On a recent visit to Manchester, a trainee teacher told me about a night out he’d had at a local club. While inside, he had spotted a couple of his pupils who were under-age and shouldn’t have been there. I asked him what he did, and he replied,
“I didn’t do anything. It’s outside school hours and not my responsibility.”
Trainee teachers have often raised this dilemma – what should they do if they see, for example, their under-aged pupils drinking or smoking? How does a teacher’s responsibility to safeguard children and young people apply outside the school?
I pressed this student. He was adamant. “It’s not my responsibility. It’s the parents’.”
I continued to probe. “Let’s say that one of the pupils over-drinks and seriously injures herself in a fall and has to be taken to hospital. The parents of the pupil are angry to find out that their child’s teacher was in the club but didn’t do anything. What would be your response?”
He continued his stance: “I would say to them: ‘Where were you?’ You are the ones responsible for your children when they are out at night. Not me.”
I probed again:”Let’s say, for example, a fight broke out in the club and one of your students was being assaulted. Would you step in to protect them?”
This time he stopped and thought, for quite a while but then maintained his position: “No. It’s not my responsibility.”
Is there a point at which teachers should take responsibility? What if you saw one of your students (or even colleagues) taking part in a riot?
Is there a point you would step in? If so, where is it?,
What are the legitimate expectations of parents on the one hand and of society on the other in situations like this?
What do you think a teacher’s responsibilities are outside the classroom?
Alan Newland worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and headteacher in London for over 20 years and then for the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures on teaching and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk. You can follow him on Twitter at @newteacherstalk and you can book him for an interactive session to trainee teachers on professionalism. His new book “Working in Teaching” (Crimson Publishing) was published in March 2014.