Schools

Stop abusing my teachers, trust CEO tells parents

Mowbray Education Trust's CEO warned she faces losing talented staff over 'personally abusive' and 'sometimes threatening' messages

Mowbray Education Trust's CEO warned she faces losing talented staff over 'personally abusive' and 'sometimes threatening' messages

26 May 2023, 12:00

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Trust CEO Christine Stansfield has warned parents to stop sending abusive communications to staff

A trust chief executive has warned parents across its seven schools she will lose talented staff if they don’t cut out “personally abusive” and “sometimes threatening” communications.

Christine Stansfield, chief executive of the Mowbray Education Trust in Leicestershire, told Schools Week two teachers were leaving this summer because of “low-level” but “repeated” abuse in emails and on social media

She said parents had sworn and personally insulted staff. One called a head of year a “head of twat” after complaining about an English literature GCSE exam clashing with a family holiday.

In an email to parents on Monday, the CEO said: “I am concerned that this might well result in headteachers and staff deciding to leave our schools and possibly the profession: frankly, why would you subject yourself to that level of abuse?

“I am sure that the people reading this would be horrified by the personally abusive and sometimes threatening communications that have been received. I am therefore asking you to help me to ensure our heads are enjoying their work: be reasonable in your interactions, be fair and be kind.”

She said some parents’ emails “repeatedly complaining about a perceived injustice” had the “potential for harassment” and were written in a “vexatious tone”. 

Such complaints followed a refusal to issue some pupils with toilet passes for anxiety or other mental health problems because of a lack of medical evidence. 

“There’s a sense that as people are increasingly struggling, somebody’s got to be to blame,” Stansfield said.

In an earlier letter in 2021, she said parents would be “horrified by the personally abusive and sometimes threatening communications” some staff received. 

“It is worse,” she told parents this week.

‘Growing trend’ of inappropriate behaviour

A recent Teacher Tapp survey on behalf of edu-legal support firm Edapt, found 17 per cent of 6,720 teacher respondents said they had been subject to an allegation – unfounded or otherwise – made by a parent. 

Meanwhile, 35 per cent said they were concerned they might face this situation in the future. 

Alistair Wood, Edapt’s chief executive, said its casework team had been supporting more staff following parental allegations. 

“Social media use means that it is much easier for comments and rumours to spread before schools have a chance to engage in a meaningful complaints process, leaving staff vulnerable,” he said. 

A Schools Week investigation last year found police had dealt with more than 2,000 case of social media abuse in schools since 2018, which included teacher abuse.

In its 2023 Big Question Survey, 3 per cent of NASUWT members said they had received abuse or allegations from pupils on social media in the past year. 

The figure was the same for the previous four years, bar 2021 when it dropped to 1 per cent amid school closures. 

However Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the leaders’ union ASCL, said while most parents were “polite and respectful, there does appear to be a growing trend of inappropriate behaviour towards staff”.

This could be “deeply distressing” for those targeted, he said, calling for investigations into the “reasons behind these behavioural changes in schools and to find solutions”.

While rising abuse was part of a “national picture”, Stansfield said she was “responsible for delivering the local. I can only do this if the brilliant people I employ enjoy their jobs enough to stay in the profession.”

She called on parents to “help me to redress the balance of a small minority of voices that sometimes appear to be overwhelming in their negative attacks on great teachers and leaders. I want those great people to teach your children without distraction.”

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2 Comments

  1. Fantastic that someone is raising this as a public issue, it never seems to get media play. The biggest change since covid is poor behaviour, but the biggest challenge is eliciting parental support to help combat it. I lead a big pastoral team in a very large school and threatening sometimes, angry often and argumentative standard, calls and utterly unreasonable expectations are breaking staff will. This, combined with what feels like a complete abnigation of responsibility for parenting, with an expectation that we solve all their problems with less than zero support from most media, the government and depleted agencies and alternative provision, is absolutely driving good staff away. It’s a bigger problem than is recognised… thanks for the report.

  2. Barbara Osei

    I’ve been a teacher for fourteen plus years and the behaviour in our classrooms is getting horrifyingly worse. Teachers have been kicked, spat on, they’ve had their hair pulled and even verbally abused. Sometimes parents blame teachers for their children’s behaviour. How is this possible? I’m a parent and a teacher, I know charity begins at home and if as parents we don’t look at ourselves first, sadly, all the excellent teachers will disappear into other professions. Parents should help us rather than tear us down for little J’s behaviour.
    Unfortunately, it’s not just teachers who get the abuse. It’s those at reception too. They take the in coming phone calls and from what I have been told it’s very upsetting. Why are some parents getting so aggressive? Are teachers scapegoats for parental inadequacies or there is a bigger problem here. Whatever it is, it’s a ticking time bomb. When and how it explodes I don’t know. Sadly, teachers now suffer from mental health issues that no one is addressing. Now that’s my two pence worth.