Headteacher suggests parents sending ‘highly critical’ feedback to staff on remote lessons should retrain as teachers
A primary school headteacher has sent a letter to parents advising those who have been criticising online lessons to train as teachers themselves.
In the letter to parents, Colin Dowland, headteacher of Woodridge Primary School in Barnet, North London, described how some parents had “taken advantage” of online learning platforms to send “highly critical messages of advice to teachers about how to do their jobs”.
This is not the first time that parents have taken to social media to criticise online learning. Earlier this month, teachers expressed anger over parents taking to Facebook to “publicly shame” pupils’ online learning provision during the national lockdown, branding the criticism “infuriating”.
In his letter, Mr Dowland advised those parents who now considered themselves to be “educational experts” to train as teachers, providing a link to teacher-training routes via Ucas.
Mr Dowland wrote that he realised it was an “exceptionally difficult time” for parents and children at the moment, and that home learning on its current scale was still “relatively new”.
“The children have now received only 13 weeks of school (this too, restricted by Covid) in the last 11 months and this is set to continue for some time to come. Inevitably, there will be some gaps in learning for all children,” he said.
Parents ‘telling teachers how to do their jobs’
He said teachers were setting work in line with the national curriculum and that both learning loss and each child’s progress were difficult to assess remotely, which he realised was “frustrating” for parents.
Mr Dowland thanked parents for sending “supportive and helpful messages” to staff.
But he added that a number of parents had “taken advantage” of the access to teachers through online platforms to send more critical responses.
“A number of parents have taken advantage of this new access to send highly critical messages of advice to teachers about how to do their jobs and questioning their training, skills and competence.
“Can I encourage all those particular parents, who now consider themselves to be educational experts, to sign up for teacher training at their earliest convenience, since there are never enough teachers and I suspect many will be leaving the profession after this year.”
Mr Dowland included a link to the Ucas website on teacher training routes and said he would update parents on any “teaching vacancies at Woodridge over the next few weeks, which, if such messages continue, I am thoroughly expecting”.
Mr Dowland told Tes that parents had responded positively to the letter, and that while the link to the training website was “tongue-in-cheek”, there was a serious message behind it.
“Pupils and parents seeing teachers on their prerecorded videos and seeing teachers live – which is really important for mental health – does give parents who might not think it through the chance to message or email and say, ‘Have you thought about doing this?’ or, ‘How about doing it this way?'” he said.
“And that is undermining for the teachers, who are trained professionals and have needed to learn a completely new set of skills in the last few months in terms of being video stars as well as IT gurus, mental health coaches, virologists and health and safety experts.
“Home learning is a new thing, and some parents feel it’s just like normal school, which sadly it isn’t.”
He added that direct messages from parents to teachers can be very useful, if unusual, in a primary school in that they could give the school more information about a child, their learning or their home situation.
But he cautioned that teachers who were recording two lessons a day as well as teaching over Zoom, monitoring the learningand juggling their own family time were finding critical feedback from parents a distraction from their teaching .
“I have had so many supportive emails from parents since the letter went out, and the truth is parents who are happy with things don’t usually email the school, but they have today,” he said.
“I’ve had a deluge of lovely emails from parents thanking us for what we are doing and apologising on behalf of other parents who might have not taken a moment before firing off an email or a message.”
Mr Dowland said he felt that less experienced staff on the receiving end of criticism might be at risk of leaving the profession.
“If you’ve got a young teacher – for example, in their first or second year of teaching – and they’re getting a deluge of critical emails, they might think, ‘Well, maybe I will switch schools,’ or, ‘Maybe I will do something else.’
“And I wouldn’t want that to happen because it’s a great job, I have great teachers and I don’t want to lose any member of staff.
“Using humour is a good way to get that message across.”
Not all parents have been critical of teachers during the pandemic. Yesterday, a survey showed that more than three-quarters of parents thought teachers had been given an “impossible task” in coping with partial school closures during the Covid crisis, while more than four in five had confidence in their child’s school. The survey of more than 1,000 parents from across the UK was carried out by Mumsnet.