Ah, the lovely English school system.

Dear All,
On Friday I received a letter, well, two, from the school. They were namely from Mr B. and Mrs M. but presumably they’re an automatic send-out from the school, I’m not sure.
I often found myself puzzled with many of the school’s policies, but considering my boys are happy there and seemed to be ok, I let it go most of the time. A couple of issues I tried to bring up in the forum, which I thought was a brilliant idea to converse with other parents as well, and keep a dialogue open between the school and ourselves. Unfortunately, it was usually met with very little discussion and, once more, a semi-automatic response system that consisted in rules being repeated, and that’s all. So I haven’t been using it much lately.

This time, however, I am being accused of neglecting my sons’ interests and specifically not expressing interest in the school’s review day. This was a little too much for me and so I must ask you to read on and bear with the expression of my frustration, please.

Very specifically about Review Day: we received a letter home with a reply slip we needed to send back to the school.
At least D. brought the slip back to school.
K. might have been confused about the fact that he’d been at home sick and so might have forgotten to give it in, but he assured me he had given it in as well.
I was therefore confident that my slip had been received.
In my response slip I had specified a preferred time, after 5, so that my husband might be able to come too, and I had also asked if at all possible to have the appointments close to each other, so we could come only once for both brothers. So, one slip would have been enough for any staff to know that:

1) we did want to come,
2) my husband was willing to take time off work in order to come and
3) we wanted to be there for both boy’s review, and so some kind of personal organising from the school would be required.

The week after the slips had gone in, D. was away for the whole week on the Opal Coast Trip with the school, which I would have presumed all teachers would have known about.
K., on the other hand, was still at home lying on the sofa in pain, something I had informed the answering machine that “deals” with student absences about, EVERY DAY, since K. first started being ill.

I was assuming I would receive a letter back, stating when the appointment had been made for both boys, and giving me a number to call if I had any problems with that appointment. I got nothing and grew increasingly fretful. The boys didn’t know who was supposed to tell them, so they couldn’t ask. D. told me there was supposed to be a board up with the names and appointments, but he didn’t see it there.
So, I called the school, spoke to reception explaining the problem and asking whether I could speak to anyone about how I could come in for the review day, even if it meant coming and waiting. Please note that the letter I received states: “As you have not informed me of the reason for not attending I will be entering D.’s absence as unauthorised”. The receptionist said that the only thing she could do (and I could do nothing) was for her to send an email (an email??? what about the phone??) to the respective teachers (therefore, unless the receptionist did not pass on the message as promised, both teachers had been informed of the reason) and ask them to inform me when I could go. I made sure I had the phone on and listened out for it ALL DAY. But nothing.

I then spoke, I believe it was the next day or so, with K.’s form tutor (I now forget her name), to whom not only I once more explained what had happened, and she told me we could talk about it there and then, but I also asked about how I could get some work for K. so he wouldn’t end up being behind, because I WAS concerned about his reports (which were also extremely confusing… were they good? Were they bad considering how good they had been before? I wouldn’t really know!).
Speaking to her I didn’t have any clearer idea about the reports, but I thought ah well, I suppose when he’s better I can ask for a meeting if they believe it’s necessary. She didn’t tell me at the time that K.’s absence at the Review Day would be entered as unauthorised.

I was quite unnerved about the school’s complete lack of internal communication. Why do I receive a letter home about review day, but not about the appointment booked? Surely it would be  important enough not to rely on the school’s ability to get hold of K. and D. and use them as messengers, especially when the school KNOWS that the boys wouldn’t be in in those days?

This is all as far as the Review Day letter of reprimand I received. I would like to receive another letter saying that of course, the day of absence WILL NOT BE MARKED AS UNAUTHORISED and there has been a mistake in handling these automatic and therefore fairly useless and potentially, as in this case, very insulting letters.

Please bear with me a little longer, so I can speak about the school’s absence policy.

For some reason, even though K. and D. have always been incredibly healthy, this past year has been a nightmare as far as hospitals, medical conditions and the like are concerned. Had I been working out of the house, like most people, I probably would have lost my job, because of the amount of time off I would have needed to take.
Thankfully, I work from home.
Mr B. you will remember how many days D. missed. He had stomach cramps and despite me insisting with the countless GPs we visited that D. was missing school and how much we needed to solve this problem, it took me months to get him seen by a specialist and months and two or three runs to the A&E department to finally get him a scan, which resulted in a diagnosis of massive constipation, intestinal inflammation, horseshoe kidney and possible kidney stones.

Now, with K., I have been calling in every single day, updating an answering machine with K.’s conditions. I have asked for work, been neglected by the school who gave the impression they were completely  unconcerned with K.’s work, and YET I received a visit from the (albeit sympathetic and understanding) Social Services???

I understand the school has many students, I understand the need to automate as many procedures a possible. I even understand your concerns for privacy, and the fact that many families around here are truly irresponsible and uncaring about their children’s welfare.
But when it comes to accusing parents of not taking care of their children’s education, I believe a more personal and careful approach is in order.

Thank you hearing me out.

Yours sincerely,
Valentina Sarno Puggioni,
mother of K and D


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