Monday 26 November 2012

Complaints Review Summary

The Complaints section was reviewed in term 3, 2012, by board, staff, parents. We’ve made a few changes to topics as a result and the draft topics are in Upcoming Changes for boards and schools to consider. A few schools have school specific Complaints topics – you’ll need to send us any changes you want made to your topics, or let us know if you want our draft ones. Every school needs to check its own implementation feedback and respond as appropriate.
The changes include a new title for Guidelines for Parents with a Complaint. It’s now Guidelines for Informal Complaints and we’ve stated that it is for any informal complains, ie, made by parents/caregivers, or by staff members.  Investigating a Formal Complaint has been strengthened largely as a result of advice from our subject matter expert, David Beck. All changes are detailed in Upcoming Changes.
Reviewers liked the emphasis on resolving conflicts informally, and the back up of a formal complaints procedure in case the informal approach isn’t successful. Most reviewers commented that they had never had to use the formal complaints procedure but were pleased it was there just in case…
One school wondered if the lack of complaints they’ve had is the result of a very happy school community, or from being unapproachable.  I guess the best relationship is one which operates in a  spirit of respect, tolerance, and er something.  A good complaints procedure helps – make sure your school community is aware of the procedure – you could put a link to the policy in the school newsletter, or cut and paste it. A number of reviewers had never seen the Complaints section before and wondered how well advertised it was to parents.
Once again, we acknowledge the guidance of David Beck of SB Law ( in reviewing our changes. Thanks David.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Car Seats for Seven Year Olds

From the newspapers:
Under proposed new road rules children up to the age of seven will have to sit in car seats. The new limit, up from the age of five, will align New Zealand's requirements with Australia. Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges says the change is a sensible move as international and local research shows school age children are at considerable risk if they use adult seat belts. He says the new limit will require changes to the Land Transport (Road User) Rules, and there will be public consultation to address any practical issues.
Mr Bridges says the changes need to be flexible enough so they don't create extra difficulties for taxi drivers or large families. Safekids and the Motor Trade Association say they would like the Government to go further, and keep children in car seats until at least the age of 10.

From Megan:

It’s a fact that children don’t fit in adult seat belts, they’re the wrong size and their anatomy is different from adults – for example, their ribs and pelvis don’t cover as much of their abdomens, and their ribs are bendy so don’t protect their heart and lungs.
It’s also a fact that most of us ignore this inconvenient fact a lot of the time. We’re good in the current compulsory period, most babies are nicely trussed up for car trips, and toddlers generally. At school age, most children are belted in – but with adult seatbelts. The Ministry of Transport Road Safety Surveys show that we have a high rate of restraining our children with seatbelts, just haven’t got the message yet about appropriate restraints.
Maybe making carseats compulsory is the only way to punch the information into us.
There is plenty of information around about the dangers of incorrectly fitted safety belts, see my previous blog (Private Cars for EOTC Transport) of February, 2011. Seriously, go and read it now.
Here are some interesting facts:
Children’s injuries (info from ACC)
·         Motor vehicles are the number one killer of children, accounting for 1 in 5 child fatalities.
·         Properly used child restraints and safety belts reduce the risk of death in a vehicle crash by 71% and serious injury by 67%.
The World Health Organisation states that in the age group 4 – 7, booster seats are estimated to reduce the chances of sustaining clinically significant injuries during a crash by 59%, as compared to using ordinary vehicle seatbelts.
So what are the issues that are stirring people up?
1)      It shouldn’t be age, it should be height and weight.  Well, it’s a good point but far simpler to say an age. If carseats are compulsory and kids get used to being in them, maybe the smaller ones won’t feel so bad about staying in them a bit longer… Seven is probably only an interim step anyway, many people would like to see the age go up to 12. The fact is, children simply don’t fit in adult seatbelts without some kind of booster seat and generally don’t reach an adult enough height and weight until 12 ish.
2)      You can’t fit more than two carseats in a normal car! Not easily it’s true, and there are many families with more than two children seven or younger. And what a pain for grandparents, aunties, schoolfriends, etc, who won’t be able to make spontaneous transport offers without car seat considerations. What will happen to school trips?
3)      It’s expensive. Yep, that’s true too although maybe there’ll be some hiring schemes such as Plunket runs for infant carseats.
4)      It’s mollycoddling. No, not really. It’s one thing for children to be active, to take risks climbing trees and jumping off the woodpile. Those activities are done voluntarily (mostly, unless you have older brothers…) and are important in learning about their physical abilities and the world – gravity, first aid, and all that. It’s part of childhood to take risks and learn from the painful consequences. Kids can learn to cope with falling off a bike and scraping a knee, they can learn to bravely bear the pain of a thumb caught in the car door, or stoically suck on a Sparkler burnt digit, but…being inadequately restrained in a car driven by someone else is different. You can’t expect children to “harden up” about whiplash, abdominal injuries, etc.
5)      It’s the nanny state yet again. Let us decide how to bring up our kids. Hmmm, tricky. There will always be people who educate themselves about issues, and others who blatantly disregard safety guidelines. Whose responsibility is it to keep our children safe? Where does it stop? Is insisting on child carseats any worse than insisting on swimming pool fences, childproof lids on medicines, bike helmets?

World Health Organisation article about Youth and Road Safety

Monday 27 August 2012

Social Media Policy

A number of schools have asked us recently if we have a Social Media policy.
Well, we nearly have but we want to know what exactly you want it to cover. What are the issues around social media? What social media are we talking about? Twitter? Facebook? Online groups and forums? Wikipedia? Blogs?
We could acknowledge the widespread use of social media and the benefits of using it, ie, to communicate and connect with other communities and individuals, and to share resources, links, insights, etc. You know, like this blog …
Are we also talking about the school’s own blogs and Facebook, Twitter, and other accounts?
Here at SchoolDocs we like social media and see that it’s being used more and more and in a variety of contexts.  We touch on it in our Cybersafety policy but maybe we need specific social media guidelines around:
·         acceptable use and unacceptable use
o   unsafe use, eg,  giving out personal information
o   copyright and privacy issues around sharing material and sharing photos of people
o   harassment or embarassment issues
o   representing the school, disclaimers, personal opinions, etc
o   parents connecting with the school’s social media
o   issues about effective use of time, etc
o   damage control.
·         setting up and managing the school blogs, Facebook page, and any other social media.
Does that sound like the sort of information you’re requesting? What have we missed out? What has triggered the requests – problems, or a growing awareness that some guidelines? Please comment on this blog – let us know your experiences, concerns, successes, etc.
By the way, SchoolDocs is on Facebook you know. You could be our friend.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Before and After School Supervision

Further to our post earlier in the year about students arriving at school too early in the morning, or not leaving the school until late in the afternoon, we've written a topic called Before and After School Supervision to sit just under the Playground Supervision topic.

If you want this topic in your document set, email us ( and let us know whether you want it as is, or with different times on it. Take a look at it on the Demo site under Upcoming Changes(you'll need your admin username and password).  Or here: (the bits in square brackets are easy for us to change to suit your requirements)

We appreciate parents' efforts in getting students to school at a good time in the morning. Arriving late is disruptive for the child, and for the class and teacher. [Arriving between 8:35 and 8:50 gives the student plenty of time to catch up with friends, hang up their school bag, hand in any notices, and be in class ready to start at 8:55].

Note: For your child's safety, please make sure that they arrive at school after [8:30 and have left the schoolgrounds by 3:15 pm]. We cannot guarantee supervision at school outside those times.

As always, we encourage you to share your views and/or experiences on the subject. Is it a problem at your school or not? Is it seasonal? Is your playground equipment just TOO good?

Post a comment!

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Review Summary: Home Learning

It was great to have so many parents engaging with policy reviews – Home Learning is certainly a topic that parents have strong feelings about. For the most part, reviewers were happy with the policy, but many felt differently about its implementation.
Most schools use the SchoolDocs generic topic, but those schools who have a school specific  topic will need to review both the content and implementation of their policy.

Reviewers commented that the aims of the policy were comprehensive and positive, and liked the way the policy spells out the responsibilities of each group (teacher, student, parent) and the connection between home and school. Teachers commented that the policy allowed them flexibility.
Feedback from the parent reviewers showed a wide range of expectations. Some clearly enjoy homeworking with their children and make homework a high priority in their homes. Others resent being put in the role of teacher when this is not a job they are trained for or are comfortable with.
Many parents remarked that the policy was too general and wanted to see specific information about how long homework should take, what should be given as homework, what happens if homework isn’t done, etc. There were strong calls for MORE homework, and for LESS homework.
This isn’t something we can cover in a generic topic. It’s often not even school-specific, we expect it’s a very teacher-specific matter. Clearly it’s important that individual teachers communicate their homework expectations and practises to students and their families, and from my experience as a parent, they generally do. This has often happened at Meet the Teacher evenings early in the year, and in class newsletters.
Some of our schools have schoolwide home learning initiatives, such as Challenge Awards, and we replace our generic topic with their school specific one. If you want to do this, email us your topic and we’ll add it to your site.
We are not making any changes to our generic Home Learning topic but strongly encourage all school principals, boards, and relevant others (teachers) to discuss their school specific feedback and report back to their communities as appropriate.

The Great Homework Debate: How Much is TOO Much?

Well, I think we can all agree that going home from school to do nothing more than just lie on the couch and eat chips is a Bad Thing, and not just for teachers. Students, especially, have a lot of learning to fit into their lives. But how much of that learning should take the form of homework from school?

Personally, I LOVED homework. How I loved a clean page, the crisp white, the razor thin slices of horizontal blue, the delicious stern, and yet, flamboyant, red margin line.  I loved my pencil case, my sharpened pencils, my felt pens!  I loved my desk, my study lamp (yes, anglepoise). I loved illustrating my homework and ruling straight lines, I loved looking things up, and I loved getting my homework back with a star, or a stamp! And it got me out of doing the dishes.

I loved homework UNTIL… I became the parent of a primary school aged child. That was twenty two years ago. I still have a child at primary school (not the same child) and over twenty two years and four children my relationship with homework has had its ups and downs.

Sometimes, homework seemed to be more of a compliance thing than any learning experience;  badly photocopied (and shrunk almost to illegibility to save photocopy paper) homework sheets with, God forbid, spelling mistakes and other errors! But there was Trouble if it wasn’t completed! This type of homework experience doesn’t strengthen the bond between home and school, or between the student and learning. Or parent and child for that matter…

Reading through the feedback of last term’s Home Learning review, my extensive experience of homework enabled me to empathise with almost every view expressed.

When homework is good, it’s a great opportunity for parents to know what topics are current at school and to gauge their  child’s interest and understanding. It can be an opportunity for some very positive time  together, reading and talking, praising your child’s efforts. It can boost a child’s time management, independent learning and research skills.

At worst, it’s a struggle to do, hard to understand what is required, there’s too much of it, and it doesn’t seem relevant.

The homework that has worked  best for my family is the flexible sort:

  • It acknowledges that other “home learning” the child is involved in is learning, and cuts down on time available for completing school set home learning. Many children are involved personally in sports, dance, scouts, karate, cooking, looking after animals, music lessons, etc, and/or the process of dropping off/picking up/watching their siblings at these activities.
  • It allows the child to approach homework tasks in the way that interests them. For example, a unit on the Olympic Games might involve writing a story about winning an event, or pretending to be a reporter, or building a scale replica of the main stadium out of matchsticks, or personally going for a run or trying discus, or drawing a picture, designing a stadium, inventing a mascot, producing a business plan, inventing a new event, calculating the trajectory and velocity of a shotput, writing the music and/or lyrics for the Olympic song, singing or playing such a song, choreographing an opening display involving 6000 schoolchildren and 2000 small white dogs, calculating how many buses will be required to transport that many schoolchildren and dogs if one bus can hold 40 children and ten dogs and travels at an average speed of 30 kilometres per hour and, oh dear I’m getting silly.

What homework has worked well for you, as a parent, as a family, as a teacher, as a school?
How much IS too much?

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Children Unsupervised Before and After School

What do you do about students who are at school too early or too long after school?

It's probably their fervent desire for knowledge that brings these little people to school at 8 am, and keeps them there until 3:30 or later. Probably - but possibly it's that their parents drop them off early and fail to collect them at 3 because of work or other commitments. These parents might assume that the school will provide supervision for the child while they are on the school grounds.

As I understand it, school boards are not responsible for supervising students outside school hours and most schools expect students to be at school no earlier than 8:30 am and no later than 3:15 – 3:30 pm.  How should a school deal with the issue of the early arrivers/late leavers?

What happens at YOUR school? Is it even a problem? Was it a big problem and you solved it with a Breakfast Club or similar programme? Do you have a rule that students are not allowed on the grounds before a certain time and must be off them by a certain time? Do you provide, or encourage the parents of regularly “overtime” students to use, before and after school programmes? Do you add a note to your website and print it in your newsletter about safety issues of unsupervised students before and after school? Has anything happened to students at your school when they’ve been there unsupervised? Should SchoolDocs write a topic about it that your school could use?

Please tell us your experiences and your ideas about this issue. 

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Access to School Grounds After Hours

What happens at your school when you're not there? Do the locals spend much time there? Walking dogs, playing on the swings, defacing the buildings, keeping an eye on the place, climbing the trees?

Some schools are quite hidden from the road where others are very open. Many schools have a lot of traffic through after hours through community hiring of the buildings, after school care programmes, school pool hire, etc.

At SchoolDocs we were asked some time ago about guidelines for closed circuit surveillance cameras. These guidelines are available - see them on the Demo site. Obviously, some schools have a serious problem with vandalism or illegal activities on the grounds.

We like to think that most schools DON"T have a problem and are happy to host the odd extended family cricket match on a Sunday. What's your school's tolerance for people on the grounds after hours?

Have you had any serious issues? How did you manage them?