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PARENT TO TEACHER COMMUNICATION


1. INTRODUCTION
This document examines how the communications from parents/guardians to individual teachers can best be managed, with two main objectives:

a. To maintain open and effective communications between the two.
b. To protect the teacher from abuse and/or other unwarranted behaviour.

Matters raised by parents/guardians may vary in importance from very minor to very serious, and procedures need to reflect this range.

Note: Communications from Teachers/School to Parents/Guardians is a separate matter, with its own procedures.


2.   COMMUNICATIONS FROM PEOPLE OTHER THAN PARENTS OR GUARDIANS
A teacher must exercise caution in deciding whether or not to engage with any individual who wishes to communicate with the teacher or school.
Basic guidelines to follow are:

a. Limit dealings to parents or guardians who are registered with the school.
b. Do not assume that any other person is speaking with the authority or approval of a parent or guardian.
c. Do not feel the need to respond in any way. Tell the person that you are making a note of what they are saying, and that if necessary you will arrange a meeting at a later time, with the appropriate person from the school.



3.   APPROPRIATE CONTEXT AND TONE
The teacher is entitled to have discussions held in an appropriate location and in an appropriate manner and tone.
Basic guidelines to follow are:

a. Discussions should not be held within earshot of other parents/people. The teacher should ask the person involved to move to a quiet and appropriate area

b. If the parent appears upset/distressed it may be advisable to ask them if they would like to come inside or come back at a later time.

c. If the parent appears angry or aggressive the teacher should not engage with them. The teacher has some options in this situation:
      i. Look for another teacher, to act as a witness.
      ii. Ask the person to arrange a meeting at the school at a later time, through the office.
      iii. Walk away. If the person’s unsuitable manner persists the teacher should not feel under an obligation to      
           soothe the situation.

d. Remember that a danger in one-to-one communications is that there can be a dispute over what was actually said. If the teacher has any concerns about the discussion, they should stop the discussion until, at a minimum, a witness is available.

e. If two or more people have approached the teacher, and there is any aggression or inappropriate behaviour from any of the people, the options in c. above apply.


4. MATTERS THAT MAY ARISE IN COMMUNICATIONS
Matters that may be communicated from Parents/Guardians to teachers may be categorised as follows:

Minor issues, not requiring an answer from the teacher or the school.

This can include such matters as:
Informing the teacher about time off for the pupil, including medical or dental appointments, family events, etc.
Informing the teacher about any new factor in the student’s life, including medication, medical or other condition, family illness, etc. [The teacher may consider that any on-going medical condition or medication is such that it should not be treated as a Minor issue, and thus should pass on the information to the Principal, for further consideration.]
Informing the teacher of any other matter or relevance.



Notes:

a.     Each teacher should maintain a desk diary, and record all such   
      communications, however trivial they may appear.
b.     The teacher should consider whether an acknowledgement note to the     
      parent is needed, as a record of the communication.
c.     The teacher should ensure that he/she or the school is not taking on any   
      responsibility that should not be taken on.
d.     If a matter that appeared to be a Minor Issue becomes something more,
      where a response from the school may be needed, the teacher should ask
      that a meeting be arranged for later, and stop the discussion at that time.



A complaint about the teacher who has been approached

The response to a complaint of this nature will depend on whether it is a minor issue or a major one. If it is of the latter type then it would be better for the teacher in question to refer to person to the school’s complaint procedure.
If it appears to be a minor issue the teacher can discuss it with the complainant, provided the discussion continues in the appropriate tone. The teacher should make a short note in her/his diary, including whether or not agreement was reached.
It may also be advisable to mention the matter to the Principal.



A complaint about another pupil/pupils.

Again, the response to a complaint of this nature will depend on whether it is a minor issue or a major one. If it is of the latter type then it would be better for the teacher in question to refer to person to the school’s complaint procedure.
If it appears to be a minor issue the teacher can discuss it with the complainant, provided the discussion continues in the appropriate tone.
The teacher should tell the complainant that the school reserves the right to mention any such complaint to the parent or guardian of the pupil about whom the complaint is made.
The teacher should make a short note in her/his diary, including whether or not agreement was reached. It may also be advisable to mention the matter to the Principal.




A complaint about another teacher or staff member.

Any such complaint should only be heard by the Principal or by a teacher who is senior to the teacher who is the subject of the complaint.
If a teacher is approached with a complaint about another teacher other than in these circumstances they should politely refuse to take the complaint, and refer the complainant to the school’s complaint procedure.

Where the Principal or a senior person is approached with such a complaint, the response will depend on whether it is a minor issue or a major one.
If it appears to be a serious/major issue then the complainant should be referred to the school’s complaint procedure, and asked to document their complaint.

If it appears to be a minor issue then it can be discussed with the complainant, provided the discussion continues in the appropriate tone. The person hearing the complaint should make a short note in her/his diary, including whether or not agreement was reached.



A complaint about a pupil having been the victim of physical or sexual assault.

Such complaint should be referred straight to the Principal.



5.     ASSERTIVENESS
There is a clear difference between assertiveness and aggression. A teacher is entitled to be assertive with a parent or guardian.
This assertiveness can include:

Being firm in tone and manner.
Refusing to be drawn into inappropriate discussions.
Not tolerating any aggressive or unpleasant approach from a person.
Refusing to give an immediate answer or opinion on any matter.
Referring a person to the school’s procedures.
Being prepared to state: “I am not going to continue this discussion with you” and walking away from the person.





SCHOOL COMPLAINT PROCEDURE
This procedure is designed to allow a parent or guardian to raise a complaint with the school. There are two ways in which a parent or guardian may lodge a complaint:

Using the Informal Procedure
This procedure may be used where the complainant considers that the issue is minor in nature, and should be capable of being corrected in an informal manner.
To use this procedure, the complainant should tick the Informal Procedure box on this form, enter details of the complaint, and give the form to either a teacher or in the school office.
The school will arrange for the matter to be considered, and then a meeting held with the complainant, to seek agreement on the resolution of the issue. Where such agreement is not reached the complainant may then refer the matter under the Formal Procedure.

Using the Formal Procedure
If the complainant wishes to raise a complaint under the Formal procedure, they should tick the Formal procedure box below, enter details of the complaint, and give the form in to the school office.
The school will then arrange for an appropriate investigation to take place, and the complainant may be asked to provide a more detailed statement of their complaint.
Any investigation would take into account the need for sensitivity and confidentiality.
After any investigation the school will arrange to meet with the complainant and present the results to them.


COMPLAINT FORM

I WISH TO MAKE A COMPLAINT UNDER
THE INFORMAL PROCEDURE     THE FORMAL PROCEDURE       


SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________


Signed:  _____________________________     Date: _____________________

Parent / Guardian of: _____________________________________

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

 
 
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