Parents’ demand for instant response culture must end, says Ofsted chief

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.

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.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman (Ofsted/PA)
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman (Ofsted/PA)

The report suggested 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 2,293 staff from 290 schools and 2,053 staff from 67 further education and skills (FES) providers, found that while 98% of those who took part said they enjoy teaching, just over a third (35%) reported low levels of wellbeing.

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

The report found that just 52% of teachers believe behaviour rules are consistently enforced in their school, and this lack of senior leadership support on managing poor behaviour was found to be one of the main ways in which management negatively influenced wellbeing.

Ms Spielman also called on parents to trust in and support schools when it comes to managing behaviour.

She said: “Schools need to have a strong behaviour policy, which will include some sanctions, to allow all children to learn. Parents should support it.”

Among the report’s recommendations to help improve teachers’ well-being is 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 an unnecessary extra workload for teachers.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “We know that poor behaviour damages teachers’ morale and increases workload and stress, which is why we want schools to instil cultures of good behaviour from top to bottom.

“Where staff are struggling, we trust headteachers to take action to address the causes and ensure teachers have the support they need.

“We are also tackling excessive data burdens in schools; simplifying the accountability system to target the associated burdens and working with Ofsted to ensure staff workload is considered as part of a school’s inspection judgment.”

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