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.