Toxic Schools: 16 Things Teachers Have Said

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Truthful Teacher Leadership Decisions Anonymous


In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
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What do colleagues say about decisions made from above, that impact on their day-to-day work?

As one may expect, with over 250,000 social media followers I am inundated with messages. I respond to about 95 per cent of all messages and on occasion, I receive some content shown in this blog post, that showcase that toxic culture is alive and well in some of our English schools. Dear reader, I present to you our high-stakes accountability system driving good people out of the classroom …


I share these messages part of my training days when supporting school leaders to address workload and teacher wellbeing. Some of them are hard messages to accept and I share them here to help reach a wider audience. I ask you the reader, have you or your school ever been on the receiving end of one of these comments? Has that message been ignored? Perhaps you may have been the person that would say such a thing?

A toxic gallery …

Here are 16 messages from teachers over the last 6 months.

The following examples shared in this blog post only offer one side of the story. I am not naïve to assume understanding the full picture and I am conscious of what advice I give back to teachers and school leaders, signposting individuals to various phone numbers, charities and unions.


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Incoming Messages

  1. My deputy headteacher says “a childcare emergency isn’t an acceptable reason” for missing a directed time meeting.
  2. It’s been a very tough time. I’ll quote him: “I’m going to f*cking destroy you!” So far he has sabotaged 4 job offers …
  3. I have gone part-time and work 40 hours per week! I am barely keeping up with what is expected.
  4. We must produce learning maps for every single lesson. We have not been provided with any additional time to do this.
  5. I’ve inherited a class where data was inflated. Leadership are concerned there is too much movement with my assessment.
  6. An incoming multi-academy trust thought my lesson was unchallenging after just 10 minutes. I work 7 days a week and feel misunderstood after a ten-minute fly by.
  7. My son’s school takes attendance off when he has a hospital appointment – even 5 minutes after the bell – with no regard for students with medical issues.
  8. My lesson observation was cancelled to be replaced with the multi-academy trust’s audit for a mock Ofsted!
  9. I am a deputy headteacher working in a school just placed in special measures. I am going to the GP for the first time .. I don’t know if I can cope any more.
  10. Can an Ofsted judgement be reliably made if there are no lessons or behaviour to be observed?
  11. My newly qualified teacher got a told off today for taking a couple of wrong turns on a coach for a school trip.
  12. Terrible Ofsted experience. Our headteacher has been in post for just 2 weeks. I requested a deferral and it was ignored.
  13. My school excludes pupils for 3 days for having shaved hair. Male teachers must be ‘well-groomed’.
  14. The Department for Education wants teachers to represent the Early Careers Framework if they only work in a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding‘ school. They have had to withdraw their offer.
  15. What are your thoughts on teachers being asked to go to a pupil premium only weekend in the Easter holidays for one-to-one teaching? I already offer after-school classes beyond directed time …
  16. I am not even at the top of the main pay scale and I was told I was too expensive after an interview. Even though, in the words of the headteacher, I was the strongest candidate for the job.

If you recognise any of these messages as responses you may have elicited, why not take a moment to read How To Lead Others Without Being An Asshole.

If you need some advice, contact Ross in good faith or a good place to start is here.


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