If you’re a school governor or interested in school governance, chat about the issues facing governors. You can get your questions answered by Stephen Adamson of the NGA if you start a new topic with "Dear Stephen" in the subject.
Dear Stephen, I have received a letter from the Chair of Governors at my son's school in which he says that if I continue the contact with the school in the terms in which I have already made contact - writing letters at the request of the Head of MFL asking for there to be two languages available in school time for students in a Language College at GCSE and following them up with research about what is available at other Language Colleges in the county - he will do "whatever he can to stop me". I believe I have been direct, but respectful, and my letters have been well researched. His view is that I have been rude and harrassed staff. I believe he should not write to a parent like that and certainly not threaten to stop me from asking questions about the provision at the school. He has not addressed my concerns about the quality of the French teaching and the provision for gifted language students. There has been a meeting at County Hall looking at his letter and all the correspondence and the feedback I have received is that his letter to me "was a bit rude" but they aren't going to follow it up. How can I now approach the school with my continuing concerns about the quality of the French teaching if he addresses me in those terms? Surely it is his job to investigate my concerns, not to dismiss them and to meet with me to reassure me that my son's education - he is in the top 5% for both languages and wishes to take them both at GCSE - is being met by the school.
It would seem to me that the school has made its current position very clear to you. I would think you have 3 possible options.
1) If you have not already done so, make your concerns the subject of a formal complaint to the school. They must have a Complaints Policy and procedure to follow and must furnish you with a copy on request.
2) Look for another school for your child.
3) Put up and shut up.
Yes maybe you should carry on and do a formal complaint. It will not involve the Chair. Don't expect to get anywhere with it though, as they don't sound like a particularly "responsive" governing body - well not in the conventional sense anyhow!!
I do like the answer from the LA; he was a "bit rude" .......... well that's an understatement, but that you got a letter from the LA saying that is impressive. I would frame it!!
I personally would do whatever you would have done if he had not sent you the "rude" letter. Also, I would attach all the correspondence to the complaint, as it will give the other governors a good laugh. They're not all as rude as him are they?
He's not the type to come round knocking on your door late at night is he? You could always put in your complaint that his response was a little threatening sounding ( see appendix xyz), but you took it in the spirit in which it was no doubt intended and have decided to address the issue of the teaching and the option to have a second language through the formal complaints procedure. At least you'll give some other governors a laugh when they see his silly letter. And if you mysteriously disappear off the face of the earth at least the other governors will know it was him!!
Think he needs a copy of Dale Carnegie "How to win friends and influence people". Why do people like that want to volunteer to be CoG? Never ceases to amaze me.
You need to put Dear Stephen in the subject line if you want a response from him. I am sure he will not be even one little bit rude!!
The comment about the CoG's letter was reported to me by a County Councillor friend who approached the Head of Secondary Schools on my behalf. The meeting was informal and was not minuted, though they had copies of all the correspondence to hand. The word came back to me that it wasn't going to be followed up by anyone at County Hall. If I follow the formal complaints procedure, it has to go through him and appealing to the Head depends upon his relationship with her, doesn't it. I feel my hands are tied, though the next stage is to take it to the Governors' complaints committee, which I certainly could do, to bypass him. I have been in contact with Head, then CoG.....
The truth of the matter is that the CoG is a "retired" senior policeman who was used to throwing his weight around in his previous life and clearly thinks it is appropriate to behave like that at school. He was responsible for a local miscarriage of justice in an infamous murder case which resulted in the acquital of the prime suspect after spending many years in prison.
What would I have done? As he has not addressed the concerns in the letter I wrote directly to him, I would have written again asking for my concerns to be addressed. I worry about any repercussions on my son, but I equally worry that he is not getting the best provision possible.
Too many people put up and shut up and that allows schools and other organisations to think the customer is satisfied, often when a significant number simply are not.
I have offered my son private education, and a change of school to another local language college where the results and provision oif languages are significantly better, but he refuses to consider either option. He thinks friends are more important. Short-sighted in my view, but his choice, so that leaves me with my difficulty of how to proceed.
There is robust and there is threatening. I can accept robust, but I don't like being threatened. The CoG's letter contained an open threat. The school did and still does market itself as a language college, which was one of the reasons I was happy for my son to go with his choice - it promised so much but has failed to deliver. In the last two and a half years he has proven himself to be a very capable linguist and wants to take double languages. He is not the only child in this position, but I am the only parent making an issue of it. Other parents wrote in response to the Head of MFL's request but did not respond to the Head's reply. I went on and did research and followed up her reply with more questions of my own based on the research I had done. I am not doing this just for my son, though he will benefit if all the double linguists are able to take the double languages they wish to take at GCSE.
MrsMacPLatt I have offered my son private education, and a change of school to another local language college where the results and provision oif languages are significantly better, but he refuses to consider either option. He thinks friends are more important. Short-sighted in my view, but his choice, so that leaves me with my difficulty of how to proceed.
So you are expecting the school to bale you out of your family problem with your son? That's what it sounds like. Are you a mother or a mouse? If you want to send him to another school then just do it. It's not up to him, it's not his choice, it's yours.
reg1950 Are you a mother or a mouse? If you want to send him to another school then just do it. It's not up to him, it's not his choice, it's yours
Gulp. So the YP's view is not important then?
Personally I would leave him where he is. He is happy. If children are happy they will learn.
In the meantime lets put this in perspective: there are lots of language audio/visual learning programes available and it might be worth considering these as a means of helping him progress to his full potential in his own way and in his own time. The GB doesn't sound particularly empathetic: perhaps the teachers are but have been silenced. It happens.It seems to me that the OP's valuable time is being wasted stressing about a situation that from a goverance perspective (i.e. at strategic level) is unlikely to be resolved in the forseeable future.
reg1950Short-sighted in my view, but his choice, so that leaves me with my difficulty of how to proceed.
I would be a mum first. Forget the GB and instead concentrate your efforts on how best to help your son. His choice may not be yours but he is at an age where he is being encouraged to take responsibility for his decsions. Be there to support him. One way or another this is likely to be a valuable learning experience for him.
grrmummy reg1950 Are you a mother or a mouse? If you want to send him to another school then just do it. It's not up to him, it's not his choice, it's yoursGulp. So the YP's view is not important then?
Of course Mrs MacPlatt should listen to her son's views and take them into account, but at the end it's for the parents to decide what's best for their son. Not the son. The consequence of children believing they have some god-given "right" to decide what they want to do and not accepting the authority of their parents, teachers or anyone else is all too evident in schools and is partly due to weak parents who fail to set boundaries or exercise authority (that is a general comment not directed at Mrs MacP).
If Mrs MacPlatt believes that her sons longterm interests would be best served by changing schools she should move him. If on the other hand she thinks his friendships and the other things his current school offers are on balance best for her son that's fine as well, but in that case she stop whining that the school won't change to suit her wishes. She can't have it both ways, shut up or ship out as my army friends used to say.
All complaints should be treated properly by a school according to its procedures. In terms of the formal procedure there is usually a two or three stage process. The first stage will be a complaint to the headteacher, if the complainant is dissatisfied about the outcome of that complaint then the next stage may be a complaint to chair of governors and then as a final stage there should be the opportunity to have your complaint heard by a panel of the governing body (sometimes the procedure moves straight to the panel of governors). It does not appear from your comments that this latter stage has taken place.
There is also the position that you now have two separate, although related issues - the original complaint about the language provision at the school and a second complaint about how the chair of governors has dealt with that complaint.
You have already raised the issue with the local authority, which has limited statutory powers in this regard and appears to have decided that it can/will take no action.
Given the impasse with the school if you do wish to pursue either matter further you may be better off writing to the Secretary of State for Education. He has limited powers of intervention, but can intervene if the governing body has failed in a statutory duty. In this regard the actions of the chair of governors count as the action of the governing body. If you can demonstrate that the governing body has failed to deal with your complaint according to its procedures the Secretary of State (or his officials) may have grounds to direct the school to look at the complaint again.
I do not think the Secretary of State can direct the school to make the language provision you would like. Local authority maintained schools must teach the National Curriculum, but other than that are free to set their timetable and curriculum as they see fit.
As to the point you made in an earlier thread about disciplining or removing the chair of governors this is a matter for the governing body. Governors are volunteers and so are not subject to the formal staff disciplinary procedures. Only the other members of the governing body can take action to remove the chair of governors and the procedure for doing so is set down in regulations.
All very interesting and some less supportive than others. The school in question was visited by Nick Clegg early in the Academic Year, a visit which was made much of by the school, and in the local press. I'm not quite sure why he visited this particular school. I assume Norman Baker had an influence in the choice of school and it was thought to be a school he should observe, possibly because it claims Language College status and kids take GCSEs in four European languages. Interestingly Mr Clegg is multilingual: he speaks English, Dutch, French, German, and Spanish. Because of his visit and his language skills, I was very tempted to write to him in the early days of my dealings with the school. So if I follow the procedure Stephen has suggested a letter to Nick Clegg as well as Mr Gove is not out of the question not only on the matter of the language provision, but also on the matter of the CoG which in my mind is just as, if not more important, because of the effect he has on the school and its governance and the way it addresses complaints.
I have emailed the Headteacher (politely) asking for an outcome of the options as the school has given no timetable for when we will learn which subjects have been settled on and will have to decide what to do when I hear about whether they will allow my son to take French inside the school day. My son was asking what we are going to do if he doesn't get to take French. I told him we should wait and see what the outcome of the options is and then I would look at the avenues available.
There is also another disturbing scenario at the school relating to a friend of my son's who is half Italian and is bilingual and who was forced to do self-study Italian (including preparing for a GCSE controlled assessment) in a regular timetabled Year 9 Spanish lesson. so it's not just my son who has suffered at the hands of the language department at the school, though his friend's situation has been resolved now, thank goodness, but not before a lot of damage has been done and a lot of goodwill lost between this boy's mother and the school.
I'm sorry, but I don't see how pupils are suffering. Schools cannot offer every language that some parents might want them to. It is for the school, and no-one else, to decide what subjects are offered.
If parents / pupils don't like what is on offer they can always vote with their feet.
This may not be well received by the OP, but I do think he/she is being unreasonable.
I failed to say that they teach Italian in the school and there is an Italian teacher - that was one of the things we liked about the school - my son had always wanted to learn Italian, yet despite stating a preference for it, was not allowed to learn it in Year 7. Sebi has never been able to take Italian at the school because he would have been "too good for the rest of the class". He and the whole of the rest of his form were forced to take Spanish in Year 7, which he has found very confusing and then later he has been forced to do independent study within a Spanish lesson and not even allowed to go to the library so he could concentrate. All of this despite there being an Italian teacher on staff.
I thought schools were supposed to bring out the best in their pupils and build on their strengths and be run with the students in mind - within reason, of course. Clearly I have a different view of education and my son should not be in a state school, and certainly not at this one which, it seems to me, is not run with either my son's best interests or the best interests of other students in mind. My son and his friend are not the only double linguists in the school who are having opportunities denied them. The school created these double linguists by insisiting that ALL students take two languages for three years from Year 7-9 and then doesn't support those children properly at GCSE.
My son is adamant he doesn't want to move and so I am doing my best within the restrictions of what the school is prepared to do to make sure he gets as good an education as possible. But I fear that he won't and I don't think this is acceptable - I pay my taxes like everyone else. If no one makes a complaint then the Head and the Governors think they are doing a fine job. If no one pushes the boundaries and asks for improvements then there is never any development in what a school offers. Being bullied and threatened by the CoG certainly doesn't give me any confidence in the school or its governance.
I have to report that a viable group of double linguists has emerged at my son's school - there were already six, which was not considered viable by the school. The compromise reached with the HT has given several more children than the original six the chance to take two languages at GCSE, so that can't be a bad thing, and is in keeping with the Language College status they use to market themselves.
The other child has not lived in Italy and has not been at school in Italian since he was seven and so his reading and writing skills need to be improved before he can take a written exam. They have an Italian teacher and put children in for Italian GCSEs every year so, personally, I don't see what the problem is. They don't seem to favour the non-written exam alternatives available. I haven't been involved in this issue. I know about it because the two boys have been friends for a long time.
I don't think I have dragged the school's good name through the mud. Only I know what I have been doing. I have not advertised it to other parents. The school blocked me from contacting them. This has been my own fight on behalf of six kids who all wanted to take two languages in a language college.
What is important is that the outcome for the kids has been positive and my son knows that I consider his education worth fighting for. He has learned that it's worth fighting for something that you believe in which is achievable. That's worth more than a private tutor. The private tutor was my end game if no viable group was found, but I don't have to do that now.
I still have to decide what to do about the CoG's letter to me, but at least one issue is clarified. I shall certainly be writing to him and to the HT thanking them formally for what has been achieved for the kids in my son's year.
personally i think you deserve a pat on the back.
These things do take time unfortunately and perhaps a letter offering reassurance that your concerns would be considered might have been more appropiate than one which you felt was offensive. In my experience some members of GB's can be quite pompus and precious, and do not take kindly to being challenged. But this is exactly what needs to happen in (some but thankfully not all) schools. I don't think you have dragged a school through the mud - I think you have safeguarded your child's educational future. No bad thing for a governor to do either.
I think you now rise above it all and write your thank you letters.
Thank you, grrmummy, for your response. Much appreciated.
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