When tempers fray

Sadly this week I have had to consider replacing some signs on our school front doors.

Long ago I successfully argued that the red notices informing visitors that ‘Smoking Is Not Allowed On These Premises’ were superfluous as everyone knew the fact and no one ever tried to smoke on the school site. I made the point that we did not have a separate poster for all the other things that were not allowed – the trading of sheep, the grazing of cattle, laundering money, stealing school’s resources, selling cigarettes to children, and so on. I also won the day over removing the sign provided by the City Council that said aggression or verbal abuse shown to staff would not be tolerated.

After a week that contained some overly emotionally-charged exchanges I am going to examine my previous stance and consult on what we should overtly declare and expect. It seems it may be necessary to spell out once more what will not be either accepted or tolerated. I completely understand the emotional capital involved in being a parent, but I also understand the vulnerability of the teacher to abuse.

Many Health Centres and Practices have policies on display, and many are available to read online. More than one or two schools have similar ‘zero tolerance’ policies published online. Sheffield City Council has revised what was a customer care statement into the current ‘Customer Commitments’ statement. Now this is a well-worded and balanced document because it spells out what the customer can expect from Council staff while also saying what Council staff need from customers. Communication in meetings, on the telephone and via electronic media is a two-way thing after all.

I will take a measured approach to introducing a code or statement of expectations. I will start by discussing reasonable expectations for professional school staff and school functions before discussing what school expects from parents and other visitors. It is absolutely fair that all staff understand and agree the reasonable expectations that can be placed on our behaviour before we try setting expectations for others.

This discussion will start with Sheffield City Council’s ‘Customer Commitments’ because I think they can be applied to every sector of the Council’s work. School staff will look at both sets of expectations and I hopefully accept the expectations of them as much as they will back expectations of school visitors.

I want to be sure that we are neither hypocritical nor elevating our needs above any other groups – why should my staff be any more protected than the children we work with, for example? And if we state that all staff should be free from aggressive behaviour directed towards them shouldn’t we ensure that the same is true for all children?

Finally, I turned to the RRS Charter and looked for appropriate Articles that say what rights the children should enjoy. Article 12: Every child has the right to have a say in all matters affecting them, and to have their views taken seriously. Article 19: Governments must do all they can to ensure that children are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and bad treatment. In the original form (adult-speak) these two Articles ensure that a parent can give us their views on their child’s education but also that they do so in a way that does not abuse or mistreat the employee.

Sheffield City Council Customer Commitments

NAHT Zero Tolerance Poster

Blackheath Primary School Zero Tolerance Policy

Zero Tolerance Signs (Amazon)

UN Children’s Rights poster

If that all sounds rather negative I will just mention that SCC’s Customer Commitments give eleven promises to customers while having only three requirements of customers in return. We will, likewise, promise more things than we expect in return.

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