Tuesday, 5 January 2010

New complaints service for parents...and pupils - just what we need!

"Pupils who are upset by something their headteacher does will be able to complain to a new service in England". Another stick to beat teachers with? Read the full BBC news item here.

Pupils and parents who feel that they have suffered an 'injustice' will be able to complain via a new service set up under the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act. So what constitutes an injustice, exactly? A spokesperson for the Department for Cushions and Soft Furnishings said that an 'injustice' may include hurt feelings, distress, worry or inconvenience". So the first thing I do is check the date, nope, it's not April 1st, so presumably this is for real then? Hurt feelings? Inconvenience? If I got a complaint every time I inconvenienced a pupil or hurt their feelings...
The only note of sanity in the whole article came from Mick Brooks who noted that "Parents can already complain to Ofsted, the governing body and the secretary of state and some parents frankly make a hobby of it." Well, tell me about it; there was the parent who complained that I'd "beaten her son with a stick" (I tapped him on the shoulder with a 30cm rule), the one who screamed at me over the phone that I was 'worse than Hitler' and that my school was "worse than prison" (I asked why her daughter hadn't attended school detention). Then there was the parent who complained that I had 'made her feel like a bad parent' (I told her that her son was not making much effort in class). Sometimes some people have a completely irrational response to perfectly ordinary or reasonable situations. I suspect the woman who harangued me about detention being worse than prison had herself had a bad experience at school. The mum who felt that I had impugned her parenting skills was, I suspect, feeling a bit sensitive about here son's lack of effort and may well have been partly blaming herself, I don't know.
And it's not just me. Poor old Mrs Admin got a call from a parent recently complaining that her daughter had come home "upset and distressed" about something that happened in the lesson. It turned out that the distressing incident was that the girl had been asked to hand out some scissors at the start of the lesson.
Also noted in the article is the fact that MPs are considering 'guaranteeing' good behaviour and strong discipline in schools. Really? Will I be able to claim my money back from the Department of Comedians and Silly Fools if my school can't honour the guarantee?

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