Calling teachers Sir and Miss 'depressing and sexist'

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Calling teachers "Sir" or "Miss" is depressing, sexist and gives women in schools a lower status than their male counterparts, an academic has said.

Prof Jennifer Coates told the Times Educational Supplement "Sir is a knight... but Miss is ridiculous - it doesn't match Sir at all".

She said she had been struck by the disparity while volunteering in a secondary school.

But one educationalist said being called "Miss" was a sign of respect.

Prof Coates, emeritus professor of English language and linguistics at the University of Roehampton, said she had been surprised by the different titles given to male and female teachers.

Start Quote

If I'm in a school where students don't know me and they call me Miss, I'm fine with that. They're showing respect by giving me a title”

End Quote Debbie Coslett Brook Learning Trust

"I didn't think there was this awful disparity between professorial status and these young teachers, but they're all Sir and I'm not.

"It's a depressing example of how women are given low status and men, no matter how young or new in the job they are, are given high status."

'Showing respect'

Professor Sara Mills of Sheffield Hallam University said UK schools were moving towards allowing pupils to address their teachers by their first name.

"Sometimes teachers find that they can control students more when they try to stress the similarities between them, rather than trying to keep as distant as possible," she told the TES.

But Debbie Coslett, chief executive of the Brook Learning Trust in south-east England, said there was not a disparity between "Sir" and "Miss".

"My response is always that my name isn't Miss; it's Mrs Coslett.

"But if I'm in a school where students don't know me and they call me Miss, I'm fine with that. They're showing respect by giving me a title."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    Do you know what is depressing, sexist and gives women a lower status are comments like that from women with personal insecurities. Yes there are places where sexism is a problem but stirring trouble doesn't help. 've used the terms equally and have never given it a second thought. "Professor" Coates make women look weak, which they are not. She is undoing all the improvements.

  • Comment number 436.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    Surely calling a teacher Miss or Sir is from respect. there's enough lack of it in society today so school and parent respect is where it should begin.This rubbish around today is all about removing the sex of a person by these politically correct fools, who really ought to spend time and effort on more important things. Respect is vital to any society beginning as a child training for life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    Oh for crying out loud.... save us from this hand wringing, victim syndrome from wet lily livered overpaid academics and their fembot armies... puh leaze!

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    Everyday some crackpot suggests some rubbish , how many years have we been calling teachers Sir or Miss ! To me it's another nail in the coffin of respect for teachers ! What we going to use ? Oi you , mate , govnner and so on , forget it .

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    Pupil's respect for teachers is less about whether they call them 'Sir' or 'Miss' and more about the quality of teaching and classroom control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    Whats going on ?
    This is a stupid idea !
    Whatever next in our Schools ? they will be banning Corporal Punishment next !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    This is really going to mess up a lot of 'naughty schoolgirl' fantasies...

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    I am a primary TA, I am married, but perfectly happy with 'Miss' as are the rest of the female staff in our school - I have just asked.
    This article is the biggest load of rubbish I've read in ages. Prof Coates doesn't have a clue what real school like is like. 'Miss' is just as respectful as 'Sir'. Using first names would instantly remove that respect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    the person who wrote this report probably went through the schooling system using sir and miss as most of us did. why is it that now it is a problem? if isn't broke don't fix dad used to be a teacher and I am 100% confident that he would not have wanted to be addressed by his first name

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    I nominate her husband for a knighthood. Arise 'Sir Coates'

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    During my 13 years at school, I never once heard anybody call the teacher "Sir" or "Miss". Do other schools actually do that? Is it a common thing?

    We just called them by their last name.

  • Comment number 425.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    Yet more ridiculous misapplication of political correctness.

    This academic should be ashamed.

    "Sir" and "miss" are conventions that have long had parity in schools, with the terms' historical origins being completely irrelevant.

    As for the usage of first names, as if teachers are pupils' mates - get lost. There's enough falsity in the world as it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    PC or not PC. That is the question; whether it is nobler in the mind to express myself as I see fit and be un-PC and be duly challenged by those offended at my attitude or thinking or to stay schtum and fester in my own cesspit of misconceptions, the other being none the wiser to my antipathy and prejudice towards them. To be sexist or racist then to be challenged and changed that is the question?

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    the last bastions of a respectful society are slowing being removed by a new world....policing,teaching,hospitals, its all going or the world a better place than the 1940s,50s and 60s?......when respect actually meant something?, i dont believe it is....

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Shouting 'You!' would be a sign of disrespect. During my time at school I don't remember thinking "Ha, by calling her miss, I'm degrading her". It was always a sign of respect equal to 'Sir'. Regardless of gender or the letters used, the respect given is the same quantity.

    Next there will be articles about how "Mum" is degrading compared to "Dad" because D is before M in the alphabet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    Oh for pities sake ! Where did all this load of PC crap come from ? Give me patience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    Prof Coates needs to do some serious reprioritising.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    In Northern Ireland we refer to teachers by their title, followed by their surname. For example Mr Thompson, Mrs Hamilton, Dr Murphy. I guess this is maybe a better convention.

    I think that both Sir and Miss in educational circles command equal respect and more importantly I believe that the children who use these terms do not differentiate between the two.


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