“I’d like a hard copy of the Complaints Policy please.”
“I’m here to request a hard copy of the school’s ‘Complaints Policy and Procedures’ since I can no longer access the information on your website.”
“Those documents are all in the Head’s office and she’s away in a meeting. It’s locked in her absence and I don’t have a set of keys.”
“Ok, then I’d like you to give me a signed note stating that fact – that I requested that document today but you were unable to provide me with a copy. You don’t even have to sign the note personally. A school stamp will do.”
“Everyone’s busy. No one has time to write you a letter.”
“That’s fine. A handwritten note will do. I have paper and a pen with me. I’ll sit here and write it myself and all you have to do is put a stamp on it when I’ve finished. It’ll take less than a minute of anyone’s time.”
“No. I just told you everyone’s busy. I’m teaching and so is everyone else.”
“I can see one of the Teaching Assistants guillotining paper in the staff room. She’s not teaching. She has a minute to spare to stamp a piece of paper.”
“May I ask you the real reason why you won’t stamp such a note?”
“I’m just not prepared to authorise that.”
“Please give this to the Chair of Governors, Miss Deputy Head:”
Dear Chair of Governors,
As you may be aware, the school Clerk called me this morning to follow up on the letter you sent to me and my husband via the Deputy Head yesterday. The secretary seemed to be under the impression that I had requested a meeting with you when it was in fact you who had requested a meeting with us.
With respect to that meeting, I would first like you to clarify exactly what you mean by “informal meeting.”
I was under the impression that I was having an “informal meeting” with my son’s Class Teacher, Miss A, on Tuesday; yet a second teacher from another class, Miss B, and the deputy head, Miss C, entered the staff room without even speaking to me and sat across from me with notepads and pens to take minutes of the meeting. The atmosphere towards me was one of hostility and in response to the obvious shift in the dynamics of power in the room I asked,
“As everyone else seems to be joining in, you won’t mind if I record this?”
Miss A and Miss B both shook their heads in a manner which I took to mean ‘No’ – they didn’t mind. I put a dictaphone on the desk in full view of all three teachers and pressed ‘Record.’ The Deputy Head immediately left the room.
I want to make it very clear that when Miss A and I began speaking, before Miss B and Miss C joined us, the dictaphone was switched off and in my bag, and I did not record (or ever intend to record) Miss A without her knowledge or consent. I had brought the dictaphone along on the assumption that the Head Teacher herself would intrude upon the meeting to take minutes, as she previously has done, and I had already made it clear to you in writing that I would no longer meet with the Head without either representation or a recording device until I had received a full written reply from you with regards to my letter of complaint against her.
Miss C returned to the room and then left again several times during that brief meeting, in which my son’s Special Educational Needs (the original agenda for that meeting) were never discussed. She repeatedly left the room to receive instruction from either yourself or her Mother-in-law, the Head Teacher, or both of you, as to what she should do next. It did not escape my attention that the high window at the top of the wall between the staff room and the Clerk’s office was open, thereby affording anyone in that adjoining room the opportunity to listen-in on our meeting and, perhaps, take notes of their own.
It concerns me greatly that you were party to this whole charade and that I perhaps would not have even been made aware of your presence on the premises were it not for the fact that ‘someone’ behind the wall, whom I could not see, objected to the meeting being recorded, and relayed that information to me via Miss C.
That is absolutely not my definition of an “informal meeting.”
I went on-line today, to view the Complaints Policy in the ‘Policies Library’ on the school website in order to check whether or not an informal meeting is in fact part of the documented procedure for formal complaints of Disability Discrimination, only to discover the following message:
The charging policy, complaints policy and School Prospectus are currently under review and/or being updated. They will be available to view again soon.
I know that this information was available on-line just this past weekend because I referenced several relevant parts of it in my original letter of complaint to you. I understand from your short response to that letter that this review is,
“…in line with recent Government recommendations.”
I wonder if you could tell me where I might find a copy of those recommendations. I will be very interested to see which sections are ‘updated’.
As I am fully entitled to view the Complaints Policy, which is no longer available on-line, I am requesting, in person at the school office today, a hard copy of that policy, pre updates and amendments (as it was on the date that I submitted my letter of complaint).
In your initial letter of response you said that you wanted to meet to “clarify [our] complaint.” I wrote you a very thorough 17-page typewritten letter setting out in detail the specific nature of our complaint. Therefore it is unclear to me at this point exactly which bit of the complaint you would like me to clarify.
I would like to see the Complaints Policy & Procedures document before agreeing to any kind of meeting. I am sure you understand why.
I am happy to correspond with you in writing – on all points – in the interim.
It was explained to me at the “informal meeting” with Miss A that Miss B and Miss C were there to learn about my son’s needs because Special Eductational Needs are a whole staff issue. I explained in turn that I had no objection to every member of staff attending that meeting so long as no one objected to me recording that meeting for the evidential protection of all parties. As that condition of continuance was not agreeable to all, may I instead direct all members of staff to the official Paediatric Reports, Clinical Psychology Report, Educational Psychology Reports, Speech and Language Therapy Targets and Autism Outreach Documents contained within my son’s Educational Record in school which describe his diagnosis and difficulties in substantive detail. May I also direct all members of staff to the Local Authority document A child or young person with autism in my setting, which I’m told the school have a copy of, for practical and useful information regarding more generic autism interventions. I have twice now tried to use this document as a basis for discussion about my son with Miss A and have twice been prevented from doing so. I also have a copy of The County File for Autism Friendly Settings if the school would like to photocopy it.
The document was ready for me to collect the next working day. And with it – a bill for the privilege of receiving it! I didn’t pay it. Obviously. The ‘Investigation’ won’t take place until September now because of the Summer holidays, by which time we’ll be home-schooling because the Statement of Special Educational Needs still won’t be finalised which means he won’t yet be legally protected or eligible for the educational placement that we’re fighting for.
The prospect of two separate appeals to First-Tier SEND Tribunal in a single school term is – I’ll be honest – somewhat daunting. Emotionally, psychologically, financially… especially if I try to take in the whole picture at once.
At those times (usually in the middle of the night) when it all starts to feel a bit too much and I doubt my own endurance to fight the dirty, underhand tricks which are embedded in an inherently flawed system, I think of two things which have been said to me and I repeat them to myself like mantras:
Dr Wenn Lawson: “School doesn’t last forever.”
Educational Psychologist: “Local Authorities are terrified of parents like you.”
Good. They should be.