Teacher knows best? Not any longer as parents muscle in on the classroom

Apr 30, 2017 by

Abusive emails, letters to Ofsted: teachers face harassment

When Geoff Barton started teaching in 1985, parents’ evening – a brief five-minute chat – was the only time teachers saw most mums and dads. If families had a concern, they might write a letter, or call the school office.

Fast-forward three decades and the dynamics between schools and parents have changed dramatically. The voice of parents is louder, their expectations higher – and it’s much easier to instantly broadcast a complaint.

Research by academics at Bath Spa University suggests that in some cases the often delicate relationship between parents and teachers has shifted even further. Abusive behaviour by parents is experienced by a third of primary teachers, either online or on the school premises, at least once a month. A fifth of secondary school teachers are exposed to such behaviour once a month, according to the study. Female teachers were more likely to report such experiences.

“In the past, there wasn’t the same forensic focus on schools and school performance,” says Barton, a veteran headteacher who was elected general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders in February. “And, today, communication is so much quicker – access to teachers through email is so much quicker. That sometimes means there isn’t a detachment for parents or the school between what has happened and has been alleged.”

Barton, who was headteacher of King Edward VI school in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk for 15 years, says teachers want parents to be engaged, but that some schools are still getting to grips with how to manage this relationship. Some are handing out guidelines warning families about defamatory comments online, or issuing a template complaint letter to parents to prevent angry email tirades. Others display a poster in their reception areas, outlining how the school expects parents to behave, and how families will be treated in return.

Source: Teacher knows best? Not any longer as parents muscle in on the classroom | Education | The Guardian

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