Sefton and Liverpool Women in Business

Ongoing School Complaint

I would like to make a serious complaint about the treatment of both myself and my son by the Head Teacher xxxxx, at xxxxxx xxxxxx School that I believe resulted in a blatant disregard for my son’s welfare and safety.

Firstly I would like to enlighten you on the family dynamics. My sons father xxxxx and I have been separated for over 18 months and our divorce was finalised this summer. He lives in the former family home.

Due to a long, consistent and well documented history of domestic violence, resulting in cautions and charges for his father, as well as documented and proven allegations of his excessive alcohol consumption, my son and his elder sister and I were forced to leave the family home.

We lived with my parents for several months, before moving to our current home, October 2011. My son began attending xxxxx xxxxx at this time. Also at home with us are his elder sister, baby sister and my new partner.

The children and I received extensive practical and emotional support from SWACA for several months before all eventually being signed off by July 2012. We were however all told should we need them again for any reason all we needed to do was get in touch.
Within the last 10 days, my son has started confiding in myself and my partner as well as members of the family, about his concerns regarding his father’s temper and subsequent aggressive outbursts. I would like to point out at this point that I have never known his father to strike either my son or his older sister and I have stated that to all parties including barristers, solicitors and SWACA, and whilst I had concerns regarding his fathers alcohol consumption while he was in his care, I have never previously had any undue concern for my son’s safety with regards to his father’s temper until recently. I would like to hope that this goes someway in proving that I am not in any way being vindictive, but acting as a concerned and responsible parent in a very difficult position.

After my sons father had failed to send through any dates for the upcoming month re contact as per the court order, we made plans as a family for the weekend. As my son has only spent 4 weekends with us since April this year he wanted to be with us, so I told him to ring his dad and let him know. This was the first inkling we got that there was a problem as my son was very reluctant to do this is he said his dad would ‘kick off’ on him. Which to be fair to my son his father promptly did when he did get round to calling him.

My son seemed overly concerned with how his dad had reacted and what he was going to say to him about it the next time they were together. On 31st October I asked him if everything was ok and my son completely took us aback by telling us of an incident over half term week at his paternal grandmother’s house. My son has never previously had anything negative to say. Apparently she has had a new boiler fitted and was unable to grasp the mechanics of setting the timer. After some discussion my son said his dad lost his temper and ‘kicked off’ on her which distressed him terribly as he is a clever boy and is well aware of her age and the potential ramifications of such aggressive behaviour towards a 79 year old woman. He further went on to tell us that I didn’t need to worry as he was in the middle of sorting it out, and that he had placed himself in the middle of them to diffuse the situation. He also told me that this has happened before, that his dad has ‘kicked off’ at him when he has been there, that it’s not like when I get mad about leaving stuff lying around or messing the kitchen up but it is like the nasty way he was with me in the day, not a night when he was drunk and really bad, just the day nasty (when we all lived at the family home).And believe me when I say the day nasty is no picnic. My son went on to assure me I didn’t need to worry as he knew when his dad’s mood was about to change and he knows how to handle him.
On Thursday 1st November, I began to make a series of phone calls to collate some advice from the relevant bodies and to request any help that anyone considered necessary as I was very concerned by not only what my son was saying but also by how matter of fact he was in his descriptions and observations of his father’s temper.

I spoke to my solicitors office, social services, CAFCAS (Duty Officer, Liverpool) and SWACA. What I wanted to know was what these experts suggested I should do to help my son who had expressed to me very conflicting emotions ranging from adoring his dad to knowing his behaviour was appalling and being angry with him. I am also acutely aware that my opinion of his father has been heavily tainted by my previous experience with him, and wanted to make sure any response I made was not a knee jerk reaction but was measured and considered and appropriate to the information he was giving me. Sadly, since the day I left the former home, and despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, my sons father and his family have gone out of their way to deflect blame upon me, which has resulted in me constantly having to justify myself to those naive enough to believe them.

SWACA organised for me to go and speak to a lady there about getting the children’s worker xxxxx back to speak to my son as soon as possible to get to the bottom of things. This is the lady he saw previously and he has a good relationship with her. Both social services and CAFCAS said I needed to think long and hard about whether it would be the best thing to stop contact while things were investigated further, that it was my decision, but if I decided to let him go they both suggested that it was a good idea to talk to him about calling the police next time his dad ‘kicks off’ rather than him trying to intervene and put himself in the middle of a potentially dangerous situation. Everyone advised to let my son be part of any decisions as much as possible.
After seeing SWACA on Wednesday 7th November 2012, I followed the advice I was given and on Wednesday evening sat down with him and asked him how he felt when his dad lost his temper. He told me it actually frightened him and made him scared. When I asked him to promise not to get involved or put himself in the middle of the situation and take himself off somewhere and call the police he told me he couldn’t do that as his dad would get into trouble and his dad’s family would blame him and never speak to him again. After hearing this I knew that contact had to cease immediately as he had said he was afraid of his dad’s temper and was afraid of the repercussions of protecting himself should the need arise.

On Thursday morning I called my solicitor and instructed her to let my son’s fathers solicitor know immediately as he was due to collect my son from school the following day. Instruction was faxed through to his solicitor. He was also informed by my mother by text that he needed to speak to his solicitor immediately. On Thursday afternoon I spoke by phone to my sons class teacher xxxxx and advised her of my decision and the reasons surrounding it. She alerted me to a few further incidents of my sons unsettled behaviour over the last few days which I told her I thought was probably exasperated by events unfolding at home. I told her all the agencies I had been in contact with and that I was ceasing contact until the worker from SWACA had had a chance to speak to my son and advise me further. I asked her to make sure all relevant staff were informed and to call me if any attempt was made to remove my son from school by his father.

On Friday 9th November 2012, he was reluctant to go to school. We talked about the possibility that his father would try and collect him anyway and he expressed great anxiety about this as his dad would now know he had told, and he said he was worried that his dad might ‘kick off’ at school and get into trouble.

Along with his baby sister and my partner, I took him to school and told him we would speak to someone there and that he could raise his concerns and that I was sure we could find a solution, and that he would be fine in school.

We went into the meeting room with a member of staff where he briefly outlined some of the things he had told us and that he was worried about his dad coming for him and causing trouble. He told the member of staff his dads temper scared him. We arranged with her to collect my son at 2.30pm, thus eliminating the possibility of confrontation at 3.30pm. She assured my son that his dad couldn’t get into school and that she wouldn’t let him, and if he did turn up she would deal with him. She told my partner and I that she would speak to social services regarding schools position on refusing to hand him over from a legal point of view. As my son was leaving for class, much reassured, the head teacher, came into the room. She couldn’t get us all out fast enough and she started saying that his dad had rights and she couldn’t stop him taking him. This is without even hearing anything that my son had said to the staff member. However the staff member told her she was dealing with it and about to speak to social services, so we felt reassured that the matter would be dealt with and that his best interests would be protected.
At 12.30pm I spoke to the staff member to check he had settled and was ok and to see if she had spoken to social services. She confirmed she had and said due to the fact we had concerns for my sons safety and emotional wellbeing, the school were able to refuse to let my son go into his fathers care. We had independently confirmed this with the Department of Education. She gave me her mobile number in case I needed to contact her.
At 2.30pm, accompanied by close family friend Dr xxxxxxx we drove up to school to find his fathers vehicle, and the vehicle belonging to his sister parked outside school. I went to pieces as I am very frightened of this man, so I called school to find out what was going on as I was unable to enter the building. Reception advised me that they were in a meeting with the head and my son was unaware his dad was there. She told me to either go home or park around the corner and she would call me as soon as they left.

I immediately began to call the staff member to see what was happening while Dr xxxx contacted the local police for advice if they tried to take my son. The staff member did not answer. At approximately 2.45pm the headteacher rang me directly and told me she had spoken to my son who wanted to go with his dad. She told me my son had told her he had been pressured into saying things and that he said he was scared I would come to school and cause a fight. I admit I swore at her at this point and told her that was bullshit. The reason I know this was a lie is because my son and daughter both know how terrified I am of his father and the length I will go to to avoid any contact with him. The Head then told me that she had no reason to stop my son going with his father. I told her I would have to involve the police if this was her stance as this was creating the very situation my son had wanted to avoid, and she told me that if I called them I was creating a scene. She told me to ask them to phone her, as opposed to bringing them out, but Dr xxxxx asked the lady she was on the phone to, to send someone immediately. I asked the head to keep my son there until they arrived. She is well aware of how scared I am of his father as I have told her on several occasions so she was well aware I wouldn’t enter the school, a fact I believe she tried to use to her advantage.
I contacted my mum and partner and asked them to come for support, as by this point I felt like I had been ambushed. The staff member then phoned me once she saw her missed calls. She had been in a meeting and was oblivious to what had been happening. She said she would go and see what was going on.

The police arrived and went to speak to the head and his father Dr xxxxxx waited inside the school on my behalf, my mother arrived with my daughters followed by my partner, and no one could quite believe the situation we found ourselves in. Dr xxxxx spoke to the police who agreed to ensure my path would not cross with his father and I went inside to the head teacher’s office accompanied by my partner and the staff member. I made it clear I would not tolerate the head being present.

I explained briefly what had been going on, what steps I had taken and which agencies I had approached for advice. The staff member confirmed she had spoken to both SWACA and social services and they had confirmed that I had been in touch and she had checked schools legal status. The best description I can give though is that the staff member looked as shell shocked as I felt. She said she had no idea why his father was here. The police said my son was fine, that they spoke to him and he seemed happy. They said the head had told them he was happy to go with his dad and the staff member commented that that was a completely different story to that morning. I asked why they were here at 2.30pm as his fathers sister is a secondary school teacher so should have been at work. The staff member could not answer as she genuinely didn’t know.

I told the police that given my sons fear that morning and together with what he has been telling us and what he told the staff member that morning that I was not changing my mind re: contact, more so because the situation had been so further inflamed by the heads actions. I had promised my son this wouldn’t happen as had the staff member, and yet there we were dealing with the fallout. I asked the staff member to send a copy of all her notes to my solicitor and she said it had to go through the heads but that she would do that for me.
After a few checks, the police confirmed I was within my rights and asked if my son could say bye to his dad which I agreed to if one of them was present. I asked that my remaining family in reception be brought through before his father left as I was mindful that my eldest daughter, who will have nothing to do with him, would be deeply distressed if she was confronted with him. They came through and it was clear that she was distressed. Everyone seemed shocked by what was happening. My son was brought in a few moments later, smiling and in good spirits. He came straight over for a hug then went to play with his baby sister. Hardly the behaviour of a child devastated that he couldn’t go with his dad. The staff member as well as everyone else in the room will confirm this to you. We allowed 10 minutes or so to ensure that his father and his sister had vacated the area and we left and came home.

We left my son to relax when we got in knowing he would eventually talk in his own time. He told us that evening that the head had come to speak to him at 2.25pm that afternoon on her own. He says she told him it was his choice who he went with and that I couldn’t stop him going to his dad. She asked if he wanted to and he said yes, but he said to me he felt he had no choice and that he had to say yes. He then said that he was taken to see his dad. I could not believe what I was hearing. He said his dad asked him why he wasn’t allowed to see him and my son said he had to tell him a lie and said he didn’t know as he didn’t feel he could tell him the truth. He was again worried about his reaction. My son now feels bad for telling a lie. He also said that when he asked why his dad was there he said school had phoned him and told him what his mother was planning to do. My son told me he was really worried because he knew what time it was and he knew I was on my way. That is unforgiveable that he had that extra worry heaped on him by the head. My son also told me he was with the head when they saw the police arrive and that she commented and said oh here are the police.

My mother also informed me that evening that my eldest daughter had been terribly worried about her brother while they waited in reception and quite distressed about his wellbeing. When my mother asked reception if she could go and keep him company, she was told no she couldn’t.

As far as I can see, the head has exercised breath taking bias in favour of his father that has led to a blatant dereliction of her duties and responsibilities towards my sons safety and wellbeing. She has blatantly ignored social services, and government guidelines on child safety in her handling of this matter, neglecting to advise or seek advice from her colleague, the staff member.

I have come to the conclusion that I cannot in good faith allow my son to attend xxxx xxxx at this time as I can no longer guarantee that the head teacher will follow guidelines regarding child safety and that she will again appoint herself judge and jury and decide that what my son has said has no grounds. I will contact all relevant parties immediately for their advice on alternative schooling be that temporary or permanent in the interim period.

In summary I am utterly disgusted by the way the head handled this matter, in my opinion putting my son in a potentially dangerous and very uncomfortable position as well as inflaming an already difficult situation. I have in good faith explored all relevant avenues of advice before coming to a difficult conclusion regarding contact, and there are steps in place to further investigate what my son has reported to several people including one of the heads colleagues.

My family has been traumatised and my son, who has been through enough already is left with even more disruption. This should never have been allowed to happen and the heads arrogance leaves me wordless. I have completely lost faith in the head as a head teacher and believe the head has made major errors and breaches of the child safety policy in Sefton and xxxxx xxxxx own safeguarding policy as on their website.

As well as considering this complaint in general I would like the following questions answered on an individual basis.

1. Why, when the member of staff followed procedure and protocol regarding this matter i.e. documentation and contacting social services, after hearing my sons concerns/allegations, did the head see fit to ignore that which had been put into place, and is the correct way to do things?
2. Why did the head take a vulnerable child to see a father he had told her colleague he was afraid of?
3. Given the circumstances why did the head speak to my son on her own?
4. Why was the head not advised when his father arrived at the school?
5. Why was the staff member not consulted before a change of course was instigated?
6. Why, when the head knew the police were on their way did she not remove my son to an area where he couldn’t see them to protect him?
7. Why was his father, someone who my son admitted that morning he was scared of, allowed to see him but his big sister who could have provide him with support and comfort not allowed to see him.
8. Who told his father about our 2.30pm arrangement and why?
9. What kind of head teacher seeks to inflame the already acrimonious situation between two parents on school premises?
10. What alternative response could the head honestly have expected from my son when put on the spot about seeing his father?
11. His father and his sister were in the meeting room next to the heads office. I watched the head go in on several occasions and then could hear raucous laughing from them. Is this appropriate behaviour under the circumstances and does this not imply over familiarity?

I think we can all agree that this matter needs urgent attention, not least for my sons benefit. Please contact me immediately once you have considered your position. If you need contact details for any of the other people present I can provide them.
Kind Regards

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