Ofsted warns 'social contract' between parents and teachers has broken

Ofsted warns ‘social contract’ between parents and their children’s teachers has broken amid spiralling bad behaviour from pupils in classrooms

  • Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted , will publish her final annual report

A social contract between parents and teachers has been broken amid worsening pupil behaviour and high levels of absences, England’s education watchdog is set to warn.

Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, will publish her final annual report on Thursday in a year when the inspectorate has been under the spotlight.

The report – which assesses the state of education and social care in England in the 2022/23 academic year – will suggest the attitudes of some parents are falling out of alignment with those of schools.

The unwritten agreement between schools and families – which sees parents get their children to class daily and respect school rules – has been broken since the pandemic, Ofsted will say.

Schools are noticing more pupil absences than normal on Mondays and Fridays, it will add.

Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted , will publish her final annual report on Thursday

More than a fifth (22.3%) of pupils in England were ‘persistently absent’ – meaning they missed at least 10% of their school sessions – in the 2022/23 academic year, Government figures show.

This is significantly higher than the pre-pandemic rate of 10.9% in 2018/19.

Ofsted will warn that teachers are also having to deal with more disruptive behaviour – such as pupils refusing to do as they are told, talking back to teachers or using social media in class.

Restoring the social contract between schools and parents is vital to sustaining post-pandemic progress, the watchdog will suggest.

Ms Spielman is due to reflect on the challenges and changes she has seen during her seven years at the helm of England’s education watchdog in her final annual report.

It comes as yesterday striking teachers who walked out of a Kent academy in a row with authorities over pupil behaviour were slammed by some locals who say they’re ‘bowing down’ to the anti-social children they’re supposed to be teaching. 

National Education Union (NEU) members at Oasis Academy on the Isle of Sheppey joined the picket line on Wednesday as they claim not enough is being down to protect staff from pupil attacks. 

Deb, a nurse who moved to the Isle two years ago, disagreed with the strikes and says that teachers should get back to work.

The health worker, 65, said: They get more money than I do! And they get more leave too!

‘The discipline is down to the law as far as I am concerned. Just as we have to bow down to our patients, they have to bow down to their pupils

‘I’m really old fashioned. It doesn’t matter what school a child is in – if they want to learn they will learn.’

‘There’s always been issues with pupils. And unfortunately, the issue starts with a lot of the teachers are frightened the parents because they can be very challenging.’

Teachers outside the Oasis Academy waved signs reading: ‘I come to work to teach, not to be abused’

Schools are noticing more pupil absences than normal on Mondays and Fridays (stock image)

A report in September revealed that parents no longer believe their children need to be in school full-time if they are anxious, increasingly think ‘life’s too short’ not to have a term-time holiday and ‘are not bothered’ about fines for absence. 

Lockdowns have caused a ‘seismic shift’ in parents’ attitudes to school attendance, according to the consultancy Public First, with it now ‘socially acceptable’ to keep pupils at home and go on holiday in term-time.

The research suggests that pandemic closures and teacher strikes have damaged the social contract between schools and families, with 24,700 children missing education on one sample day in spring this year.

Read more: ‘What message is this sending to the children?’ Locals tell striking teachers to get back to work and accuse them of ‘bowing down’ to their pupils after school staff walked out because of their unruly behaviour

It comes after Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, suggested pupils have been missing school on Fridays since the pandemic because their parents are working from home. But Public First said did not find any evidence to suggest that the rise in parents working from home since Covid has encouraged more children to stay off school.

More children are also being home schooled than ever. Official figures show that 86,000 children in England were home schooled on one day this year – and 116,300 are home schooled full time. Both are steep increases of up to 50 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

One parent, called Dominique, says her son Elijah has been too ‘anxious’ to attend school since ‘lockdown finished’ – so he no longer goes.

She said: ‘Children were off for so long they were really nervous for starting school… especially my oldest son. He suffers a lot from anxiety and he’s got attachment issues so I felt as though it was more difficult for me to get my son to school.

‘The first day I had to take him to school I sat outside until 3 o’clock because I felt that something was not right and something was going to happen. 

‘I felt as soon as he went into school went into that playground everything was too much for him, there are so many characters so he had to reset himself as a child.

‘When he first started going back it was very, very difficult. There are always challenges and power struggles with other children and Elijah is one of those children that is easily irritated and when other children see that, to them it’s all fun and games. 

‘They were going up to him, they were bothering him, the majority of the time they were being very physical with him which affected him and stopped him wanting to go to school. It was a hard struggle with him.’

Covid-19 lockdowns have caused a ‘seismic shift’ in parental attitudes to full-time school attendance that will take a ‘monumental’ effort to change, according to a study by consultancy Public First (stock image)

When asked if the threat of fines worried her and others, she told the BBC: ‘It would not have made a difference because when they push fines on you they are trying to push fear onto you.

‘But on the other side, there are parents out there who are not bothered about fines and keep their children off school for the sake of it, and it gets ruined for the parents who are actually struggling taking their children to school.’

It comes as Ofsted has faced calls to revamp its school ratings system – which uses one-word judgments – this year following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry in January.

Ms Perry’s family say she took her own life after an Ofsted report downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.

Her death is the subject of an inquest due to start next week.

Academy trust leader Sir Martyn Oliver is set to take over from Ms Spielman as Ofsted’s chief inspector at the start of January.

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