Complaining about a teacher – would you?

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  • Complaining about a teacher – would you?
  • Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    My daughter attends a large secondary school, doing the first year of her GCSE’s.

    She’s actually quite a keen learner and despite being ‘one of the quiet ones’ isn’t afraid to speak up when she wants to.

    Last term she told me that she’d been to see the head of the History department and asked to change history teacher (there’s 2 or 3 classes running due to numbers). She’d got a list of issues, including dates etc. and felt she’d presented her case clearly The problems relate mainly to

    1) irregular attendance by the teacher – they have a supply (non-history) teacher at least 1 lesson in 3
    2) ‘not in the room’ when the teacher is there – he’ll set work but do his own stuff rather than teach.
    3) doesn’t set or mark homework.

    The head of dept said he wouldn’t move her class, that the teacher in question had been on courses but they were coming to an end and that he’d talk to the teacher about the other issues.

    3 months later and nothing’s changed.

    My daughter’s now just resigned to the situation and doesn’t want a fuss made by her parents as she thinks it won’t make any difference other than draw attention to her further.

    What would singletrackworld do?

    fisha
    Member

    Is her work suffering though ?. It is demonstrable that compared to the other classes, the deficiencies of the teacher are resulting in that class falling behind in terms of where they are in the term curriculum etc etc

    If so, then I would say its probably worth pursuing.
    If not, then your case is harder to prove so to speak.

    I absolutely agree with the notion of wanting teachers to teach. Engagement from a teacher = engagement from pupils.

    Edukator
    Member

    Get a GCSE revision book and the complete set of “Horrible Histories”.

    Premier Icon matt_outandabout
    Subscriber

    1) teachers are ill. This is life.
    2) not acceptable – engaged teacher = engaged class. To balance this, do remember a lot of learning is now in small groups, individual led, rather than teacher chalk n talk. *That* video of Finland’s education system starts with the teacher meeting the film maker – and five minutes in lets slip the class (as usual) have made a start on the work for the day back in the room…
    3) I have no problem with this. Here in Scotland we have one authority banned homework at Primary, five more considering it, and a move to introduce homework at Nat5 (GCSE) level for many is on the cards… 😉

    SammyC
    Member

    I would be in there immediately asking to speak to either head of year or head of department.

    I would be expecting them to explain what is going on, why this is acceptable, and what they are going to improve the situation (if there is a problem).

    The problem with considering whether her work is suffering is that you have nothing to compare it to, i.e. to other classes is irrelevant as that is looking at other kids rather than your own. The only way you could know is if you could could somehow know how she would do in those other classes which you couldn’t.

    Personally I fully subscribe to the idea that if you want to get the best out of your school for your child then you have to engage with the school and the teachers. That doesn’t mean complaining about everything but seeing what you can do to help your child at home, supporting their teachers from your side (i.e. making sure they do their homework for example), but also supporting your child in their interactions with school and teachers.

    If you’ve had a level headed chat with your daughter and she doesn’t want to take it any further then don’t take it any further, by all means try and fill in the blanks with some home study, field trips etc but your daughter is in the best position to say whether your involvement will make her overall school experience better or worse.

    wrightyson
    Member

    I will stand and defend good teachers all day long and will not have teacher bashing conversations with anyone. However a science teacher in my daughters school clearly has personal issues with some of the class and it is affecting others. I’m in contact with the head of year over the issue and I believe this was the best course of action. He is very proactive and I feel no need to escalate it further to headmaster level. If you’re not getting the answers you so wish for then I believe the top man must be your next point of contact.

    philjunior
    Member

    It sounds like it would at least be worth discussing your concerns with the head of department etc. Obviously minimising fuss and embarrassment for daughter is a tricky line to tread.

    Good luck!

    geetee1972
    Member

    A 33% sickness record is not acceptable and should be dealt with accordingly. Learning should not suffer as a result of a teacher being off sick one lesson in three (if indeed sickensss is the reason they have a supply teacher this frequently).

    You should follow this up. It’s clearly a problem and ignoring it is the wrong thing to do. No where else in any other organisation would that be just left as ‘one of those things’. Imagine if the problem related to say an airline pilot or surgeon. Would you be so laissez faire then?

    These days it’s a bloody nightmare dealing with crap performance.

    Good luck

    headfirst
    Member

    hmmm…as a teacher myself the OP’s situation smells very much like a member of senior management who has a minimal teaching load, but even so, teaching ‘gets in the way’ of their ‘busy’ schedules, and they miss lessons due to meetings, conferences, etc. Some such managers have even been rumoured to deliberately plan meetings to avoid teaching lessons…but I would never cast such aspertions…

    What would singletrackworld do?

    Email the department head. Ask for her to be switched class. If they are reluctant to do this speak to the head of year. If nothing happens make an appointment to see the head…in the meantime make sure you know which spec they are doing and buy the revision guide aand support your daughter.

    gee
    Member

    If this was in my school, I would expect that you need to see evidence that the school is taking steps to deal robustly with these concerns – have they been investigated? What was the outcome (they aren’t always 100% true…)? Are steps being taken to support the teacher? Write down a log of concerns with dates so it isn’t hearsay. Evidence is very helpful for both sides.

    In the first instance, write to the HoD and then go up from there. Don’t write directly to the Head as you will be batted back (rightly) to the HoD so it can be escalated later if needed.

    In reality given issues with teacher recruitment you best hope is to have her moved set. A teacher maybe “supported” out the door but then you might just have permanent cover till september.

    philjunior
    Member

    geetee1972 – Member
    A 33% sickness record is not acceptable and should be dealt with accordingly.

    So you’d sack someone undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from some other long term condition requiring regular treatment or time off for other reasons? Good luck with the employment tribunal!

    In any case, it has already been mentioned in the OP that the absence is not due to sickness. I suspect that the difficulty recruiting teachers may play a part in the situation though – realistically a shit teacher is better than no teacher and losing this one may mean others in the department are overworked and begin to underperform or jump ship.

    Who needs history anyway?

    geetee1972
    Member

    So you’d sack someone undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from some other long term condition requiring regular treatment or time off for other reasons?

    No not necessarily but it wouldn’t be illegal either. A poor sickness record is a valid reason to implement a disciplinary procedure and can result in your dismissal but it clearly needs to be handled appropriately.

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    I’m genuinely torn.

    She’s performing ok against her target grade for History according to the schools measurement system.

    She’s one of those kids that will tend to ‘do ok’ in spite of a crap teacher because she just gets her head down and reads the books.

    I think in the end this will be the deciding factor:

    It was her that raised the issue with the school and then told me what she’d done. If she hadn’t told me we’d never have known. She doesn’t want to escalate it and I’d rather she felt positively about attending school and all her classes rather than feeling she’s being watched by staff – 15 is not an age where I want to make her uncomfortable about going to school. I also don’t want her to not tell us stuff in future in case we don’t respect her wishes.

    So, thanks for the advice – I know it looks like I’m ignoring it but it’s helped me think through the options and possible outcomes – but I think we’ll monitor progress and not raise with school for now.

    Flaperon
    Member

    Hmm… I remember loathing one of my science teachers both at GCSE and A-Level, considering him both patronising and condescending with an obsession on the petty and irrelevant.

    It’s only now, nearly 15 years on that I appreciate what he was trying to teach and the importance of it, and in fact just how much it benefited me at university and my first job.

    I couldn’t have made that judgement at 15. I always kind of hope I’ll bump into him when I’m visiting my parents so I can tell him this.

    Xylene
    Member

    If I receive a complaint about one of my teachers from a oarent, the first thing I always do, unless it was a serious allegation, is direct them to speak to the teacher directly, before it comes back to me.

    Most of the time it gets sorted out at this level, when it hasn’t it gives me more evidence to use when dealing with it.

    deadkenny
    Member

    geetee1972 – Member 
    No not necessarily but it wouldn’t be illegal either. A poor sickness record is a valid reason to implement a disciplinary procedure and can result in your dismissal but it clearly needs to be handled appropriately.

    “let go” because long term sickness is preventing them doing their work, perhaps. If I was given disciplinary action though for being sick I’d have them up in front of the court of human rights. Should never involve discipline for being sick.

    tjagain
    Member

    deadkenny is right. People often confuse managing attendance at work and disciplinary.

    Dismissing someone under disciplinary for being off sick is unfair dismissal every time

    Xylene
    Member

    There are teachers who go to work just enough to stay on full pay, returning just for a day or so before going back off on the sick.

    Probably in other industries too, but.my experience has been in education.

    Costs school a fortune

    Premier Icon ampthill
    Subscriber

    I think you sound very lucky with your daughter

    Ask for her to be switched class

    We tend to say no to this as it is unfair to move the one student that asked, what about the rest

    Part of the problem here is the way that schools manage absence.

    If there are 3 parallel sets then why can’t the teachers rotate some of the time. Even if once every 2 weeks (or every week) they swapped in an active teacher to lead say a summary it would help. Or the HOD maybe let them come in after school every so often so they could summarise what they should know

    Spin
    Member

    A poor sickness record is a valid reason to implement a disciplinary procedure and can result in your dismissal

    Not for actual sickness. For taking the piss and playing the system yes, provided it can be proved but implementing disciplinary procedures for actual sickness is a no-no.

    somouk
    Member

    Just remember there are two sides to every story so don’t go in guns blazing for someone to hit you with some unknowns.

    It may be worth having a phone call with someone at the school, I would suggest the senior management who look after history is probably a fair level to get a sensible grasp of how bad the situation may be.

    The head of history/humanities will no doubt want to protect their department so may not engage with you.

    With regards to the teachers and being sick, most places now use the Bradford Factor so they can get rid of teachers who are not capable of completing their job due to illness, be that real illness or fake. It cripples schools teachers on long term sick, not just because students and grades suffer but temp staff can be expensive.

    Spin
    Member

    most places now use the Bradford Factor so they can get rid of teachers who are not capable of completing their job due to illness, be that real illness or fake.

    Yet another thing to add to the list of ‘reasons I’m glad I don’t teach in England’.

    Premier Icon theotherjonv
    Subscriber

    It was her that raised the issue with the school and then told me what she’d done. If she hadn’t told me we’d never have known. She doesn’t want to escalate it and I’d rather she felt positively about attending school and all her classes rather than feeling she’s being watched by staff – 15 is not an age where I want to make her uncomfortable about going to school.

    Seems to me your daughter is of sufficient maturity to be taking her own decisions in this regard, and I applaud the maturity that enabled her to raise it with the school in the first place. That in itself is as valuable as the academic learning she’s doing. If it is affecting her ability to learn and hence grades, then support her yourself with appropriate study guides, rather than demand she be moved if she doesn’t want to be.

    My eldest is a bit younger (coming up 13) and also has an issue with one particular teacher, over a different but similar matter – in her case he has a ‘violent’ temper and if the class misbehaves then it descends into yelling and collective punishment; seems he is a new but mature teacher (second career) and lacks the class management skills. I’ve told her that if she wants I’ll speak directly to him, or to the HoD, about the discomfort he is causing to the majority of the class with his style, but also told her she’d gain far more by going to him or her form tutor or HoY and dealing with it herself.

    Some other thoughts, in no particular order:

    By all means raise it discretely with the school if you feel the need to, but in general i expect schools to side with their staff, at least externally, even if they then deal with it internally (the Alex Ferguson method – defend them absolutely to the press / full hairdryer on monday morning at Carrington). You can’t have pupils or parents dictating who the school does and doesn’t employ / what classes they teach.

    Sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes in fact, it’s just shit. Learning to accept that, and accept what’s worth railing against and what’s worth sucking up is more valuable in later life than GCSE History can ever be*

    Teachers are humans too. Put yourself in his shoes, maybe he has issues he’s needing to work through too, before condemning him too deeply (that’s mainly one aimed at my daughter’s situation, as a new teacher and learning skills on the job they also need some slack)

    (* probably – unless you want a job in a Museum I suppose)

    Is education important to you and your daughter?

    No: sit back and do now’t
    Yes: Don’t accept what is happening.

    2 and 3 are unacceptable. 1 may be mitigating who knows, but the school should deal with that. Sounds like they are doing something but have yet to resolve the issue

    geetee1972
    Member

    People may be arguing over semantics – a ‘disciplinary procedure’ is simple another way of saying there needs to be a fair and due process that tries to resolve the situation, including making suitable adjustments to acommodate the person’s condition.

    But if this process is followed and there are no reasonable adjustments that can be made, it’s perfectly legal for that ‘disciplinary process’ to result in the employee’s dismissal.

    It’s all outlined here on the government’s own website:

    Dismissing Staff Due to Illness

    We tend to say no to this as it is unfair to move the one student that asked, what about the rest

    I agree but its the best hope of a good resolution so is worth a try.

    surfer
    Member

    Dismissing someone under disciplinary for being off sick is unfair dismissal every time

    Meanwhile in the real world you will find that people can be dismissed if they are unable to do their job.

    Edit: as per Geetee1972

    tjagain
    Member

    Both wrong. sickness is not and can never be disciplinary. It would automatically be unfair dismissal if you used disciplinary to fire someone who was unwell.

    there may be parallels with the disciplinary procedure but it the “managing absence” or ” promoting attendance” procedure or whatever they call it.

    Its not semantics – the difference is important altho many folk (including managers and HR) don’t understand this.

    Premier Icon ampthill
    Subscriber

    Both wrong. sickness is not and can never be disciplinary. It would automatically be unfair dismissal if you used disciplinary to fire someone who was unwell.

    I’m sorry but that is untrue

    https://www.gov.uk/dismissal/reasons-you-can-be-dismissed

    “You can be dismissed if you have a persistent or long-term illness that makes it impossible for you to do your job.”

    Premier Icon totalshell
    Subscriber

    i am fraid that in the real world dismissal and discipline is often used as a tool to manage ‘sick’ employees.. in one company i worked in i personally oversaw the dismissal of 22 employees in one year who were discplined for been absent. the reason for the absence is not an issue absence from work and failing to fulfil the contract of employment was the exact wording used.
    like most large companies this business had an absence policy unusually they enforced it with very little scope for avoiding the process.

    i was surprised to find that almost everyone even those dismissed appreciated that everyone knew what the process was and why it was in place and that it was applied equally to all. it weeded out the malingerers who repeatedly let down colleagues and those who threw a sicky every payday

    for the genuinely sick it hilighted that they were ill and needed more time off and better care.

    tjagain
    Member

    Doh – of course you can be dismissed if you are incapable of doing the job because of illness. The point I am making is that this is not done under a disciplinary procedure. If it was it would be unfair dismissal.

    sickness is not a disciplinary issue. Ever.

    TimothyD
    Member

    Whatever the right principle might be (I agree that this kind of teaching is pretty poor), if you can find out what it is she’ll be covering, and ‘home tutor’ her yourself a bit in the short term to stop her falling behind, and maybe continue that for longer so she doesn’t have her grade affected, that mightn’t be a bad thing to do?

    It could be a lesson for her in not being thwarted by life too, perhaps? I’ve had to think of ways to compensate for the rubbishness of tutors and organisations in the past few years, it’s not a bad thing to learn about doing.

    I appreciate this isn’t ideal…

    project
    Member

    Person doesnt recieve the service they expected from a supplier,so either blacklists that supplier or writes in a letter of complaint to get remedial action.

    you decide.

    geetee1972
    Member

    Doh – of course you can be dismissed if you are incapable of doing the job because of illness. The point I am making is that this is not done under a disciplinary procedure. If it was it would be unfair dismissal.

    I think you/we are splitting hairs. If you end up taking lots of time off sick it can quite easily and perfectly legally result in you losing your job. The words used in the run up aren’t going to make much difference when you get handed your P45.

    tjagain
    Member

    I am not. Disciplinary is not for health issues. Its a very different process requiring different things from that which is required for managing health issues

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