Home School Communications: Our Protocol

The following outlines school procedure with regard to email communication between home and school. 

All communication must respect the dignity of the recipient. 

  1. Within 48 hours - receipt of an email will be acknowledged (during term time but not over a weekend). 
  2. Within 5 working days - provide a response to the email by telephone or in writing (including an email). This may include informing the sender that more time is required to provide a full response. If this is the case, staff will indicate a timeframe in which a response should be expected. 
  3. If a member of staff is not able to deal with the email directly then they will pass it on to the most appropriate person and inform the sender that they have done so. 
  4. Staff will not be expected to monitor or respond to emails out of their normal working hours (including weekends and published school holidays).  Whilst parents may compose emails at all sorts of hours to suit their own needs, we would ask that emails are not normally sent outside of a member of staff's normal working hours. Mobile phones and other electronic devices that enable staff to access their school emails when away from school can make it difficult to ‘ignore’ a message from a parent, leading to unnecessary worry and anxiety on the part of the staff. 
  5. Whilst this is rare, if a member of staff receives an email which is of an aggressive tone, sets unreasonable demands or could otherwise be interpreted as harassing, they will refer this to a School Leader, who will decide if consideration needs to be given to dealing with further communication under the Trust’s Complaints Policy (Unreasonable Complaints).  

In recent years, communications between home and school have shifted quite dramatically from pen and paper to email, with email becoming the preferred and predominant mode of communication.  

Email provides us with a quick, cheap and easy means of communication. As a result, it is used for such a wide range of communications, it has also become increasingly difficult to distinguish between formal and informal communications.  The ease of communication via email has many advantages but there is an increasing expectation for almost instantaneous reply.    

As a school, our first priority is to deliver high quality teaching and learning. On any one day a teacher will have a plethora of demands on their time including up to five hours of teaching (and tutor time, lunch duties and activities, after school practices and clubs and meetings). Teachers cannot and are not expected to monitor and manage their inbox during lessons or at other times in the day, when they should be planning and preparing for lessons, assessing student work or carrying out school duties. 

Whilst administration staff, support staff and School Leaders may be able to access emails more routinely, their primary function is to support teachers and children. Constantly monitoring and responding to email leads to what is commonly referred to in the aviation industry as ‘task fixation’.  In aircraft terms, this leads pilots to be so fixated on the task in the flight deck that they forget to look out of the window. Whilst less dramatic, in a school it leads to staff focusing on the immediate task of responding to an email instead of concentrating on the delivering and supporting teaching and learning. 

The school works hard to provide parents with timely and informative information concerning their child’s progress throughout the year.  Currently these are: Progress Reports and one parent-teacher or parenttutor meeting each year. In addition to this, staff may also telephone, write or email a parent to inform them of a serious incident or serious ongoing concerns about a child’s behaviour or attitude to learning. They would not be expected to maintain a running dialogue about such matters, unless it has been agreed as part of a Pupil Support Plan. 

 

Other things to consider 

When communicating with the school, please bear in mind that a great many staff are working extremely hard in trying to help our children achieve well. We would never wish to discourage parents from communicating with staff, establishing a relationship and working together. Parental communication is essential; we do not always get it right and we need your feedback to help us to continue to improve. 

Many of you will be facing the same challenges in your own workplace from an increasing expectation of anytime, anywhere communications. Some readers may be of the view that this is simply the way the world works now. However, the school has a duty of care to staff, as it does to children. This includes a responsibility to ensure that the staff workload is manageable and does not unreasonably intrude in to their private life. 

 

Finally 

It might be interesting to note that even Ofsted have acknowledged the increasing demands on teacher time and the impact that this is having on the profession.  Hence, these references in the new Ofsted Framework:  

Ofsted Framework September 2019 Teacher workload and wellbeing 

  • Inspectors will consider the extent to which school and college leaders take account of the workload and wellbeing of staff.
  • Leaders and managers must demonstrate that they are aware of and take account of the pressures on staff and that they are realistic and constructive in the way they manage staff, including their workload.
  • Inspection judgements of ‘outstanding’ leadership and management require that staff consistently report high levels of support for wellbeing issues.
  • Leaders protect staff from bullying and harassment. 

 

Our staff go over and above every day and we want to keep them in a profession they are fully committed to.  Unreasonable workloads are contributing to the national recruitment and retention crisis in our profession.   

 

Thank you for your contribution in supporting a sensible approach to staff workload and staff well-being. 

The Staff Team at: The Henry Box School