them to do for your child,’ says Sam. ‘You can also get advice from your local Parent Partnership Service (Parent Partnership Services offer advice and support to parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs), and ask for a representative to attend.’
The evidence you’ll need: Write a list of your child’s difficulties, including examples of how they affect him. Remember that special educational needs can include behavioural and social problems, reading and writing difficulties, problems concentrating or understanding, and physical needs.
Following up: If the school agrees that there’s a concern, they can arrange Special Educational Needs (SEN) support within school, or, if the issues are more complex, request an Educational, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment. Request details of when this will happen, and timescales for feedback.
‘My child doesn’t want to go to school’
Who to speak to: Your child’s teacher is likely to be aware of the issue already; you might also involve a member of the SLT.
How to approach it: ‘Set up a meeting to discuss the problem and work towards a strategy,’ advises Sam. ‘Try to include a senior staff member, especially if the solution might mean deviating from the usual school routine – for example, allowing your child to go straight into the classroom, rather than waiting in line.’
The evidence you’ll need: Talk to your child about why she doesn’t want to go to school, and what might help. Write these things down to discuss at the meeting.
Following up: Confirm the plan at the end of the meeting, either verbally or in writing, and request regular catch-ups to review your child’s progress.
‘My child is being bullied’
Who to speak to: Initially, speak to your child’s teacher; if the bullying persists, you’ll need to involve senior staff such as the deputy head or head teacher.
How to approach it: Put your concerns in writing, and request a meeting to discuss what has been happening. ‘Read the school’s anti-bullying policy so you’re clear on what their obligations are and can highlight any areas that aren’t being followed,’ Sam advises.
The evidence you’ll need: Keep a written log of incidents, with dates and details of any witnesses. Include examples of how the bullying is affecting your child’s education and home life.
Following up: ‘The school should investigate bullying promptly,’ says Sam. Ask for a timescale for their response, and arrange a follow-up meeting. Keep copies of correspondence in case you need to pursue the matter with the governors – the next step if the problem isn’t resolved.
‘I have a complaint about the school’
Who to speak to: Minor gripes (‘the pages fell out of his reading book’) can usually be addressed to the teacher; more serious concerns may need taking to the head teacher or governors.
How to approach it: Small complaints can often be dealt with by having a word in the playground, or writing a note in your child’s homework diary. ‘But if you want to make a formal complaint, ask for a copy of the school’s complaints procedure,’ says Sam. This explains who to speak to, what you can expect to happen, and how to escalate the complaint if you’re still not happy.
The evidence you’ll need: As well as any evidence that backs up your complaint – such as a log of bullying incidents – keep dated copies of all correspondence, and read the relevant policies so that you can highlight where the school has fallen short.
Following up: ‘If you get as far as the head and you’re not satisfied, the next step is a written complaint to the governors,’ says Sam. ‘You should notify the head of your intention first.’