Heads blame parents for unruly pupils

Parents who opt out of taking responsibility for their children are being blamed for a downward spiral of classroom behaviour in Norfolk, an authoritative survey of headteachers reveals today.

By STEVE DOWNES, Education correspondent

Parents who opt out of taking responsibility for their children are being blamed for a downward spiral of classroom behaviour in Norfolk, an authoritative survey of headteachers reveals today.

Many heads partly blamed mobile phones for growing disruption, abuse and bullying - and called for a blanket ban on them in schools.

They also told how ridiculous workload and outside interference was leaving many of them demoralised, burnt out and counting the days to retirement.

The candid comments are part of a groundbreaking EDP survey, in which all Norfolk's state school heads were asked a series of questions about key classroom issues.

Dozens of leaders from first, primary, junior, middle and high schools responded - and while some of the comments were upbeat, the majority painted a bleak picture of the future of education.

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Most of the responses are anonymous because the headteachers feared a backlash from their brutal honesty.

Most said pupil behaviour was getting worse, but pointed the finger of blame at parents.

The head of a junior school in south-west Norfolk said: “Pupil behaviour is getting worse as parents opt out of their responsibilities.”

A south Norfolk primary head said: “The parents are often the problem. The government has given them too much say in education and since many of them have bad memories of school they inflict their grievances on us.”

And another primary head, from north-west Norfolk, said: “When I started teaching 32 years ago we were able to teach for 98pc of the time. In some schools behaviour management is now 98pc.”

The vast majority of the heads who responded called for mobile phones to be banned from schools - or at least locked in a cupboard during school hours.

The leader of a south-west Norfolk infant school said: “Mobile phones definitely need to be banned from schools - they are used during lessons and for downloading porn.”

A Norwich middle school head said: “It is shocking how reliant people appear to be on them, and their potential for disruption, abuse and bullying far outweighs any possible benefits.”

Carole Clayson, head of Wellesley First in Norwich, said: “They should be put in a secure storage area until home time. I can see there may be a need to have them travelling to and from school.”

Heads also hit out at outside interference and mountains of paperwork - and told how they were feeling “demoralised” and burnt out.

One, from an east Norfolk first school, said: “I am increasingly stressed and find it hard to sleep with all the responsibility and worry about things I should have done.”

A south Norfolk primary head said: “I am in my 30s, have been in education for 15 years. I have never been so tired and had so many things still outstanding. The only way of catching up is to work through the holidays.

“On a good day I still love my job and wouldn't change it for anything but unfortunately more frequently I am thinking about what else I could do.”

But Linda Hothersall, head of Brancaster Primary, said: “School's a lovely place to be really. There are lots of positive things going on. I wouldn't do any other job.”

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