Keynsham headteacher blasts parents over abuse of staff

A Keynsham headteacher has warned that some of her staff might quit because of ongoing abuse from some parents.

The principal of Broadlands Academy in St Francis Road, Louise Hamilton, has outlined what her staff have to put up with and how distressed they feel.

In a letter, sent out at the start of half-term holiday to parents of students at the secondary school, she says: “Those of you with children in Years 8-10 may recall that I had to send a letter out in March, outlining my concerns about the treatment of Broadlands staff by a minority of parents and carers.

“Unfortunately, incidences of abusive, rude and disrespectful language and behaviour towards our staff have again increased, causing upset and distress to staff affected. I am therefore writing to reiterate that this is not an acceptable way to treat our staff, who do their best for our students day in, day out.”

Miss Hamilton

She continued: “We always welcome visitors to Broadlands and are always happy to meet with parents/carers to listen to and address any concerns. As is the case in any organisation, we acknowledge that we do not always get things 100% right, but we actively welcome feedback and will always seek to investigate issues and work quickly to correct any mistakes we have made.

“Our staff are a dedicated team who consistently go above and beyond expectations for students and their families, and who have chosen to work at Broadlands because they are passionate about improving children’s life chances and supporting them to succeed. School staff work tirelessly to teach students and support their pastoral care, and have to manage and prioritise many complex and challenging situations in the course of their busy working week. As such, no staff member should go to work with the expectation that they will be either verbally or physically abused. All members of our staff are entitled to dignity at work and a safe working environment, as is the case in other public service professions, like the NHS and the police.

“Following recent incidents, I would like to reiterate that any parent/carer who exhibits abusive behaviour towards staff will be asked to meet to discuss this formally, and expectations of appropriate communication will be made clear. On the rare occasions that this meeting does not resolve the issue, the parent/carer will have their licence to visit the school site removed, and will receive a formal letter to this effect.”

Miss Hamilton highlighted that abusive behaviour towards staff can be defined as, but is not limited to:

  • Making threats or spreading unhelpful judgements in person, on the phone, over email or via social media.
  • Shouting loudly and/or speaking aggressively.
  • Hanging up on staff in anger during a phone call when in disagreement.
  • Using offensive language such as swear-words and insults.
  • Physical intimidation such as approaching staff in a threatening way, making inappropriate gestures, banging doors/furniture or blocking an exit.
  • Threatening legal action, press involvement and/or police intervention when first reporting a concern, before allowing staff the right to respond or offer additional information.
  • Spreading rumours about staff based on hearsay and gossip, without having any evidence to back this up.
  • Turning up at school with no appointment and aggressively demanding to see a member of staff immediately.
  • Sending confrontational emails during evenings and weekends, and threatening to involve police, lawyers and/or the press if a reply is not immediate.
  • Encouraging young people to be rude and disrespectful to staff, and supporting students to disregard the rules of the school.
  • Aggressively blaming staff for their child’s poor choices and the consequences of these choices.
  • Blaming staff and the school for issues that arise via social media or social encounters outside of the school day and demanding that these are resolved immediately, before staff have had a chance to gather information and decide on the right approach.

The principal added: “There is currently a national recruitment crisis when it comes to educational staff. It is becoming harder and harder for any school to attract highly qualified teachers and support staff, and many report that they are leaving the profession due to the level of abuse that they have to endure from parents, carers and – in some cases – from students whose families actively encourage them to treat staff with disrespect and rudeness.

“One of my main priorities is to recruit and retain the highest calibre of staff possible for the benefit of our students, and I am conscious that those enduring ongoing harassment or rudeness may look elsewhere for opportunities.

“I know that, like me, you want your child to be exposed to the best possible teaching and pastoral support, and hope that we can therefore work together to ensure a mutually respectful partnership that models the high performance skills of collaboration and empathy for the children in our care. This will ultimately benefit everyone in our community.”

She thanked the “vast majority of parents and carers who are supportive of our policies and processes, and who challenge us with respect and consideration when they are concerned or frustrated by an issue”.

Broadlands is part of the Academies Enterprise Trust and was rated as Good by Ofsted at its last inspection in 2016.