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Monday, 26 April, 1999, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Princess amazed by 'parent rage'
anne
Princess Anne: Parent governor at Gordonstoun independent school
The Princess Royal has said she is "often astonished" by the verbal and physical aggression headteachers encounter from some parents.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Secondary Heads Association In Brighton, the princess said too many parents knew all about their rights, but too little about their responsibilities.

"I speak as a parent and a parent governor. Sometimes it's not always the children who give us problems," the princess said.

"I am often astonished by the level of aggressiveness that some parents rise to in their dealings with the profession. It is quite extraordinary."

Earlier, the union's deputy general secretary spoke of a growing number of incidents in which parents verbally abused headteachers, likening it to a form or 'road rage'.

Russell Clarke said it was becoming increasingly common for headteachers to be confronted by parental aggression, either in person or on the telephone.

Although the number of violent incidents was not rising sharply, there was a growing level of friction in encounters between teachers and parents - with both fathers and mothers equally likely to be involved in verbal attacks.

Lack of deference

Changing social attitudes had seen any deference towards headteachers disappear, said Mr Clarke - and such a change was in general beneficial. But it had also seen a rise in the number of parents who "focused their aggression" on their children's headteachers.

Unions 99
This could be prompted by apparently minor incidents, such as a case in which a parent complained about a child being given detention. The row escalated to the point where police had to be called.

Parents' evenings were also cited as likely causes of disputes.

Mr Clarke said this in part reflected the increasing "consumer" expectations in education, with parents being offered appeals processes and the prospect of greater choice. When this failed to deliver the results they expected, arguments could follow.

  • Princess Anne also said that she banned her children from watching the children's TV series, Grange Hill.

    She said schools needed more support from parents and the BBC children's drama, set in a comprehensive school, was "wholly unfair to everybody, including both staff and pupils".

    "We all know how difficult children can be - but there is a comparatively large number who are amenable to being in school," she said.

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