Primary School can be full of wonder and excitement. However things don’t always go to plan! Something happens in school and it can be hard to know how to handle the situation. Often we head straight for social media to vent and canvas other parents – desperate to know how to solve the problem and to help us justify how we are feeling. The suggestions from other parents range from ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s small stuff!’, to ‘Go to the Head tomorrow morning and create merry hell’ to ‘Go straight to the Governors!’. It can feel confusing to figure out who to talk to when you or your child has an issue in school. Which is the right strategy to get things sorted straight away and which strategy will cause more problems than solutions? Dealing with problems in primary school can be a minefield!
As a former Head and primary school teacher I have dealt with numerous worries and complaints over the past 10 years, and now as a parent I have had occasion to go into the school to talk to the teachers or Head several times. There are definitely occasions to complain to the Head, but it’s always better to think through the best strategy and figure out who to go to first before going straight to the top! Here are my tips in dealing with problems in primary school and who to talk to and when!
When To Approach The Teacher:
In nearly every situation, the first port of call should be to the class teacher. They are normally very willing to listen and will do as much as they can to help you out. Things such as:
- lost property
- a friendship issue
- a problem at break or lunchtimes
- problems with homework
- your child not understanding some of the school work
- your concerns about their achievement or progress
Even if the problem is with the teacher or the support staff in the classroom, it is common courtesy to approach them first. It may feel a little awkward, but more often than not the problem can be solved quickly and professionally. After all, teachers want nothing more than for your child to be successful and happy in school, and they would definitely prefer to know if there is a problem directly from you rather than from the Head. This way they can hear your concerns and hopefully set your mind at ease!
My tip here is, if you feel that this is a big issue that is causing problems at home, or has been going on for a while, make an appointment to see the teacher at the end of the day, giving them an idea about what you want to talk about. This gives them a chance to talk to anyone they need to to find out what happened. It will hopefully give you a better chance of having the issue solved in your first meeting!
When To Approach The Headteacher:
If you have already spoken to the teacher about an issue but feel that it hasn’t be solved, the next step would be to request a meeting with the Head and the teacher. There is very little point, if it is related to the classroom, to have a meeting with just the Head as they will undoubtably not know exactly what is happening in each class and certainly wouldn’t be involved in many friendship issues. In these circumstances a meeting with just the Head would require a lot longer period to solve the issue as they would then need to spend time investigating and talking with the teacher. A joint meeting will be so much more productive!
Occasionally there will be times when you might want to go straight to the Head with an issue. Normally this would be for something quite serious. My tip here is to reserve meeting with the Head for serious issues. There aren’t many places to go above the Head, so it’s always worth trying to resolve the issues with the teacher first so you can explain to the Head what has already been tried!
When To Approach The Governors:
The final port of call is a formal complaint to the Governors. If you do feel that your complaint is serious enough (normally only after you have gone through the route of speaking first with the teacher and then with the Head) the school will have a complaints policy. It is always worth reading this before you make a complaint. It will tell you how to complain to Governors and the timescale you should expect it to be replied to. Sometimes the Chair of Governors will request a meeting with you where you will be able to explain your complaint, and sometimes your complaint will go to a Governing Body Meeting where it will be discussed and then the Chair will write back to you.
My tip is that a complaint to Governors is a final port of call. There really isn’t any where else to go once they have made their recommendations. So do ensure that you have tried all other avenues first, and that it is serious enough to take further. A lost jumper or a lost lunchbox is definitely not; a serious ongoing bullying incident might certainly be.
Of course, these are just guidelines, and there may be things that come up that do require the intervention of the Head (normally if things have broken down between you and the class teacher). My top tip is, no matter how life and death it feels, take a deep breath, sleep on it. Try not to take other people’s immediate reactions on board too much. Dealing with problems in primary school can sometimes feel a little overwhelming! But often things aren’t quite as cut and dried as they at first seem.
Have you had any problems in Primary School which you have struggled to get to the bottom of?