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.”