Are things turning downhill everywhere?

Yesterday afternoon we were talking to a friend about a forthcoming three day long school trip to Paris. His wife and he are considering withdrawing their daughter. She is our daughter's best friend. Other parents in our social scene are thinking along similar lines. This has been mounting up since the school came up with the idea of the trip for the top three classes but without adequate planning and certainly never sufficient funding. One scheme to raise money after another has been dreamed up but almost each one has failed to meet its ambitious ends. Before these schemes got going parents who had been promised a one off amount of money and end of story have been pressed for extra. On top of that, there is still a shortfall of adults to accompany the children. The catch there is that whoever volunteers has to pay. That is to say, will have to pay adult rate for the hostel and entrance to places they will visit. When people already have jobs and find it hard to get extra time off, the imposition of that alone is too much. Now they have been finding repeated requests that not only demand time but also 'donations' out of loyalty are getting out of hand.

Now people are suddenly awake and thinking. Several have been to the director who has no answer. The Boston Marathon bombings have made people think about security. There are some estranged parents who have threatened to abduct children, just a couple but during messy separations/divorces. The director um-ed and ah-ed but had no answer. Now the parents include the disapproving mother of two children who should be going who is a teacher at the local college but whose ex- is a teacher who will be going.

For several of us it is quite clear. We will wait until closer to the time, discuss fully with the children and then probably withdraw them. Thus far it looks like the children want out, they have been asked about choices and informed about changes less and less since the plan was hatched. One other parent finds that the school is in 'cloud cuckoo land' to begin with, plus we have an objection in that our older daughter is coming to the end of primary and whilst she is in the CLIS, she is also age hierarchically part of the top class, indeed should be a pupil of the director. None of the CLIS children have been included in the trip. This is excluding them across the board for having some educational problems rather than anything actually seriously physically or psychologically justifying their exclusion. The school has never offered any reason, apology or anything whatsoever that justifies or makes exception. That has now been discussed by parents who are 'rebelling' and also found that to be wrong.

Part of what our friend is saying is that the autonomy of functionaries is sometimes taken for granted so that those who should maintain an overview over them simply turn a blind eye and let them get on with such schemes. The man saying this is a teacher, his wife too, and whilst they have to conform to the system a great deal, neither is a functionary because they do not have fixed posts. They are both sport teachers, fill in injury, maternity and such spaces and have terms of employment from the 'rest' of a term to a full academic year. However, both are now so disillusioned with education that they neither want fixed posts nor to be functionaries of the state. They are rather fed up with what they see. The primary school in question has just managed to say 'so what' in response to what extra security there might be following Boston, now it opens a bigger wider question about education since before concluding our discussion we moved on to the fact that nobody believed it could possibly be just this school.

Is that all of it? Well no!

Three weeks ago, their daughter was at the top of the climbing wall at the local sports centre where sport classes are always held. The trainer had his eyes 'off the ball' so that the boy who should have been belaying the rope got it wrong and the girl fell. These things happen. However, they called parents before ambulance, gave the boy a telling off rather than the supervising trainer taking responsibility and since have simply stopped that class using the climbing wall. In fact, the girl was not badly hurt, simply a little bit of an impact injury to her spine. The school has not 'dealt' with it other than suspending that class climbing. Nobody wants the instructor punished or dismissed but at least that the sports centre and school adopt a position and say something about it. The class teacher seems to have been chatting to the instructor, did not intervene after the fall but made phone calls and anyway, as our daughter commented to us, she wasn't much good at anything with great big stiletto heels and a tight skirt as usual. Several children were shocked, particularly the boy who should have been belaying, but nothing was done for them - nobody talked to them, asked how they felt or whatever. All 'counselling' as such was left to parents. That some children were unresponsive in class the next day and were shouted at has raised new questions.What if something goes wrong on the trip? Will anybody be able to deal with traumatised children? After the accident nothing was done, so who is capable to begin with?

We have chatted with people who children at other primary schools and apart from several of them wondering who came up with such a ridiculous idea as the Paris trip, none of them feels at all surprised about fundraising for events and schemes the school could never have afforded and sport accidents waiting to happen.

My daughter has been on 2 trips to Paris with school -no problems with organisation but it seems that there are a number of hostels used by the schools and the facilities were awful. No enough bathrooms/showers with little or no hot water, cramped rooms and generally pretty grotty.

Thanks Véro, just asked about that outside school this morning and over three classes there are 14 families who are wanting to do that.

Angela, the point in most people's minds is that the letter that went out at the beginning of the school year ensured that a) the €120 asked per child would be backed up by the municipality, no extra asked of parents, b) the trip required a minimum number of adults (parents preferred) to volunteer to accompany the trip, c) no other school activities would be affected and d) if either a) or b) were not ensured the trip would be called off. At present extra fundraising activities are still being proposed at cost of time and money to parents, the number of people they wanted to accompany the trip is now two short following withdrawals but they are still 'hoping' although more people are likely to pull out and no other class has had any kind of trip for a day and also the 'traditional' school spectacle is not on which children also notice. So none of the promises are being kept and yet they are not cancelling.

Asking the 'ringleaders' for action this morning, the one man said that he had pulled out of the trip because he has hardly noticed any real planning. He apparently asked what they would do if they arrived in Paris on evening X and it was raining. What would happen to the picnic in Montmartre? The director said that she assumed that the hostel has a dining room. He pulled out with that as the last bit of lack of planning he could tolerate. His wife and he have children in two of the three classes and are almost certain to withdraw them.

Yes, 3 days to Paris certainly needs a lot of detailed planning....and the cost of trips escalates once they go to collège - recently my oldest girls' year group went on a week's skiing trip to the alps; we didn't send them as it would have been 700 euros EACH, not including skisuits etc, plus the security issues involved in a big group going so far. I think a lot of the parents get help from their Comité d'Entreprise or other work bonus schemes (which are sometimes taxed later!) We we a bit worried about them feeling left out, but in the end about one quarter of the year group didn't go, so it wasn't too bad for them. However the previous year the year group went on a 'Classe de mer' in Brittany for 5 days & they had a great time (despite appalling weather!) Not so far to go, they 'staggered' the departures so smaller groups, and it was 'only' 360 euros each.

These are the people to whom you should write as parents (as many signatures as poss) under the aegis of the association de parents d'élèves.



Tél: 05 53 57 14 42

I used to have a lady teacher who would hit me on my open eczema behind me knees with a ruler. At least my mother objected to that. If I said that I had been up is he’d at school, I was asked why and punished again at home.

I fell off the handrail whilst sliding down it at prep school and was knocked out, broke my finger in a dorm fight, got hit on the head by a cricket ball, played the usual sports including boxing, rugby etc, went mountain climbing, trained with the Marines, Royal Navy etc, went kayaking. Won't repeat other things that went on. For heaven's sake these people need to lighten up! My 33 year old sons did similar things in the UK and here in France my four year old is being put down for everything. Maybe a few years ago the average parent didn't expect to have all the latest gadgets, newish car, annual holidays abroad etc. Maybe we need a new realism. It's pretty clear also that many teachers and their uniuons have a political agenda far from parents' wishes.

Sounds just like the local secondary school in rural Yorkshire (where my wife was a full-time teacher (and parent)) before we did a runner to France.

Do we differ? In this case it starts with a 'plan' without any obvious planning. Parents who are already stretched are being treated as bottomless pits in terms of all manner or resources. Then the accident of itself is not so serious but the inability of the teacher and trainer to properly cope is worrying? Then to ban that class from climbing but not the rest of the school. It would appear that the director lacks all imaginable administration and sense. Perhaps having a 1950s/60s schooling is a bad example to learn from in some respects and my son's 1970s into 1980s German education yet another lost leader. However, it appears that the people here are not very good at running things, making plans and little details like dressing appropriately for sport. Comparing notes though, other school score no better.

I have no doubt that children are tougher than some people imagine BUT that teachers are not acting as if they have any idea!! A trip to Paris is a great idea but not being able to commit themselves to a budget, overlooking such details as travel sickness and basically running into conflicts because of demands being made of busy parents. All too much of the mad in charge of the asylum. In an age of litigation it seems inconceivable that they are that naive to begin with. The climbing accident and their inability to cope with it raises a serious question about what happen if something went seriously wrong... How on Earth would they cope several hours away? The whole business has arisen on the basis of there having been doubts from the onset, now doubts outweigh confidence.

What is not helping is that people with children at other schools are sharing doubts. In the midst of it, it appears that in an age where children must be informed and included in decision making at every stage, the worse things appear, the less children are seemingly informed and therewith no opinion or consent obtained. I have made much of my living from working to see children included for several decades. Suddenly I am seeing things that seem out of time and place and cannot let my child be drawn into something I cannot see as right. She agrees with us that things are not as they should be...

Brian, In think sometimes we are doomed to differ in some respects. First, I have never had children so readily admit to being a sideline viewer, BUT surprisingly even to me, I WAS once a child, and do have memories.

First the gymnasium bit. Well I had my one and only serious broken bone falling off a rope in our Assembly Hall cum Dining Room, cum Gymnasium. I had to make my own way to the local hospital unaccompanied by any teacher, or classmate, just clutching at my wrist (the broken bit) and feeling very sick. Secondly was when in a moment of maladroitness (which has never left me in matters 'bricolage') , I sliced open my thumb, which meant immediate attention - and which again meant making myn own way to the hospital unaccompanies and suffering four stitches without any 'unmanly local anaesthetic' being used (ditto incidentally for three stitches to face in an unrelated sports injury).

Oddly I still survived, as I did the whole flogging mentality in the last period of my schooling (13-15 years old). It is still hard to believe that the Headmaster wanted to give me six stripes on my stitched hand, and was only restrained from doing so by one teacher who had a degree or so humanity the others didn't have.

My point being NOT that I have any possible defence of any such actions then and now, but that I do feel we should keep some sense of proportion about children who can be far tougher than some parents would suppose.

Parents, or parent in my case would never have dreamed of making an issue about apparent abuse of their kids. The systems were against them anyway, but somehow most of us reached adulthood.

I rather suspect the current crop would also manage it somehow.

Finally for me, any teacher taking on such a responsibility in such a litigious world needs his or her head examined!