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Parents’ ‘sense of entitlement’ at fee-paying schools condemned by union boss

Dr Mary Bousted warned it was down to the child to do the work to meet expectations.

Pushy parents paying tens of thousands of pounds for a private school education are piling the pressure on teachers to get their children good grades and a top university place, a union leader has warned.

There is a growing “sense of entitlement” among mothers and fathers who are paying for their child to go to a fee-paying school, according to Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU).

She argued that teachers in independent schools are working “insane” hours, with rising fees being pumped into buildings and facilities rather than wages.

Dr Bousted was speaking as the NEU (ATL section) met for its annual conference in Liverpool.

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Marlborough College, Wiltshire (Steve Parsons/PA)

Among the issues due to be debated is a resolution on workload and mental health among independent school workers which argues that there is evidence of a “growing expectation that teachers are having to respond to emails and text messages from parents, governors and children after the working day has ended and at weekends”.

It adds: “Not only is this causing a challenge to their work-life balance but is also increasing anxiety levels in teachers’ lives.”

Dr Bousted said that private school teachers often do not have the same pressures as their colleagues in the state sector, such as children turning up for lessons cold and hungry.

She added: “What teachers in the independent sector often tell me is that, ‘no we don’t have that, but what we do have is a sense of entitlement amongst parents’ and the entitlement is this: ‘we’re paying all this money for our children to be educated, therefore we expect you to get them through their exams with very good grades and to a top university’.”

The union leader went on to suggest that “the sense that the parents have a role to play beyond paying, and that the child has to have the aptitude and ability to fulfil their parental ambitions gets lost in the equation”.

More and more is required of them (teachers) because the parents are saying ‘I’m paying £38,000’ and they’re finding that they’re working insane hours, often late into the evening and that’s just not being accounted for, and making their life extremely difficult Dr Mary Bousted

Figures from the Independent Schools Council (ISC) show that as of January last year, average school fees, including boarding and day schools, stood at £5,562 per term, and this was up 3.5% compared to 2016.

This covers 1,259 junior and senior schools as well as sixth forms.

Dr Bousted argued: “I think that even though it’s more expensive than ever before to get an education in an independent school, a lot of the resources goes to buildings and it doesn’t go to the actual staff in independent schools, it doesn’t go to teachers and support staff.

“More and more is required of them because the parents are saying ‘I’m paying £38,000’ and they’re finding that they’re working insane hours, often late into the evening and that’s just not being accounted for, and making their life extremely difficult.”

Dr Bousted also said that the boundaries of what teachers should be held responsible for have become blurred, and that while teachers have to “teach as well as they can and support the progress of that child” it is the pupil that has to put in the work to get good results.

“The teacher’s got a job to do in doing the best job they can being a teacher, but the teacher isn’t the child themselves, and it’s the child themselves in the end that has to put the work in to get the results,” she said.

Delegates later passed the resolution on workload and mental health in the independent sector, which called for the NEU’s executive to encourage all independent school employers to carry out an audit of workload and staff.

During the debate, Helen Porter, a delegate from Berkshire, said: “The workload is particularly high for colleagues at this time of year in the build-up to external exams and when the first-choice university offers are high on the wish list.

“Parents and students make it very clear to us that they expect the grades they paid for, and that means that we have to do extra revision sessions at lunchtimes, after school and even in the holidays.”

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