The principal of an exclusive Sydney private school has warned parents against treating teachers like servants

St Andrew’s Cathedral SchoolSt Andrew’s Head of School Dr John Collier

Many of the students at St Andrew’s Cathedral School pay more than $30,000 a year in fees to attend the exclusive Sydney Anglican private school, but that doesn’t mean parents should treat the teacher like they’re in a “master/servant relationship”, the Head of School, Dr John Collier, has warned parents.

As students head off on the winter break, Dr Collier wrote recently in the school newsletter that he’d “noticed a considerable increase in parental anxiety” and compared the reactions of some parents to hippopotamus in an African river that bit the head off a crocodile as it moved towards her children.

“As parents, we tend to react when we perceive our child is threatened. This seems to bring forth a reptilian kind of defensive response,” the 43-year educational veteran wrote.

“I am having to interact with too many parents who have verbally abused, physically threatened or shouted at a staff member,” he wrote, citing an instance where a parent told him “13 staff members who had observed his daughter committing an offence were all lying, as his daughter said she was innocent”.

Last year he was forced to “terminate” an enrolment because a parent was bullying staff on a daily basis, adding that he’s willing to ban parents from the school if further incidents occur.

Dr Collier said some parents, because of the fees “see the relationship with teachers as a master/servant relationship, such that they are entitled to make extravagant demands” but says the fees make up a small fraction of their salary.

“Two parents would be contributing around 2/1300ths of that part of the teacher’s salary which is funded by parents (a small part is funded by the government), and that is hardly a sufficient commercial relationship to prescribe how teachers act!” he wrote.

“In pragmatic terms, that is, what works, the relationship between parents and teachers is best seen not as a commercial transaction, but as a partnership where both combine together for the good of the child.”

The Head of the 133-year-old school said he wanted to raise the issue because “the frequency of incidents of unrestrained behaviour appears to be increasing”.

“I take it this drift is part of a general decline in civility in society, and needs to be called out. We want to be better than any kind of basic common denominator,” he wrote.

Dr Collier pointed out that he had a responsibility to maintain a safe workplace for all under the law, as well as educating children, offering the advice of the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

Alternatively, he said, they could follow the advice “our children would say to us: ‘Chill!'”

You can read Dr John Collier’s full epistle here.

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