From the moment I stepped foot into school on Friday we seemed to be dealing with upset parents.
As I walked in to the building at 7.40 there was already a parent waiting for me. I dumped my bags and car keys on my desk, and asked her to come in. She told me that another parent and herself were worried as they had been ‘bad mouthed’ by a couple of parents in the playground on Thursday morning. She went on to tell me that this was because of something that had happened outside school. It was a story of best friends ‘falling out’, spreading rumours and ‘turning other parents against them’. The sort of thing that ordinarily you would ignore as there is very little that you can do about it. However, in the middle of this are their children. When it gets to the point where parents are telling us that they are worried about bringing their children into school because of other parents in the playground we have to do something.
I passed this on to my Pupil and Family Support Worker who contacted the parents to offer support and mediation. She came to me later in the day very frustrated as the parents had dismissed the matter as trivial and said that they had no intention of not bringing their children in. My PSFW had spent time on this that was valuable time and was understandably frustrated. It is very difficult working with parents who seem to be stuck in adolescent states of mind.
I spent most of the morning going through data with one of my assistant heads. I find this fascinating. It was also an opportunity to develop her understanding which I really enjoy. One of the delights about being a head is being able to develop and nurture the talent in your staff. The data picture was good on the whole but we have clear areas for development.
Lunchtime was fun. I spent it eating with the children and then sitting on the sofa that we have in our reception area which is in the middle of the school. This sofa is just outside the hall where the children eat and from this point I can see right down the corridor. I can also chat to the children as they come in and out of the hall from their lunch. Some of them choose to come and sit with me for a chat which is just lovely. I think at one point the conversation even turned to nits and how many times we had all had them! It also gives me the opportunity to remind children to walk safely around the school…
The end of the afternoon was really hard. One of our families had been referred to Children’s Social Care at the end of the summer term, though not by school. Dad had made an appointment to come and see me at the end of the day just before the children finish. He was very upset at the referral and really just wanted to vent at someone. One of the most challenging things that we have to manage is supporting parents who are in need but who don’t want any help and are very defensive. He was initially very aggressive.
When faced with situations like this I usually feel sick in the pit of my stomach. I am not good when people are angry. On the outside I appear calm but on the inside my pulse races and I find it hard to concentrate.
For the first few minutes I listened, checked with him that I had understood what he was saying, and made notes. I then tried as best I could to reassure him that the support being offered was just that. He was very suspicious of social workers and didn’t feel they needed any help or wanted any interference with their family. None of these feelings are unreasonable however it is clear that support is needed.
Sometimes I can’t tell people what they want to hear. Sometimes I have to let people leave my office still upset and angry. Hopefully though, not quite as upset and angry as before…