At Eduprise, we've written previously about the epidemic of stress affecting those working within our schools. Now, a survey of more than 2,000 schools by the Ofsted schools inspectorate has confirmed that disruption caused by "aggressive" parent behaviour is a significant contributor to stress for teachers in England.
Teachers responding to the survey said they did not feel supported by parents with managing poor pupil behaviour, which was found to be a considerable source of low occupational well-being.
Ofsted reported that a "lack of parental support in solving discipline problems jointly" was made worse by an "inconsistent approach" to managing behaviour.
It was also found that unrealistic parental expectations for children is leading to excessive pressure on school staff. In addition, the frequency of emails from parents and the expectation of an instant response is adding to an already heavy workload for those working in schools.
Parents with Concerns are "Skipping Steps in the Process"
Ofsted wrote in its report that issues around communication become "even more serious" when it comes to parents raising concerns about a school. It stated the problem lies in a growing trend of going "straight to the highest authority".
Survey respondents pointed out this was increasingly the case due to "the culture in society of wanting to complain remotely at the highest level."
"Parents who take their complaints to the local press unduly damage the reputation of a school before staff have chance to properly mediate a dispute."
At Eduprise, we have first-hand experience of parents who skip steps in the process of raising a school-related concern — which the report found was having a "clear impact" on the well-being of staff. In some cases, parents circumvent discussions with teachers by approaching principals directly; in others, parents take their complaints to the local press, unduly damaging the reputation of a school before staff have chance to properly mediate the dispute.
It's in cases like these where our team works closely with academies to ensure that parents are made aware of the proper way to raise concerns, and to mitigate the reputational harm caused when parents approach the press.
Teachers are "Neither Supported nor Sufficiently Respected"
The survey found that certain complaints are even more aggressive in nature, being described as "abusive" or "disrespectful". Senior leaders outlined a vicious circle that starts with a parent shouting, and noted that the situation can easily escalate with other parents who witness the situation, which leads to a "mob mentality".
Despite the strategies in place to tackle issues, senior leaders responding to the survey pointed out their vulnerability in the face of "the odd few parents who can bring a school down". Ofsted noted this kind of parental behaviour "introduces another layer of complexity to the previously discussed issues of managing pupils' behaviour."
Eduprise supports schools facing challenges with aggressive parent behaviour through targeted, proactive communications, as well as the writing, implementation, and dissemination of policies that define a code of conduct for parents and school visitors.
Schools Face an "Imbalance of Power"
Ofsted categorised issues in the relationship between schools and parents under two themes: the lack of parental respect and the power of parents over school staff. In addition to inappropriate and aggressive behaviours, the report explained lack of parental respect was also manifested in "subtler" ways, including:
- Not having trust in staff.
- Disagreeing with teachers' decisions.
- Not taking teaching assistants seriously.
- Not acknowledging the support or skill-set of staff.
Social media gives parents power to publicly express negative comments about a school. Ability to go straight to the highest authority and raise a complaint gives them further power.
Some staff believe that media portrayals of teachers are generally not helpful and feel that there should be "more support for parents to appreciate the profession". Respondents reported a sense that there is an imbalance of power in parents’ favour, with social media giving parents the power to publicly express negative comments about a school. Meanwhile, schools have little ability to address those comments and lack the capacity to manage complaints made in a public forum.
The team at Eduprise helps schools redress this imbalance in power by making sure their stories are heard. We embed ourselves within the school setting to generate an ongoing series of positive stories that are shared with local press and across social media. In doing so, we help schools establish a proud online presence and take control of online conversation so events are represented fairly and proportionately.
Ofsted recommends that school leaders ensure parents are informed about the most appropriate ways of raising concerns, and implement appropriate mechanisms for responding to parents. In particular, school leaders are asked to consider alternative ways in which parents and staff communicate.
Many of the recommendations made by Ofsted in this recent report reflect the practice and processes that the Eduprise team works to establish with multi-academy trusts. Our team is widely experienced in producing frequent, quality content that raises the standard for parent communication. We've asked parents about their preferred channels of communication. We've also published guidance on using social media channels, as well as methods for ensuring a positive social media presence. And we work with schools daily to make sure their good stories are heard.
If your academy could benefit from this expertise, make sure to get in touch today.