Ghost writing

The school newsletter has been lying around in the drift of papers on our dining room table for the last couple of weeks, waiting to be tidied away.  I read it when I came out of hospital, starting, as one would, with Dear Parents and Families on the front page.  I wondered what it meant.  Husband read it at some point during half term.  “What does this mean?” he asked.  Sister, a teacher of some 20+ years and married to the sort of head teacher who gets put into difficult schools to sort them out, read it: “Where’s the letter from the head?”  “That’s it on the front page” I said.  “You’re joking!” she said.  A couple of friends who picked it up and read it as they passed through had similar responses.

So what did this letter say? I would like to be charitable and think that perhaps the Head didn’t have time to write it herself.  Or perhaps she was ill when the newsletter went out. It is less than 200 words (how long does that take to write?) and the paragraph that really flummoxed us all was this:-

“At the beginning of August our pupils in S3, 4, 5, & 6 received their results. These remain very strong, with more pupils getting Standard Grades, Highers and Advanced Highers. Many pupils had significant individual successes. As a school we are focussing on how we can support and recognise our pupils’ achievements more effectively.”

Once we all overcame the initial “Well of course more pupils passed Standard Grades – there was a whole extra year group taking them” we were left thinking and??  so??  Your meaning is?? In the end, my interpretation was that, although some individual children had done particularly well, overall the results this year were poorer than the school had hoped for.

There are a couple points to take from this.  First of all, if the school places any importance on communication and working in partnership with parents, there has to be some sort of leadership from the top.  This letter on the front of the newsletter was something of an insult to our intelligence; I read it and felt that not only could the head not be bothered to put something together for the newsletter, she doesn’t want to tell us what is going on.    Secondly, I hope the Higher and Standard Grade English classes are being taught to write more clearly and effectively than this letter demonstrates.

Oh, and thirdly – I don’t really like getting personal (other than my own person of course) in this blog, but I couldn’t let this one go.  I hope my children aren’t marked men after this. Do I need to look for a new school?  And can troublesome parents be excluded, I wonder?

Postscript:  Following Don’s comment below, I realise that this post sounds truly negative.  My apologies 😳 to those concerned for not pointing out that the inside of the newsletter was, well, newsy with loads of information on what’s going on in the school.  I enjoyed reading all that.  My gripe is purely with the letter on the front cover.   So keep the newsletters coming.  But, erm, could we have a calendar of events with the next one please?  You know the sort of stuff – dates of parents evenings (because I’m sure you know when they are), reports, concerts, open evenings, that sort of thing.  😎

Post postscript:  Does that count as my D7 done?

4 thoughts on “Ghost writing

  1. Sounds like there is a whole lot more unsaid than is said here. You are right to question it! Maybe you could share examples of good communications with the Head. Many schools post their newsletters on their blogs – Might make a difference.
    ..and keep us up to date with any exclusions – maybe a detention this time with a warning 🙂

  2. I’m not sure that I’m in the best position to share examples of good communication – I’m just me, pootling along at the bottom of the pile. I’m sure there must be staff at the school who have strong opinions on and good examples of these things. And perhaps it’s something that head teachers as a group should or do consider and should provide support for each other? I do think, though that these days being “too busy” is not an excuse for poor communication. I might try & locate a copy of one of brother-in-law’s letters to parents, though. They are, I’m told, a sight to behold.

    Head below the parapet for a bit, I think 😉

  3. I read the newsletter you are referring to but didn’t have the same difficulty. In fact I thought it contained a lot of very useful and interesting information.

    I know from experience just how difficult it is to meet the needs of ALL parents in a letter – some want more information, others less – it’s a difficult judgement to get it right. I once got a complaint from a parent about a letter home because I’d used words that she didn’t understand – and another complaint from a different parent because my statistical analysis was not sophisticated enough! – sometimes you just can’t win.

    Modern headship is not all about the individual at the top – they play a key role but it’s no longer about their ability to dominate the school. I think the range of activities and contributors to the newsletter demonstrated that to good effect.

    I have huge personal confidence in the Headteacher and know that she is tackling a range of issues to good effect and is committed to making the school an exceptional place. In my recent visits to classrooms I’ve been very impressed by the quality of work and attitude of pupils and staff.

    I’d like to encourage you to make contact with the Headteacher to discuss your concerns – I know she would be interested in your point of view.

    We are all finding our way with how to make best use of social media such as blogs – I’d be concerned if they actually ended up putting up barriers as opposed to breaking them down.

  4. Don

    Thanks for your response – it feels less like posting to a vacuum when answers come back. I must apologise for not making clear that I found the inside of the newsletter very informative. 😳 I always enjoy reading the newsletters even if they’re not relevant to my own children as they generally give a good flavour of the range of activities going on in the school.

    My only gripe was with the letter from the head on the front page, and I really wasn’t alone in finding this a prime example of management gobbledygook. I’m glad to hear you have confidence in the Headteacher; as parents, we rely on you guys to make those judgements. We see very little of the Head directly and this is one of the few opportunities she has to put her opinion and personality across to the parents. I really do think that in this particular instance she missed that opportunity. So we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one! 😉

    But please don’t take this as a vote of no confidence in the Head -all I’m saying is that I thought that one letter was awful. I’ll edit my post to include a comment about the inside of the newsletter.

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