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Out-of-hours email controversy escalates between teachers and parents

Email is accessible, easy, and a convenient way for teachers to communicate with parents and students but is it evil?

That is the big question after a primary school sent an email – how ironic – to parents asking they not email teachers outside of business hours because the amount of contact they receive can impact their wellbeing.

One parent was less than impressed with the message, airing her grievances on UK-based forum mumsnet.

“We’ve had a message from DCs’ (darling children’s) primary school respectfully asking parents to only email the head and class teachers between 8.30-5.30 on school days and not during the evenings, weekends, holidays, for staff wellbeing reasons (they deserve protected downtime etc),” she wrote.

“(Am I Being Unreasonable) to think that this is ridiculous? I work in a job where I don’t always have access to a phone/computer during the working day and so … I tend to email in the evening at home or first thing before I get ready to leave. 

“Obviously I don’t expect them to reply out of working hours, or even to read it there and then, but I had never considered that it would be intrusive.

“Surely if it’s impacting on their downtime so much, then they should just not check their emails in the evening and turn off notifications etc.”

The post has sparked a flurry of responses – many agreeing the school’s request was ridiculous and putting the onus on teachers to simply stop checking their emails outside of work hours.

“This is ridiculous. it’s a bit like saying you can not call a company out of hours and leave a message on the answer machine,” one person wrote. “The point with an email is you can write it whenever convenient and they can read it and reply whenever convenient for them.”

Another, who identified as a teacher, wrote: “The school needs to tell staff not to check emails rather than parents not send them”.

Others however backed the school’s request, pointing out that teachers are under increasing pressure to communicate with parents and students on an ‘anytime, anywhere’ basis.

“This is not ridiculous, can’t believe anyone could think so. It’s like no one has ever read any mental health initiatives around this,” one wrote. 

While opinion is divided about the school’s request, there is no denying digital technology has blurred professional and personal life. But does that make email evil or do teachers need to simply set clear boundaries and stick to them?

Let us know your thoughts (but only during business hours).

David Carroll

David is a senior journalist with more than 25 years experience in Australian media, you can find more of his work in our upcoming print issues of School News magazine.

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