My 9-year-old was punched by another boy in his class on his way home from school. I spoke to his teacher but this appears to have made matters worse because now the boy jeers at him in the playground and has threatened to beat him up when he catches him on his own. I have had to make arrangements for my son to be picked up from school by a friend but I want to get the bullying stopped as it is making my son unhappy. He has started wetting the bed and often suffers tummy aches some mornings. Should I go back to the school or will this make matters worse? I’m considering moving my son to another school.
Your son has a right to feel safe at school and it is important that you try again to get them to deal with the bullying. Begin by asking for a meeting with the head or deputy head and ask in advance for a copy of the school’s anti-bullying policy. At the meeting take a list of all the incidents that have happened since you last complained. Describe the effect of the bullying on your child and how your earlier complaint seemed to make the bullying worse. If you feel there is anything in the anti-bullying policy which would provide useful support for your child, tell the school. If you or your child have any ideas of what would help tell the school. Changing classes or seats, extra playground supervision, curriculum work in the classroom on bullying and pairing your child with another supportive child can help alongside sanctions against those doing the bullying. At the end of the meeting fix up to speak to the school again by a set date so you can review progress. Let your son know what is happening and that everyone is working to help make him safe.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has made clear that no form of bullying should be tolerated in school. Their guidance "Safe to Learn: Tackling Bullying in Schools" says more about what schools should be doing.
If the school response is not enough you can make a formal complaint using the school’s complaints procedure. This will usually involve making a complaint in writing, eventually to the governing body of the school. They owe a duty of care to the children in the school so have legal responsibility for making sure their anti-bullying policy is followed and everything possible is done to prevent bullying.
For more information see our booklet Tackling Bullying.Back to top
I feel my daughter is being picked on at school. Her form teacher shouts at her a lot for small things and he has given her three detentions since the start of term just seven weeks ago. My daughter made a good start in the school last year and her other teachers gave her a good report at the end of year parents’ evening. She is a normal 12-year-old without any particular behaviour problems but her recent experience at school is beginning to make her sulky and uncooperative. How do I sort out what seems to be a personality clash with her form teacher?
Problems between pupils and individual members of staff can be difficult to resolve and formal complaints can make matters worse. A direct approach to the form teacher may be helpful. So far you have not heard his view of the problem. It may be that he has a different style from your daughter’s previous teacher or that your daughter has made a bad start in his class for some other reason. Try to take a problem solving approach when you speak. For example, rather than criticising the teacher’s behaviour describe how your daughter responds best. Most children behave better if they’re praised for good behaviour, for example. Your daughter has a right to be treated with respect, however, and you could explain to the teacher that the teacher’s approach is making her unhappy and that this is affecting her attitude to school.
If the meeting does not resolve the problem, you will need to speak to your daughter’s head of year. Solutions could include mediation with a third party helping to find a way forward, or the school may agree to a change of class for your daughter, although this is unusual.
All schools have complaints procedures so you can go on to use this, ending with a complaint to the governing body. Personal relationships are difficult to resolve through complaints, however, so you may need to focus on a particular issue such as detentions being used in a way that does not match the school’s behaviour policy . In cases where a parent feels a teacher is guilty of serious misconduct a parent may complain to the General Teaching Council. They must first try to resolve the issue through the school’s complaints procedure.
Whatever the outcome, help your daughter to cope with this situation by explaining that all of us meet people we find difficult in life and that learning to deal with this shows that we are beginning to grow up. Give her examples of how you have managed difficult people. Praise her when she manages to avoid conflict or deals with a difficult situation without becoming sulky.
For more information see: Making a Complaint
There are abusive comments written about my 14 year old sons sexual orientation on an internet message board. The message board says his name, year and school. There have been over 20 cruel comments posted and most recently a death threat. My son has lost some of his friends because of these comments and is too distraught to go to school. He has even mentioned thoughts of suicide. What can I do to help him and stop this cyber bullying?
Remind your son this is not his fault and you will be doing what you can to sort things out. If your son is too anxious to attend school take him to see your GP and ask for a sick note which you can give to school so that his absence is marked as authorised.
To have the comments removed, contact the message board moderator or website hosting company usually through the help or 'contact us' button/section on the website. Notify them of these abusive comments and ask them to remove them. This is harassment and they will usually remove such comments when notified.
Contact your sons teacher or head of year to notify them of the situation and ask them to deal with the bullying. The Department for Children, Schools and Families has published guidance about both homophobic bullying and cyberbullying. Ask for a copy of the school's own anti-bullying policy and for support in reintegrating your son back into school. Government guidance says that, "Sanctions for bullying are intended to hold pupils who bully to account for their behaviour, and ensure that they face up to the harm they have caused and to learn from it. They also provide an opportunity for the pupil to put right the harm they have caused." If the bullying is extremely serious, you may involve the police. The laws that they can use against pupils of ten and over are laws against assault or harassment (the anti-stalking laws).
If your son would prefer to move to a new school, contact the admissions authority (either the Local Authority or governors depending on the type of school) for help and advice.
How can I find out what the school has on file about my child, and how can I change it if it's wrong?
Parents have a right to see their child's school records and can write to the Chair of Governors and ask for a copy, which the school must provide within 15 school days. The school can charge a fee for copying, but charges must be limited to a maximum of £1 for the first 20 pages, plus a further £1 for every subsequent 10 pages, up to a maximum of £50. To avoid the charges, parents can inspect their child's school record at the school instead. The records must also be made available for inspection within 15 school days of receipt of the parent's written request to the governors.
The school should hold two types of record about pupils (and it is not necessary to specify which you would like). The curricular record should include details of the childs academic achievements, along with his or her other skills, abilities and his or her progress in school. The educational record is more general and will consist of any information held by the governing body or teachers at the school, other than information held by a teacher solely for the teachers own use. If, for example, the child has a statement of special educational needs or a Personal Education Plan, these will form part of the educational record.
There are some things which the school is not required to disclose, for example anything which would be likely to cause serious harm to the physical or mental health of the child or of anyone else and information which also related to another person who can be identified.
Under s7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 pupils, and parents acting on their behalf, are entitled to be given a description of the personal data which makes up the record, together with details of the purposes for keeping the information and, where known, the sources of the information, and the individuals or organisations to which the data may have been disclosed.
If you are refused access to the records or your request for a correction is refused you can refer the matter to the Information Commissioner who enforces and oversees the Act.
Special Educational Needs (SEN)
My child is struggling at school. He says he thinks he is stupid. He doesnt understand the homework set and is getting very upset. Can he get extra help?
You are right to be concerned. If you havent already done so, talk to your childs teacher. Ask for a meeting to talk about how your son is doing. Make a list of all the points you want to make. Maybe take along some of the work your son is having difficulty with. Give examples of how you have tried to help him. Get him to tell you what he is having trouble with and write it down. The school can start by setting your son different work including homework, putting him into a different group etc. This is called differentiation.
If your son needs more help that this, he may have special educational needs. This means that he has a learning difficulty that makes it harder for him to learn than other children. Schools have to make provision for these needs. They can give special educational help at different levels known as School Action or School Action Plus. At this stage the schools Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) will be involved and will collect information about your child. The special help that your child gets will be set out in an Individual Education Plan with a number of short term targets. More information can be found in the ACE booklet Getting Extra Help.
In your local area there should also be a Parent Partnership Service to support parents of children with Special Educational Needs. A Parent Partnership Officer may be able to help you take matters forward with the school.
My child has a statement of Special Educational Needs. Hes not getting the help that he should be. What can I do about this?
A Statement of Special Educational Needs is a legally binding document and your child must have the provision that is set out in part 3. It is probably best to start by taking this up with the school. Ask for a meeting with the SENCO. Ask how the school is planning to meet the provision set out in part 3 of the statement. Remind the school that your child must have this provision.
If this doesnt work, you can take matters higher to your local authority as the legal responsibility for ensuring that the provision on the statement is made lies with the them. Put a complaint in writing to the Director of Education/Childrens Services. If your local authority wont implement the provision, you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.
You may also be able to go down the legal route of applying for judicial review. If you choose to do this you will need advice from a solicitor with expertise in education law. Try Community Legal Advice or the Children's Legal Centre.
Ive had a private assessment, which identifies my daughter as being dyslexic. The school says she is fine. What can I do?
If you havent already done so, ask for a meeting with your daughters class teacher and the schools special educational needs coordinator. Ask about how she is doing with literacy in school? What National Curriculum level is she at? Is this consistent with her general level of ability? What provision does the school make for children who are struggling with reading or writing?
You should also ask for a copy of the schools special educational needs policy, which will set out how the school aims to support children with SEN. If you feel that your daughter needs considerable extra support, which is more than the school can provide from its own resources you can ask for a statutory assessment of special educational needs.
In your local area there should also be a Parent Partnership Service to support parents of children with Special Educational Needs. A Parent Partnership Officer may be able to help you take matters forward with the school. Your Local Authority should also have a disagreement resolution service for SEN.
My son has Autistic Spectrum Disorder. He has been told that he cant go on a school trip, as he is a health and safety risk.
This may be a case of Disability Discrimination. Your child may not be treated less favourably than other children for a reason connected with his disability. This would apply if the behaviour the school is worried about is a direct consequence of his Autism. You need to find out exactly why the school consider he is a risk. Have they carried out a full risk assessment of the activity? Have they looked at staffing and whether extra help could be provided? There are some cases in which less favourable treatment may be justified, but the school should not issue a blanket ban on your son going on the trip.
More information can be found in the ACE booklet Disability Discrimination.
Ive been sent a proposed statement by the LA. Some of the evidence I sent in hasnt been incorporated.
When you are sent a proposed statement it should include as appendices all the advice submitted by professionals as well as parental evidence. This includes any reports you sent in as well as your own representations. Contact your LA and ask for the appendices to be sent to you at once. You have 15 days from receiving the proposed statement in which to send in your views. Check carefully that your childs needs are fully listed in part 2 and that there is specific provision to meet them in part 3. If you are not happy and want changes made, put them in writing.
This is also the point at which you should express a preference for a school. You also have the right to ask for a meeting with someone from the Local Authority to discuss the statement. You need to ask for this within 15 days.
For more information see the ACE booklet Getting the Statement Right.
My child has severe learning difficulties and a statement of SEN. Shell soon be moving to secondary school and I would like her to go to a special school in the next LA, as I dont like the secondary special school in our borough. If she goes there, will she still get transport?
You have a right to express a preference for any maintained school irrespective of which local authority it is in. If it is suitable for your childs age and special needs your LA must name it unless it would be incompatible with the efficient education of other children in the school or with efficient use of resources.
If the school you want is at a distance from your home you should also think about how your daughter is going to get there. Even if your daughter is getting transport at the moment, this will not necessarily continue. The LA may agree to name the school in the other borough but would not obliged to provide transport if there is another nearer school that can meet your childs needs. You may want to argue that the school you want is the only one suitable. When you do that look at what your child needs rather than what you like.
Holidays in Term Time
I want to take my daughter abroad for a family wedding but this has been arranged in term time. As this is the first time I have been back to my home country for several years I really wanted to take an extended break of three weeks. My daughters school is saying that my daughter would lose her place if we take longer than two weeks. She has never taken time off for a holiday before. Can this be right?
Only your daughters head teacher can authorise (agree) any absence during term time, although they are expected to use their discretion regarding this sparingly. Government guidance says that 10 school days is normally the maximum allowed for holidays in term time. The head teacher can allow longer absences in exceptional circumstances and it may be worth writing or arranging a meeting to fully explain your reasons for wanting longer. The head should look at your case on its merits and should not operate a blanket ban. You could perhaps offer to take work with you for your daughter to complete while on holiday so she keeps up with the rest of her class.
If you take the time without permission, the local education authority could take action against you. You could be taken to court and, because you condoned your daughters absence, could face imprisonment, although this is unlikely in the case of a first offence. It is more likely that the school or local education authority would issue a penalty notice which means you have to pay a fine or face prosecution. It is worth noting that they can issue penalty notices to both parents for each child.
Your child should not lose her school place, however. She could be lawfully removed from the school register only if she was absent continuously for four weeks or more, and in addition the school and local education authority could not find out what had happened to her.Back to top