Foulmouthed parents who abuse teachers, skip parents’ evenings or fail to co-operate with Saturday morning detentions should face fines over their behaviour, a former chief Ofsted inspector has argued.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Sir Michael Wilshaw added the rising level of abuse that teachers now have to confront from parents, coupled with a lack of support from government ministers, has persuaded many to turn their backs on state education for good.
As a result, there are fears of a national shortage of head teachers with the right experience and skills in tackling failing schools.
Dir Michael Wilshaw, former chief Ofsted inspector, says teachers are facing a rising level of abuse from parents and coupled with lack of government support, are leaving state education
Sir Wilshaw said: ‘If you consistently do not go to parents’ evenings you should be fined. If you are abusive more than once to a head teacher [you should be fined]. Head teachers should be able to say enough is enough.’
He added that the fine should be comparable to those issued by local councils and schools over unauthorised absences.
Under current regulations, a parent can be fined £60, with the amount rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days.
After 28 days, a parent can be prosecuted with a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a jail sentence up to three months, as well as being handed a Parenting Order.
Former Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has spoken out against the abusive behaviour faced by teachers from parents
His comments come just a week after Alison Colwell, a Kent headteacher who hit the headlines over her strict uniform policy – and sent home 20 girls in a day for wearing skirts that were too short – announced she would be leaving the country to head up an international school in Mallorca.
During her seven-year tenure at Ebbsfleet Academy in Swanscombe, Colwell faced a barrage of abuse from parents who opposed her efforts to improve their children’s life chances with a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to bad behaviour.
Speaking about her experience, Colwell said she had been forced to call the police to remove abusive parents from her office, had banned some parents from entering the school without an appointment and had been vilified on a community Facebook page that dubbed her 700-pupil school ‘Colditz Academy’.
She said she had tried to forget many unpleasant encounters but recalled one parent who, in her first year in charge, ‘stood in reception and, in front of the children coming in, swore at me using ‘f***’ and ‘c***’ ‘.
Almost all the parents who had been abusive to her, she said, were white and working class. They set no rules at home and undermined those at school, dooming their children to failure.
‘The most badly behaved children came from the most chaotic families,’ she said. ‘I once tried to tell a mother she was a bad parent. I got shouted and sworn at even more. It was not a strategy I tried again. My staff had to ask me if I was OK when she finished.’
Ebbsfleet Academy head teacher Alison Colwell spoke of the abuse she received from parents
Under her headship, the proportion of pupils achieving five good GCSEs rose from 24% to 60%. Ofsted recently rated the school ‘good’ and praised her leadership.
Her experience of abusive behaviour from parents was echoed by others at this weekend’s National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) annual conference in Telford.
A motion backed by the National Association of Head Teachers has now called on the government to help reduce attacks against school staff (file pic)
Michelle Sheehy, from Walsall, said two members of staff had been threatened with an axe and subjected to racist and homophobic abuse, The Independent reports.
Others spoke about death threats they had received from parents.
Tim Gallagher, from the West Midlands, asked: ‘Do we need to have the death of a head teacher or the death of a senior member of staff like [the Labour MP] Jo Cox before we take this seriously?’
The NAHT has now backed a motion calling on the government to help reduce attacks against school staff.
School hires security in bid to stop PARENTS fighting in playground
A primary school has hired security guards in a desperate bid to stop parents fighting in the playground.
Bosses at the 420-pupil Castle Hill Academy in Croydon, south London, said the school would take ‘legal action’ to stop parents swearing, shouting and battling each other in front of young children.
Cops were called to a fight outside the school gates on April 24 after a tussle between two mothers kicked off in the playground.
A round robin text sent to parents by joint headteachers Serena Hemmings and Angela Batchelor last week apologised for the incident on April 24 and warned it would ‘take legal steps’ against those involved.
The text stated: ‘We apologise for the behaviour of some of our members of the Castle Hill Academy parent community on the playground.
‘The language and conduct was unacceptable and we are taking legal steps to resolve the situation as well as to protect and support all of our community, most importantly, our students.’
The school is now believed to have hired security guards from the private firm in a bid to stop parents fighting, with two guards spotted outside the school last week.
One parent, who asked not to be named, told the Croydon Advertiser that fights had been happening on school grounds for the past two months.
She said: ‘They were literally having it out on the school premises.
‘There were police patrols driving up and down outside the school and permanent security outside all day last Thursday and Friday.
‘The police have been called regarding this altercation a couple of times before.’
A spokesman for the Met Police confirmed that officers were called to the school on April 24, but that those involved ‘had left the scene’ before officers arrived.
The school was rated inadequate by Ofsted in 2016 and put into special measures.
A spokesman for the school declined to comment.
By Stian Alexander