Tension between parents and educators rising

Tension between parents and educators rising

In February, the eighth Australian Principals Health and Wellbeing Survey Report revealed that in 2018, one in three Australian school principals were physically attacked and one in two experienced threats of violence at work.

Worryingly, the violence against educators is not only coming from students but from parents as well, and this issue is pushing some teachers and principals to the brink.

Speaking to 60 Minutes as part of a special education report on Sunday night, former primary school teacher George Allertz said he

“You’re going home after being abused by a parent because they didn’t agree with something you taught or the way you taught it, or that you’ve asked their child to do homework,” Allertz told 60 Minutes reporter Liam Bartlett.

“You basically become deflated, and it gets to a point where you tell the parent: ‘I’m trying my hardest, and I’m doing it for your kids, but you’re abusing, threatening and undermining me.’”

He added that some parents had fought on school grounds, which led to the police being involved and escorting them off the premises.

“We’ve even had parents swearing and fighting during Christmas carol celebrations at the school. It’s awful,” Allertz said.

Berwick Lodge Primary School principal, Henry Grossek, said parental meddling has never been as bad as it is today.

“Parents get frustrated because their children are not getting the support. Principals and teachers are frustrated because we can’t meet the needs of that child and there’s often a ripple effect,” Grossek said.

“It’s very stressful because you don’t know where it will end. It eats away at you over time, and it creates a bad feeling in your stomach where you just don’t feel good about it.”

Grossek said there is now a greater intensity in the relationships between parents and educators.

“Parents have become more anxious and less trusting of our professionalism. We’ve always had parents who come into schools in a highly charged emotional state, but the numbers, frequency and intensity over time has risen,” he said.

And this issue isn’t just confined to public schools.

St Andrew's Cathedral School principal, Dr John Collier, said some parents have “extravagant expectations” that schools are unable to accommodate.

“Sometimes parents lose the sense that schools have multiple students and regard the school as a kind of individual tutoring service,” Dr Collier told 60 Minutes.

“Another extravagant expectation is that parents will ring a teacher and expect to get that teacher out of class to speak to them. I won’t allow that here because I won’t have the teacher taken away from the other children.”

Dr Collier added that parents also expect teachers to communicate with them by email on a daily basis.

“Some high school teachers, depending on the subject they teach, might have 130-150 students, and that’s just not possible,” he said.

“It’s not a realistic expectation. It’s an extravagant expectation that we just can’t fulfil. We’re not here for just one child – we’re here for all the children.”