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Police action against Calder High parents

From Helen Chilton

Monday, 7 May 2012

On Tuesday 1 May, a small group of parents and pupils gathered on Midgley Road and Brier Hey Lane and distributed flyers to parents of year 7 and 8 students as they were arriving at Calder High to hear the long-awaited presentation by the school following their recent Ofsted inspection which found the school to be "inadequate"".

There were four mothers and four children in total distributing leaflets, some outside each entrance to the school. At no point did anyone step on to school premises. A parent was with children at all times to supervise proceedings. Parents attending the meeting were politely asked if they would like a leaflet. The Head Teacher was inside the building and at no time did anyone leafleting see her, or engage with her. Therefore there was no behaviour that could be described as threatening or offensive.

The flyer advertises the date, time and venue of the next meeting of Friends of Calder High, an open group which has recently formed, largely by word of mouth, in response to parental concerns about standards of behaviour, early exam entry, leadership and management and communication with parents. The flyer asks: Are you interested in having a dialogue with Calder High School? It then goes on to state its aims: To support the school and work with it to ensure that the views of the wider community are represented and understood, and to encourage the school to provide an exciting and ambitious experience for children, based on
local need.

An intimidating or menacing message? We think not.

During the meeting, I understand the people responsible for producing the leaflet were described from the front as a "nuisance" and the audience was urged to ignore both the leaflet and the proposed meeting as irrelevant and nothing to do with the school. (Perhaps some of those who attended that night could confirm or clarify just what was said?)

The following day, a member of the Friends' group was contacted on her mobile phone by the police who warned that a complaint had been received that the distribution of the leaflet constituted some form of harassment and that therefore the police were issuing a formal warning to desist from handing it out that night, as had been planned. Those found to be handing it out would be "taken in" and/or arrested, on grounds of "public disturbance".

The mother who received the warning by phone - not following proper police procedure - is disabled and was on her way home from work the next day when she got the call. She has been greatly distressed by the incident. She has ascertained that the Head Teacher made the complaint, and presumably gave the police her mobile phone number. The decision to give her a warning appears to have come from Inspector Dave Browning.

The expressed concerns of parents, including presumably those being aired on this discussion forum, have repeatedly been described as coming from "a small minority". Unfortunately, we believe we are part of a large majority of parents - albeit with many disparate and varied priority concerns. Many parents have told us they were not aware of our two previous meetings, but would have attended them had they known. The flyer is simply an attempt to bring the existence of our open forum to the attention of more parents. That way, it will become clearer how many parents continue to have concerns, and enable them to channel those concerns in what the Friends' hope will be constructive, and not destructive, ways.

Members of the steering group are astonished and dismayed that the Head has seen fit to use the police in this manner against children who attend the school and their mothers, who were doing nothing wrong, and to single out and distress one parent to this degree.

The steering group believes this was an inappropriate over-reaction on the part of the Head Teacher and would question what is to be gained by escalating tension with parents who are simply asking to be involved with the school, particularly when Ofsted recommended that the school improve engagement with parents and the wider community.

The steering group is also concerned that the police appear to have been manipulated, to be taking sides and would question whether this is a sensible use of police time and resources. We will therefore be seeking legal advice as to the legitimacy of the actions demanded of and taken by the police, supposedly under Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

The next meeting of the Friends of Calder High will take place in Mytholmroyd on 15 May at 7.30pm, at St Michael's Church, Mytholmroyd.

From Jill Robinson

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

I am so sorry to hear that school officials are apparently still passing on parents' confidential contact details to outside bodies. This is surely against data protection regulations. It happened to me years ago, when the headmistress of my son's primary school disclosed my details on request to someone outside the school who then sent me a threatening letter. I complained to the local authority, and an official replied blandly that they were satisfied that 'it did not happen'.

Luckily, I had another way of dealing with things, since I was at that time writing something called 'Jill's problem page' for the 'Calderdale News' free-sheet. I wrote up the incident anonymously and gave myself some advice, such as writing to the Chair of the LEA committee and complaining to the school's governing body.

There have been so many changes in the school system since then, but maybe this is still worth a try? If it is on an agenda as a piece of received correspondence somewhere it should really be discussed. (The Head of my son's school was apparently apoplectic when she read the problem page that week, and complained to the paper, but I had not mentioned any names.)

As to the wider issue of distributing leaflets outside school, perhaps a legal adviser could establish exactly what law is being broken - there must be lawyers who read the Hebweb, so I do hope someone can advise you and you can get it sorted out without further distressing incidents

From Chistopher Reason

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

This incident beggars belief. I'd refer readers to an earlier post I made on the Calder High thread about paranoia setting in. This would seem amply to confirm that supposition.

The school appears to be behaving so abberantly that I start to wonder if there is some other agenda in play. Is CHS being softened up by the DFE in order to turn it into an academy?


From Graham Barker

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Two people who might want CHS to become an academy may be the head and chair of governors. Perhaps they figure they can then play dictators to their heart's content. That's one explanation for their bunker mentality.

Another is that they're just staggeringly inept. Between them they're turning CHS into a failing enterprise whose customers, suppliers and workforce are increasingly unhappy. When that happens to a business, it either goes bust or new managers take over. So I think the choice is becoming very stark - either there are changes at the top, or CHS starts on a probably rapid downward slope toward enforced academy status.

See also

HebWeb News: Parents urge school leadership to address important concerns - "to help Calder High to be a successful and exciting place in which to learn" (22 May 2012)

HebWeb News: Police stop parents leafleting outside Calder High (3 May 2012)

HebWeb Forum: Calder High

HebWeb News: Calder High Ofsted Report - School given 'notice to improve' (6 March 2012)