Education Qandary: 'Our seven-year-old's teacher resents her as she is bright and precocious. What can we do?'


Hilary's advice

This needs sorting out. No child should be unhappy at school, but first try to work out exactly what you are dealing with. Do you know precisely why she is unhappy? Or is it just your assumption that this teacher is putting her down?

It could well be that your daughter is unlucky enough to have a mean-spirited teacher who feels threatened by her desire to forge ahead. There are plenty of them out there, and their crabbed pronouncements blight too many young lives.

Equally – and I'm sorry to be so blunt – it could be that your daughter is very irritating. It is not uncommon for doting parents to find evidence for their child's emerging brilliance in every utterance, and a child used to this kind of adoration can be a real pain.

Think hard about what the truth is, then take action. Make an appointment to see the teacher and explain quietly but firmly that your child is unhappy and why you think that is. Ask about the school's policy on gifted children, and whether your daughter can be given advanced work to stretch her. If she has been hurt by things the teacher has said, explain that too. Avoid angry accusations: they will only make things worse. Go as a couple and agree before that if one of you starts to get upset, the other will take over. At the end of the meeting, ask for a follow-up appointment so you can review how things are going.

Readers' advice

Children learn what they want to learn, when they are ready for it. They are not designed to learn at the same speed as everyone else. It is very hard, if not impossible, for one teacher, however well intentioned and experienced, to meet the needs of each and every child in a class of 30. Increasing numbers of parents are withdrawing their children from mainstream education for just the reasons you mention and either sending them to Montessori or Steiner schools or home-educating them.

Home-schooling is an increasingly popular option and it sounds as though your daughter would flourish with such an approach. And don't buy the "she'll miss out on socialisation" argument. The home-educated children I know are the most socialised I have met, much more at ease with people of all ages.

Karen Rodgers, Cambridge

My sister-in-law, who teaches at a secondary school in East Anglia, says that when she goes round the feeder primary schools, the staff there are now as likely to be giving her information about "difficult" parents as they are about particular children's needs. Comments such as "handle with care", "don't meet them on your own" or "they'll be on your back from day one" are sadly common currency.

Rosemary Slater, London W5

If this teacher does not change, take it up with the head and the governors. Bright children are too often squashed by an education system that believes in mediocrity.

Kenneth Tevers, Leeds

Next Week's Quandary

Dear Hilary, Why do we allow youth projects that teach youngsters things such as how to record violent rap songs? Surely such activities just condone bad behaviour? Shouldn't our taxes be going towards projects that try to lift young people up from the street and give them a new sense of purpose in life?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include your postal address on your message. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries can be found on www.hilarywilce.com, where they can be searched by topic.

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