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The impact of parental pressure on schools

Patricia McQuade, Deputy Principal at Abbey College Manchester, discusses the impact of parental pressure and how teachers can reduce it

Posted by Lucinda Reid | May 15, 2017 | Teaching

Parents can have a huge influence on students’ success. The first port of call is to ensure teachers work with parents. At Abbey College Manchester, our motto is “Achieving Success Together” where parents, teachers and students all work with each other to ensure these relationships are as strong and as positive as possible throughout.

Dialogue, therefore, needs to be open to everyone from the start including the student; they should feel comfortable telling us all what they need. If teachers begin building such relationships early on, then everyone involved feels relaxed when discussing any issue.

If too much pressure is put on the student it can sometimes have a negative effect. If they are not living up to the standards set by their parents, they can end up thinking “Well I’m going to fail anyway so what’s the point?” Parents don’t always understand just how much of an influence they do have on their child.

Do not be afraid to stand your ground with a parent if you need to; the student’s wellbeing is the most important thing and if they can see how concerned you are then they might take notice

Parents can sometimes feel out of the loop and this can lead them to putting pressure on their child. All parents want to do their best for their child and they are bombarded with advice; the key thing teachers must do, is to reassure them that they are doing a good job and that their child will be fine. Parents may themselves be being put under pressure by family members, other parents or what they have seen in the media.

Parents and teachers need an open and comfortable dialogue so that if someone notices signs of stress or anxiety, it can be addressed. Regular meetings, phone calls and report cards which shout about the positives not the negatives are great tools to build communication. These are all ways for teachers to create that friendly connection with parents or guardians. At Abbey College Manchester, we take time to get to know parents right from the first meeting. We sit down with them and learn about their child and ask them to be completely honest with us. It breaks the ice and sets the foundations for the relationship going forward.

Teachers need to help parents understand that every child is an individual and should not be pushed in one direction. Not every young person is the next Einstein or Federer but every adolescent can make a worthwhile contribution to society and in life if we set them up for it. Sometimes, parents feel the pressure to have a child who has straight A*s or excels in a certain subject but children can only do their best. Every student develops in their own way at their own pace.

It is also the case that parents sometimes come to us and ask why their child isn’t doing as well as they hoped and as teachers we need to sit down with those parents and talk about the child, what they can be doing at home, what the teachers are doing with them in order to move forward. Face-to-face meetings like that are ideal for getting the message across.

If it does start going wrong, for example, the results aren’t great or you as a teacher feel like the student isn’t reaching their potential, then it is important for teachers, the parents and the student to discuss what action to take. Let parents know you’re there to support them and make sure no one looks for blame, just for solutions. Help them bounce back, as sometimes young people feel like failures but they must know that it is temporary, everyone has ups and downs.

Occasionally, you do come face-to-face with a parent who will put huge pressure on their child. The only way to tackle this is to keep dialogue open. Be persistent. Ring the parents, invite them in, raise issues or arrange meetings with them and other teachers. Do not be afraid to stand your ground with a parent if you need to; the student’s wellbeing is the most important thing and if they can see how concerned you are then they might take notice. Of course, sometimes, outside agencies and counsellors need to get involved if there is a risk to the student’s wellbeing. This isn’t something to be taken lightly but if you think it is necessary you have a safeguarding responsibility. However, in almost all cases, you will find parents respond to what you have to say, especially if you treat them with respect and communicate with them as often as possible. 

For more information, visit Abbey College Manchester’s website.

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