Publish date

3 July 2024

Combatting abuse of school staff from parents

In recent years, incidents of abuse directed at school staff by parents have become increasingly prevalent. School leaders must understand how to effectively manage and mitigate these risks while ensuring the safety and well-being of staff, students and the school community. This article provides practical guidance on handling abusive parents, the rights and limitations concerning access to school premises, and the steps involved in managing and revoking a parent’s access.

First, some do’s and don’ts for school leaders


  1. Establish clear policies: Ensure that your school has a robust policy regarding abusive behaviour from parents, clearly communicated to all parents and staff, on your website and available in hard copy form to give to parents are exhibiting intimidating behaviour
  2. Document incidents: Keep detailed records of any incidents of abuse, including dates, times, witnesses, and the nature of the abuse. This documentation is vital for any future actions. Keep a separate record for each parent, so that it is one place and easy to get to
  3. Train staff: Regularly train staff on how to spot and handle confrontations and abusive behaviour from parents. This training should include de-escalation techniques and the process for reporting incidents to school leaders and their senior leadership teams
  4. Communicate effectively: Maintain open lines of clear and understandable communication with parents. Clear, consistent communication can often prevent misunderstandings that lead to conflict
  5. Engage legal support: Seek advice from legal professionals when necessary to ensure all actions comply with legal requirements and best practices. We respond quickly to emergency situations that call for warnings to be given to parents and when licences to access school premises need to be revoked
  6. Let the police know: So that they have a record of the trouble that the parent is causing and can attend the school premises if necessary.


  1. Ignore warning signs: Do not ignore early signs of abusive behaviour. Addressing issues promptly can prevent escalation and can provide an audit trail should formal legal action be necessary
  2. Retaliate: Staff should never retaliate against abusive parents. Professionalism must be maintained at all times
  3. Neglect support: Ensure that staff who have experienced abuse receive the necessary support and counselling to cope with the incident.

Parents’ rights to access school premises

Parents generally have an implied licence to enter school premises to drop off and collect their children. However, this licence is contingent upon their behaviour. Abusive behaviour can lead to this licence being revoked. School leaders must understand the legal framework and the procedures involved in restricting a parent’s access.

Revoking a parent’s licence to access school premises – What’s involved?

Formal steps are necessary to revoke a parent’s licence in accordance with good governance and fair procedure:

  1. Assessment and documentation: Before revoking access, assess the situation thoroughly and ensure all incidents are well-documented. Preferably compile a time line with references to documents such as emails or letters or SMS messages or incidents notes and records
  2. Consultation: Discuss the situation with the school’s governing body or board at an early stage to warn them of potential need to convene at short notice to discuss and ensure there is consensus and support for the appropriate action
  3. Formal warning: Issue a formal written warning to the parent, detailing the unacceptable behaviour and the consequences if it continues, i.e. that their licence to access school premises will be revoked
  4. Meeting: offer to meet with the parent to discuss the behaviour and attempt to resolve the issue amicably
  5. Notice of revocation: If the behaviour persists, issue a notice of revocation of the parent’s licence to enter the premises. This notice should include:

– The reasons for the revocation;

– The duration of the ban (temporary, with a review by the governing body or board, after an appeal with representations from the parent as to why the ban should not have been imposed in the first place or lifted, or permanent, subject to an appeal); and

– The parent’s right to appeal the decision

  1. Appeal process: Ensure there is a clear, fair process for the parent to appeal the decision. This process should be outlined in the revocation notice.

Your governing body or board will have discretion to act in a way that is appropriate. But that discretion should be exercised in a reasonable way.

Parent access

Some situations call for steps to allow a troublesome parent access. In some cases, it may be necessary to allow a troublesome parent limited access to school premises. This can be managed through a behaviour agreement, which sets clear expectations and conditions for the parent’s access.

Behaviour agreement

  1. Drafting the agreement: The agreement should be drafted in consultation with your legal team and include:

– Specific behaviours that are deemed unacceptable

– Conditions under which the parent may access the premises (e.g., specific times, supervised access)

– Consequences for breaching the agreement.

  1. Signing the agreement: The parent should sign the agreement, acknowledging their understanding and acceptance of the conditions. It is better to get a hard copy signature that is verifiable with any signature that you hold on other documents.
  2. Monitoring compliance: Regularly monitor the parent’s compliance with the agreement. Any breaches should be documented and addressed promptly with the parent with the warning that they could be held in breach of the agreement and lose their right to access the premises again.
  3. Review and adjustments: Periodically review the agreement to ensure it remains effective and make adjustments as necessary.

Police powers and parental offences

When a parent accesses school premises in breach of a ban, several legal avenues can be pursued by the police to enforce the ban and address the offence. It is always wise to let them know that a parent has been banned in case the parent breaches the ban and their intervention is required.

Police powers:

Trespass: Although trespass is a civil matter, if a parent continues to trespass after being asked to leave, this can escalate to aggravated trespass, which is a criminal offence. The police have the power to remove and arrest individuals committing aggravated trespass.

Education Act offence: Unauthorised attendance at the school premises in circumstances which constitute a nuisance and/or disturbance could also result in the commission of a criminal offence under section 547 of the Education Act 1996, leaving the parent liable to be removed from the premises, arrested and subject to a criminal prosecution, which could result in a fine and a criminal conviction.

Public order offences: If a parent’s behaviour is threatening, abusive, or causes harassment, alarm, or distress, they may be committing a public order offence under the Public Order Act 1986. The police can arrest individuals for such offences, which can lead to a fine or imprisonment on a criminal conviction..

Breach of the peace: The police can intervene if a parent’s actions threaten to cause a breach of the peace, removing the individual from the premises to prevent escalation.

Parental offences:

Aggravated trespass: Entering school premises in defiance of a ban can lead to charges of aggravated trespass if the individual disrupts the normal activities of the school.

Harassment: Persistent abusive behaviour towards staff can constitute harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Criminal damage: Any damage caused to school property by an abusive parent can result in criminal charges.

Individual staff actions under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 offers robust legal protection for individuals facing harassment. Staff members subjected to persistent abusive behaviour from parents can take the following actions:

Seek legal advice: Consult with a legal expert to assess the situation and determine the appropriate course of action.

Injunction: Apply for a civil injunction under the Act to prevent the parent from continuing their behaviour. The injunction can include provisions to keep the parent away from the school and its staff.

Report to police: Report the harassment to the police, who can take criminal action if the behaviour constitutes a criminal offence under the Act.

Documentation: Keep detailed records of all incidents of harassment, including dates, times, and witnesses. This evidence is crucial for both civil and criminal proceedings.

Support networks: Utilise support networks within the school and external organisations that provide assistance and counselling to individuals experiencing harassment.


Protecting staff and students from abusive parents is a critical responsibility for school leaders. By establishing clear policies, maintaining open communication, and understanding the legal framework for managing access to school premises, schools can create a safer environment for everyone. In cases where a parent’s behaviour becomes unacceptable, swift and decisive action, backed by thorough documentation and legal support is essential. Through proactive measures and a commitment to safety, schools can effectively combat abuse and foster a positive, respectful atmosphere.

For further guidance or assistance in managing abusive parents and safeguarding your school community, please contact us.

Heathervale House reception

Keep up to date with our newsletters and events