What head teachers should not do when parents misbehave

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The Independent Online

Those who believe that children should be punished for the indiscipline of their parents are making a terrible mistake.

The frustrations of headteachers are understandable, but those who believe that children should be punished for the indiscipline of their parents are making a terrible mistake.

It is true that the intimidation of teachers by parents is an increasing and serious problem in many schools. It is now commonplace for parents to respond aggressively if attempts are made to discipline their children. But it is wrong in principle to use the threat of excluding a child from school as a sanction against the parent.

Of course, in an ideal world, a child's whole family would have a constructive relationship with his or her school; parents would be closely involved in their children's education and would resolve disputes with schools in a civilised way. But, while parents may be held responsible for (some of) the sins of their children, it cannot be right to hold a child responsible for the sins of a parent. Even if the relationship between a school and a parent has broken down, the school has a responsibility towards the child.

Badly behaved parents ought to be dealt with more vigorously. Those who have physically attacked teachers should be banned from school premises and the police should take seriously allegations even of shouting and abuse. These are difficult problems, which can only be reduced by the kind of joined-up working between public agencies that David Miliband, the new schools minister, promoted as head of the Prime Minister's policy unit.

Even if the full panoply of parenting orders and anger-management courses has some effect, there will always be parents whose behaviour is appalling; but that does not mean schools can simply give up on children. It is to the discredit of the teaching profession that so many of its leading members should put forward such an unjust and ill-thought-out proposal.

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