Last night, my wife and I attended a Year Seven settling in evening at our daughter’s soon to be new secondary school. Fully expecting to be told how great the school was and what opportunities lay ahead for our youngest, we instead found ourselves listening to a lengthy speech from the Deputy Head about the poor behaviour of parents.
Talking to a packed hall of silently seated mums and dads, and delivering her message as if telling off a bunch of Year 9s for smoking behind the bike shed, we were, amongst other things, told not to email the school late at night on a Friday and to show the teachers respect. It was all very Grange Hill.
Thereafter, after ensuring our shirts were tucked in and our ties were done up properly – and now feeling suitably contrite – we made our way down the corridors to meet our children’s tutors, fully expecting to be told off for running or dawdling at any point.
It was the strangest of evenings. On the one hand, it was a delight to see the school, to meet the tutors and to gain a greater understanding of what day-to-day school life is like for students. However, on the other, it was shocking to hear how teachers have left the school as a direct result of their interactions with parents and why those remaining now feel the need to lecture adults on the right way to behave.
What is wrong with parents? Why are we driving perfectly good teachers out of the profession by being dicks?
Of course, I completely understand that sometimes things happen at school for which we may want answers, or at the very least a better understanding of what has gone on and reassurance that it won’t happen again. But at what point have we dispensed with civility altogether and defaulted to attack mode with those whose role it is to educate and help our children to thrive?
From talking to others and from reading the letter from the outgoing Head announcing his departure, it appears that parents of children across the school have been making teachers’ lives a misery. Many of these complaints, I am told, evolve around social media issues that have impacted children, leading to friendship breakdowns and issues at school. However, I am not going to start speculating as to why these or other issues have resulted in parents upsetting teachers to such an extent that they are leaving the profession.
Teachers on the edge
Whatever the reasons, the result is unacceptable. No one should have to tolerate abusive or bullying behaviour at work, especially when they are the people charged with shaping the destiny of our children. Because at the end of the day it will be the children who suffer?
Terrifyingly, a 2022 report into the teaching profession in the UK found that 44% of teachers plan to leave the profession by 2027, citing unmanageable workloads, stress and poor levels of public trust as the primary reasons for doing so.
Just think about that for a second. Almost half of all the teachers in the UK, no longer want to do the job they chose and trained to do. The result is that schools today cannot fill the growing number of vacancies they have, which means teachers are doubling up on their workloads to cover, which in turn increases stress levels and further expedites their departures from the profession.
What impact will all this have on our children? Non-subject teachers taking lessons they are not qualified to take. An endless line of supply teachers filling the void. Children unable to build meaningful relationships with teachers they know.
We simply cannot afford to keep losing teachers. So, instead of sending them abusive emails and making their lives a misery, parents should be doing all they can to encourage their children’s teachers to stay. How difficult would it be at the end of this summer term, for example, just to drop them an email to thank them for all their hard work? I’m not saying we should be inviting them round for dinner, or offering to pay their mortgages, but I’m sure a little recognition of the work they’re doing will go a long way.
As for our daughter’s new school, we’re delighted at the opportunities it’s going to offer her and I’m convinced the fantastic teachers we met last night will inspire her to do well. We might just have to pack an extra apple or two in her bag each day to make sure they stay.