Archive for December, 2015

Ofsted Letter

Monday, December 28th, 2015

This is the email I sent to Ofsted after they failed, miserably, to support my daughter.

I immediately took her out after the appalling parents evening that I experienced and the total arrogance of the staff. It then took me two months to be able to sit calmly and write out my experience for them to consider investigating. I have omitted dates and names for anonymity reasons.

 

To whoever it may concern,

I am writing to you to inform you of circumstances which have arisen, within the nursery setting my daughter was in that have concerned me greatly and left me feeling extremely anxious about the education system. My daughter is 3 and a half, adopted (at 15 months old) and started at this preschool in September.

She was going on a Monday and Tuesday morning and for a full day on a Friday. She was excited, independent, confident and, above all, really wanted to go. Only 3 months later she’s become nervous, anxious, doesn’t want me to leave her and was coming out of the preschool more upset as the weeks went on.

I became acutely aware of problems when I attended an AGM meeting which was paired with a parents evening where we could look at our children’s scrapbooks. These issues escalated severely when the preschool manager, my daughter’s key worker and I had a meeting about, what I thought would be, supporting Rosie, my daughter.

However, instead of leaving the meeting feeling that my daughter was supported I left feeling like my daughter had been attacked, vilified, labelled and, quite frankly, not at all understood.

I was looking through my daughter’s scrapbook when I read, what can only be described as, a negative entry. The entry read:

“***** found it very difficult to follow routines with the other children. At carpet time she wanted to stand not sit. We did lots of action songs and dancing + moving which she joined in some of. At snack time she had to be reminded to sit when eating and not walk about with food. At lunch time again she was reminded to sit while eating. She often had to be reminded to keep her hands to herself as on the carpet she was stroking other children’s hair, pushing them with her feet, touching their faces. At lunch time she pushes her plate away and picks up other children’s food. We are trying to reinforce by saying “come and join your friends at the carpet, sit down so we can all see” and using her name to reinforce that the instruction is for her. At the carpet at the end of the day she was very keen to get star of the day saying “me me”.

This entry was written in October and when I read it it was November. This means that at least 2 weeks had passed since they wrote this and hadn’t once brought any of this up with me so I could support ***** and help them to understand what was happening.

I do not have a problem with being told about my daughter’s behaviour because I want to be able to talk about it with her and support her. What I don’t expect is a nursery to withhold information that, became very clear, they think is an issue. On the same evening I had a conversation with the key worker who described my daughter as “defiant”. Her exact words were “we had a defiant day last week”. (Please note, “last week”. Why was this not mentioned at the time?)

I felt, immediately, that a negative tone was being taken so I responded by saying that **** is, certainly, strong willed and that I thought it a good characteristic to have. The key workers reply was that she felt she wished she could say to my daughter “pick your battles *****”. I was a little shocked as I don’t believe any child of 3 and a half can “pick their battles”. Isn’t that the adult’s responsibility, let alone an adult’s understanding?

On the day I attended the meeting about what had been written I certainly wasn’t expecting what I received, which was 45 minutes of negativity and labelling of a child thinly veiled by false concern for my “vulnerable” daughter.

Several “issues” were raised in this meeting by both the manager and the key worker and I will list them here:

  • She’s spiteful, manipulative, taunting and defiant
  • She can’t sit down to eat
  • She stands at story time
  • She says sorry and doesn’t mean it
  • She strokes other children’s hair which is deemed as “inappropriate behaviour”  
  • She takes her shoes off
  • She goes to sleep on a Friday (they said she can’t because of health and safety)
  • She’s not capable of making friendships  
  •  They want to implement “early intervention”
  •  And the wanted someone to come in and observe her

I would like to take each point in turn.

The first being about her being spiteful, manipulative, taunting and defiant:

This was hurtful and upsetting. My daughter isn’t any of these things. She’s 3 and a half. She’s not perfect and plays up but that’s all 3 and a half year olds. I can’t believe that any child care professional would even think of calling a 3 and a half year old all those things which are, effectively, adult interpretations of different behaviours. If they haven’t the capacity to deal with certain behaviours may I suggest that some new training is needed.

She can’t sit down to eat and she stands up at story time:

She can sit down to eat. We eat out a lot and we sit at the table at home. She is able to sit down for approximately half an hour which, according to statistics, is much longer than the average 3 and a half year old. I suggest they may not be able to handle all different types of children and if my daughter needed more direction and instruction and understanding then maybe they should have given her that. But, again, why was this not mentioned before? As for not sitting down during story time? I don’t see the problem here. I really don’t. But it was brought up in the meeting and made in to an issue.

She says sorry and doesn’t mean it:

I found this truly offensive. They added that “she just says it and there’s nothing behind it”. My daughter, at 3 and a half, has more empathy than any other child of that age I’ve ever seen. Maybe she got so fed up with being told off for what she deemed as not important things (standing at story time and taking her shoes off) that she started placating them. My daughter, when she says sorry, really does mean it when it matters. And a very good example of that occurred at the preschool. I had picked her up on a Friday and she came out looking totally dejected. I asked what was the matter and she burst in to tears as I picked her up. She was sobbing as she tried to explain but she didn’t quite have the right vocabulary to describe properly what had happened. All weekend she talked about it and got upset so I decided to speak to one of the staff on Monday when I dropped her off. It transpired that she had ripped another little boys paper star and had been shouted at and told off (and I would have supported the preschool in this) but the member of staff who had done it than informed me that Pickle had then apologised all day, over and over and over again. She kept leaving what she was doing and going up to this particular member of staff and saying sorry. When we’d arrived in the morning and this member of staff had seen Pickle and said hello the relief in my daughter’s face was so clear. If that’s a little girl who says sorry and doesn’t mean it I’m not sure what they expect of children when they have said sorry. It is clear to me that Pickle’s apology wasn’t accepted and she was left, all weekend, worrying about it. I don’t think that’s fair.

She strokes other children’s hair and it’s “inappropriate behaviour”:

This comment made me feel sick. It has sexual connotations and I am not happy about the use of language. They contradicted themselves several times in the same conversation with this comment. They said it was inappropriate, yet said that they have a “kind hands policy”. I do believe that Pickle has never hit, kicked, pinched, bitten, punched or scratched another child at preschool. Yet her stroking of hair using “kind hands” is classed as inappropriate. I pointed out that she is 3 and a half yet they still insisted that it was “inappropriate”. For me it was the “keep your hands to yourself” comment that I felt uncomfortable with. I don’t think it’s a nice way to speak to a child and they need the patience to keep up with the positive language. It doesn’t take much effort to say to a child “I don’t think X is enjoying that, let’s go and play/sit over here” or “X doesn’t seem to be enjoying that, why don’t you stroke your own hair”. Much more positive.

She takes her shoes off and goes to sleep on a Friday afternoon:

I’m not even going to bother commenting on this non-issue.

She’s incapable of making friendships:

I felt this was a terrible thing to say about a 3 and a half year old. My daughter has got friends outside preschool who she talks about and looks forward to seeing. She plays with them and enjoys their company. I may suggest she didn’t like anyone at this preschool because she is still talking, months later, about a boy who took her pillow pet, a girl who hit her, a girl who wasn’t nice to her. I will suggest here that she felt unprotected and left alone. There is another negative entry in her scrapbook that states “enjoyed imaginative play *but* solitary only”. The use of the word “but” bothers me. Again, it’s language that’s so important because I think it says more about the author than it does about the subject. So what if a 3 and a half year old wants to play on their own?

They want to implement early intervention and get someone in to observe her:

This last comment made me feel like Pickle had become somewhat of an experiment for them. All the things they had described her as sound to me, and every single person I’ve spoken with since (friends with children, teachers, doctors and our social worker) like a perfectly normal, tenacious, adventurous, strong willed, lively and excitable 3 and a half year old. I believe that they forgot she was a 3 and a half year old and saw her only from the viewpoint of being an adopted child. They were looking for issues. I can back this statement up by something that happened a few weeks previously on arriving one morning.

The key worker, took me to one side (in the main room while registration was happening I might add) and asked me if Pickle had any food issues in her history because she “gobbles her food like she’s not going to get fed again”. I felt sick when she said it but out of shock I simply said she hadn’t.

On leaving I felt angry that, not only had she brought this up in the main room where anybody could have overheard but, she had brought it up at all in the way she did. What she should have done is had a quiet word with me in private and told me what happens at lunch and asked me about it. The assumption to ask about Pickle’s history was irrelevant. As an adopter you have to be acutely aware of ANY triggers your children may have and I would have spoken to them even before Pickle had started nursery about it. As it happens she hasn’t and she does it from time to time but I told her that when she brought it up. I felt, at the time, they were looking at her as the “adopted child with possible issue” and were scrutinising for the wrong reasons.

At the end of that meeting, after all that had been said they then added that I “shouldn’t concentrate on the negatives but on the positives”. But there hadn’t been any positives. They made me feel like Pickle is the only 3 and a half year old to ever display these behaviours.

I would also like to bring up a further concern that I noted throughout the weeks of taking Pickle to this preschool. The registration process, being one of the most significant and important.

They have a system whereby a table is laid with all the children’s names on cards. The children are meant to find their own names and pass it to the member of staff on registration duty. Without fail, Pickle was almost certainly dismissed every time. On only a couple of occasions was she really congratulated on finding her name. The trouble started when my daughter, tired of being ignored, started picking up the wrong name and passing it to the teacher on duty. And again, without fail, the member of staff on duty would take the card and then carry on talking to whoever they were talking with so I would have to tell them that Pickle had given them the wrong name. They never ever spotted it without me pointing it out. The person mainly guilty of this was the manager. Is registration not a legal requirement to know who’s there? If it wasn’t for me pointing out the wrong name had been given to them by my daughter they wouldn’t have known.

I also feel it important to inform you that I had a meeting with our social worker about what has happened. I was left feeling extremely anxious after attending the AGM/parents evening and I felt my only option on leaving was to phone our support worker immediately the next day. As an adopter you worry all the time anyway and this left me feeling shocked, isolated and anxious. My social worker was appalled by the entries in Pickle’s scrapbook, stating that she felt them to be highly inappropriate. If they were really that concerned they should have informed me immediately. It was our social worker who noted the date between it having been written and the date I was left to read it and find out.

This raises my main concern about the whole experience. If they felt Pickle’s behaviour needed ‘observation” or that they “couldn’t cope with her” or that the issues raised were really problematic for them then why did they not inform me at the time?

What I find most shocking is that we had also moved house the week before so there had been disruption in our house for several weeks while we packed things up. The last time Pickle moved house was to come and live with us and she left behind the only people she’d ever known. We worked really hard at making her feel safe and secure and that we weren’t going to leave her. The preschool knew we were moving and they knew I was continuing to take Pickle there so that there was familiarity and consistency to her daily life. I had explained to them the reasoning for this yet I believe they completely misinterpreted Pickle’s behaviour as “naughty/defiant/manipulative” instead of seeing her as a very frightened little girl who was anxious, scared and worried that her world was going to change again.

I really wanted to work with this preschool to get things right for my daughter but, in all honesty, I felt like a burden to them and that they really didn’t have much time for me or for Pickle. They even mentioned, in the meeting, that she was “difficult to cope with on a Friday because she’s like a whirlwind” and that she “needed one on one” and they said they “didn’t have the staff or resources for that”.

When I wrote to them to tell the Pickle wouldn’t be returning and my reasons for taking her out of their preschool I received a reply that I felt was not genuine. They stated that “Pickle is a wonderful and bright girl who will be greatly missed”. I did not feel this at all in the meeting. I felt she was a burden to them and that they didn’t like her. I felt isolated and I felt they didn’t know, or indeed want to know, my daughter.

I have waited until now to get in touch with you because I felt I needed time to carefully consider my complaint and contemplate on what has happened and how it has affected us as a family and how it’s affected Pickle. We are always very careful not to cause her anxiety but we are always honest with her. When asked how she felt about nursery she said she felt “sad”. And when I asked her if she liked anyone at nursery she said “mummy”. I asked her what she meant as I obviously wasn’t with her at nursery and she told me she “didn’t want me to leave her, ever, at nursery”. She also started to complain about having her nappy changed and my Mum, my Dad and myself experienced Pickle become very wary about having her nappy changed and being scared we were going to hurt her. She would pull away and cry “don’t hurt me”. I’m not suggesting that anything particular happened but I am suggesting that they may have been a little rough and uncaring. After two weeks of not being at the preschool Pickle became happier and more relaxed with no issues about having her nappy changed. What she has been left with is an anxiety about going to a preschool/nursery setting where she thinks I’m going to leave her.

Fortunately we have now found a wonderful nursery who seem to have managed to undo some of the damage which was done to my daughter’s confidence. Just two weeks after starting she is positive, happy, relaxed and secure at her new nursery. They have been incredible in their knowledge of attachment and what children are and are not capable of and what the individual children need. They have been incredibly supportive and their communication skills are excellent. Unfortunately Pickle is still having bad dreams about her “old nursery” and talks several times a week about not wanting to go back to “the old horrible nursery” with the “disgusting people”. She has added recently that they were “horrible for taking her comforter away from her” and this is something that I had suspected but hadn’t been sure about. This toy is incredibly important to Pickle as it gives her immediate security in stressful situations. To learn that this was such an issue that it is still bothering her now, two months on, is appalling, along with everything else that is bothering her about what she experienced.

While I want you to to take everything I have written in to account I think the key points are as follows:

  •  Their inappropriate use of language when describing someone’s child (ie spiteful, manipulative, defiant and taunting)
  •  Their total lack of communication until any issues have become so large in their eyes they feel they have no choice but to have a big meeting about it with a parent who hasn’t got a clue what’s been happening. There was no warning.
  •  The lack of concentration at registration. The dismissive nature in which my daughter was dealt with. And the safety issues regarding not knowing that a child has given them the wrong name.
  •  Their view of adoption. This is my opinion only but I do feel she was being viewed differently but not in a positive, helpful or caring way. She was being viewed as a “problem child”.

Thank you for your time in reading this and I hope that you take care to investigate all my concerns.

Regards

And I never heard from them again. Appalling.