Coat and Hat Hooks

I overheard a conversation at the Office hatch a couple of weeks ago, and on reflection later I was embarrassed that a parent had felt it necessary to come and talk to school about the issue that was troubling them and their child.

Their son, they said, could not hang his coat in the cloakroom because his allocated hook was broken, had been broken for some time and, despite mentioning it, there was no sign that it would be replaced.

At first I was baffled that someone would raise what appeared to be a relatively insignificant matter in such a way - going to the trouble to come in to school to make representations. Then I got defensive and went through all my own complaints on the subject - how do hooks get broken? Why do bags get hung on what are 'coat and hat hooks'? why do bags have to be so big? can children not stand them up or put them under the bench as directed? And finally I got to the place where I accepted that the child was frustrated as much as the parent. Their offer to come in themselves with drill and screwdriver to do the job should be going too far, but I did get the point: for this child this was what mattered.

We do have our defenses, of course. It is children's actions that bend and break hooks. We replace 100 plus each year. The cloakrooms, all four of them, in the main building have been reconfigured and the number of hooks has been increased in each. Each hook has two parts - one for coat, and one for hat (hence their real title as 'coat and hat hook'). We only have so much caretaker time and only so much cash to either buy resources or to buy services. There are other, more pressing, priorities. Mobile classrooms are supposed to be temporary. Mobiles are not new, nor terribly solid, and fixing anything can be a challenge.

But once we accept that this is what matters to that child then we have to get on with the work.

So a new programme has started. The old, contiboard, planks and hooks have been removed, to be replaced by solid timber as in the main building. New double hooks (for coat and hat) have been fixed - some in technicolour - meaning there is a total fresh start.

We cannot make the space bigger (as cost prevents us extending what is, after all, supposed to be temporary) or because we need space in classrooms rather more than we need it in cloakrooms, so they will remain squashed. What I hope is that that pupil recognises that raising his issue incessantly until answered got things done. I hope his new hook is sound and does not get damaged. I also hope that each child recognises work done and uses the facility correctly. I may have mentioned this; they are coat and hat hooks, not coat, bag and instrument hooks - they are not designed for that bulk or that weight.

New hooks in a row (and already some bent out of original shape).

I was going to paste in a photo of a line of bent hooks - but here is the new set instead. (Clearly not a posed picture as you can tell from the drawstring PE bags in the shot!)

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