Ban pushy parents from emailing teachers, says Ofsted

Poor behaviour from pupils and parents is key cause of teacher stress, watchdog says

Tes Reporter

emailing teacher

Teachers are under huge pressure to respond immediately to "incessant" emails from parents asking about their child's schooling, a report has found.

The head of Ofsted has called for an end to what she described as an "instant response culture", and urged both management and parents to support teachers in their efforts to do a good job in the classroom.

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Ofsted found that managing poor behaviour in the classroom is one of the main causes of low morale among teachers.

And the report comes as official statistics show teachers leaving the profession at a record rate.

One teacher, responding to a survey by the schools watchdog into well-being within the profession, described their email inbox as "like a pit of death", with "incessant" messages, while another said parents email at night and expect an immediate reply.

And they expressed a sense of imbalance of power in parents’ favour, with social media giving parents the power to publicly express negative comments about a school.

The report suggests restricting access to staff email addresses and reminding parents of the most appropriate ways of raising concerns such as face-to-face meetings or phone calls.

Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman said parents are entitled to have high expectations for their children, but warned that demanding immediate responses to queries is putting extra pressure on teachers.

She said: "Schools also have to play their part to improve their staff's wellbeing and manage the expectation of parents.

"It's high time leaders took steps to end this 'instant response culture', that is putting huge pressure on teachers, and allow them to focus on the important work of teaching."

The research, based on the responses of more than 4,300 staff from schools and further education and skills (FES) providers, also found that while 98 per cent of those who took part said they enjoy teaching, just over a third (35 per cent) reported low levels of wellbeing.

It found: 

* Significantly fewer school teachers are satisfied with their job (73 per cent) than senior leaders (87 per cent).

* Only 54 per cent of staff in schools and FE colleges, report high or very high life satisfaction, compared to 82 per cent among the general population in England.

* 61 per cent of senior leaders report high or very high well-being at work, compared with 35 per cent of teachers and 49 per cent of teaching assistants.

*  25 per cent of school staff surveyed and 28 per cent of FE staff had been absent from their current workplace due to health problems caused or made worse by their work, excluding accidents.

* Almost a third (31 per cent) reported that their job often or always negatively impacts their mental health.

The report found that many teachers believe the positives about the job were outweighed by negative factors – which included high workload, lack of work-life balance, a perceived lack of resources and a perceived lack of support from leaders.

The watchdog found that most teachers (65 per cent) in the study worked "excessively long" hours, teaching was seen as making it "difficult to raise a young family or sustain meaningful personal relationships" and levels of pay were felt to be too low.

Only 44 per cent and 30 per cent of respondents from schools and further education sectors, respectively, were satisfied with their salaries.

As well as more support from senior management in tackling pupil behaviour, the report's recommendations to help improve teachers' well-being included a call for the Department of Education to continue to reduce administration in schools.

Ofsted itself was cited as a source of stress for school staff, with one complaining about "pointless Ofsted tick-box tasks" devised by some school leaders.

But the organisation said it was evaluating its new education inspection framework to address how that may be leading to unnecessary extra workload for teachers.


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