Exit Stage Left Part Four
If you have not read the other posts in this series from the beginning, please go back to this post first::
(N.B. Before you begin to read this post, I would like to make the following clear: assessment under accommodating circumstances is a pretty common occurrence in education. Most exam boards, schools, colleges and universities have a clear procedure in place. I've never actually encountered an institution before which prefers to make it up as they go along. For many reasons, this is unwise.)
The Three Insults
Following the highly inappropriate and potentially abusive declaration of love from his ballet teacher in front of the entire class, our son is made to endure another tutorial - this time with the assistant ballet principal / timetable manager. He reports this tutorial to be especially vicious. She plays a dangerous game - she assures him that no decisions about his future have been made; but also reassures him that there is life after ballet. Just to remind you - he hasn't actually danced properly for ten weeks at this point. She also tells him about the telephone conversation, and she apologises to him for the way she has spoken to me on the phone. She says that she is sorry for shouting at me. This is bizarre behaviour by any standards. If the apology had been that sincere, she might have thought of calling me back and apologising in person rather than using a thirteen year old as a go-between. Why burden the child? No mention is made of him being sick for five weeks, and still not dancing a full ballet class.
Just for a moment, let's look at this from the perspective of our son:
He’s been sick. He has returned to school, but still not fully recovered. His official report says that no assessment is possible, but he has been given a full tutorial as if he were healthy in which he is told he is rubbish, and made to write down just how terrible his dancing is. His ballet teacher has gone into class and revealed details of an email written to me by our son, and told the child that he loves him. He then receives a second tutorial in which he is again made to feel woefully inadequate. Could they make the situation any more bewildering for a child recovering from glandular fever?
And this is just the beginning. The real damage done to the pupils at the school is about to become abundantly clear to us.
We know nothing of the comments in class or the second tutorial at this point in time. We are still struggling to understand what has happened with this assessment and tutorial: what are the protocols and procedures behind giving a sick child a full tutorial based on an assessment that either has or has not happened?
On the same afternoon as the phone call, I manage to contact the member of management whom I have been told will be able to answer my question about accommodated assessment. She can't. I am disarmed by how brazen she is about not knowing how a recovering child is assessed. However she assures me that a document exists which will answer my question. She just needs to find it. I make it clear to her that I have read all the process documents that I can find online, and there is no guidance to be found. I am told that she will investigate and send me the answer I am looking for.
I am unable to make the parent teacher conference a couple of days later. I have work commitments. But, as I have already reported, we have been ordered to go despite receiving a letter saying no assessment of our son is possible. His mum dutifully attends. She describes the encounter as ‘horrendous’. Unable to talk about our son’s dancing, the ballet teacher lectures her on the muscle groups required for ballet. He doesn't know what she does for a living, so his attempts to blind her with science result in him appearing somewhat foolish. There is no dancer in the world who is more accomplished because they can name muscle groups. He then talks about what a lovely smile our son has. (Our son hasn't told us about the ‘I love you’ incident at this stage). And he concludes the meeting by showing them pictures of his own child on his phone. Son and mother see unamused by this encounter and squirm with embarrassment at the teacher’s incompetence and inability to assess the situation or show any degree of professionalism. It would appear that in accordance with the letter we have received, no assessment of our son's ballet has been possible. The journey to the school and the meeting with the teacher has been in vain.
The following week at school, the teacher greets our son in front of the whole class with the words: ‘So, is your mother happy, now?’ - Another attempt at humiliation, and another incident of indiscretion from a man who, in my view, should not be working with children.
My attempts to find out how our son was assessed when no assessment was possible have run aground. After several days of emails pinging back and forth between me and the person who assures me that they can answer my question, if only they can find the document. Then they adopt a different approach. They decide that insulting my intelligence is probably the best strategy. The following happens:
(Punctuation is provided by the Ballet School - left unedited by me)
I'm feeling frustrated. I also fear that I am going slightly insane. The person who could not originally answer my question and tells me to speak to someone else is suddenly able to write this pitiful and patronising email. For five days they have been completely wasting my time. As they know, I've read the Reporting and Assessment Policy, and there is nothing in it to suggest why a child who cannot be formally assessed owing to illness should then be subjected to a highly critical tutorial. I'm not being taken for a fool, so I write one last email to the member of staff who was supposed to be able to answer my question - the second person I have been dealing with, not the one who shouts on the phone. I explain how dissatisfied I am with the way this simple concern has been dealt with, but that I do not wish to turn it into a formal complaint. I ask what she suggests in order to prevent the concern escalating into something more formal. I click send. I wait.
I wait and I wait. Several days pass. There is no response.
I have no option. I write a formal letter of complaint to the director of the school.
Next time: The meeting with the director, and the treatment of our son becomes even more sinister.