What to do when there’s a problem at school?

Over my 12-year teaching career, I met hundreds (if not thousands!) of parents. As a parent myself, I’ve also faced situations where I’ve had worries about my daughter’s progress and wellbeing at school.

Here are some top tips for dealing with any school problems or worries that may crop up during the school year.

Your child’s latest report is disappointing, unexpected and/or concerning

Don’t wait for a parent meeting: ask to speak to the teacher/s straight away. It may be that your child is actually doing much better than it seems – and there are a few reasons for this:

  • Often report data has to be entered weeks before you get the report in your hands, so latest results may not be shown
  • Usually printed reports have limited data included, so usually not everything is covered
  • Written comments usually have tight word limits and leave teachers little room to explain your child’s progress in detail.

If, after hearing more details, you still have concerns, then I’d recommend organising a follow-up discussion with the teacher and/or Phase/Key Stage Leader to discuss your child’s progress and gain a clearer understanding of what the ‘next steps’ are moving forward.

issues at schools writing - Happy Go KL

Your child isn’t happy, or seems anxious/worried about school.

Don’t wait! Please let your child’s teacher know as soon as you notice a change in your child’s demeanour.

There are lots of reasons a child can become unhappy – social pressure, friendship fall-outs and academic struggles are some of the most common – but all of them matter. It’s important to let the school know as soon as you can, so that they can help support your child at school.

Your child is having friendship difficulties

These are inevitable, and ‘flare up’ for all children at different points in their schooling. Friendships come and go, friendship groups change and the dynamics between friendships change as children mature at different paces.

From a school’s perspective, it can be very hard to know exactly what’s going on between friendship groups – so please don’t assume they know about issues but are ignoring them. Remember that much of the unkindness that happens between children happens outside of school hours, and often online, which can be challenging (if not impossible) for schools to monitor.

The more they know, and the sooner they know, the more they can help within school hours.

friendship issues - Happy Go KL

You feel your child is being bullied

Don’t wait. Get in touch with your child’s teacher straight away – face to face is best – to explain your concerns and share what you know. But be prepared: there may well be another side to the story you’re not aware of, so it’s important to be willing to listen to all of the information with an open mind before jumping to any conclusions.

The school’s first job is to determine whether the behaviour is rudeness, meanness or deliberate bullying. All three require different approaches. The earlier a school knows, the quicker they can respond.

Good schools have zero tolerance for bullying and should have very clear behaviour policies that they can follow in these sorts of situations. Their management of the situation should be prompt, consistent and fair.

school problems - Happy Go KL

You don’t have a clear picture of your child’s progress

Don’t wait for a parent meeting. Get in touch with the teacher via email or phone, explain that you’d like a bit more information about your child’s progress and achievement so far. They should be more than happy to share more details with you.

You want to help at home and don’t know how

Perhaps you know your child finds school challenging, and want to play an active role at home. Perhaps you have a gifted child, who you want to help stretch. Perhaps you just like to know what’s happening at school!

Either way, if you want to help at home but don’t know how, email or call the class teacher to book a meeting. They should be delighted you want to get involved in your child’s learning, and be more than happy to share ideas for how you can support at home.

issues at school meeting - Happy Go KL

Top tips: Do not…

Withhold information that would help the school support your child

Friendship issues, progress concerns, information about things happening at home, unusual stress or anxiety – all of it matters. PLEASE let the school know.

contact the school - Happy Go KL

Complain about the issue on a class parents’ WhatsApp or Facebook group, in place of actually contacting the school yourself

Other parents probably don’t know your child or the situation in enough detail to give useful advice, and can’t do much (if anything) to help. Please, contact the teacher/s involved straight away and get first-hand information & guidance before you do anything else.

Try and see the principal straight away

Schools have clear structures in place for a reason, and following the correct chain of communication will generally ensure you get heard quickly.  In an international school, your order of contact should go something like this:

Early Years/Primary: Class Teacher -> Year Group Leader -> Key Stage/Phase Leader -> Senior Leadership.

Secondary School: Form Tutor -> Specific subject teacher -> Head of Year (if a social/personal issue) or Head of Department (if an academic issue) -> Senior Leadership.

You should only need to jump ‘up the ranks’ and speak to somebody higher if the previous person did not help you resolve the issue satisfactorily. In most international schools, principals only deal with occasional and extremely high level student issues (such as suspensions or expulsions).

Hopefully, the issue can be resolved by the very first person you speak to.

lonely girl - Happy Go KL

The main lesson?

Whatever your concern, speak to the teacher involved as soon as possible, even if the issue seems small. Communicating when issues are small almost always stops the issues becoming big.

Schools rely on information from parents – and this open communication needs to be a two-way street. The very best scenario for a child is when the parents and teachers have a positive relationship, stay in close communication and are working together to support the child’s wellbeing, social development and academic achievement.

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One Response

  1. I think after we mate the teacher after they always complainingly the child.and we stand for our child the teacher will keep away our child aside and will ignore them for whole the year as they are still in the form

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