Calling teachers Sir and Miss 'depressing and sexist'

 
children with their hands up in a classroom

Related Stories

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."

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    -105

    Comment number 455.

    At my daughter's school , teachers are referred to by 1st names. Works beautifully, no lack of respect at all.

  • rate this
    +140

    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
    +69

    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.

  • rate this
    +100

    Comment number 391.

    There is no disparity between "Sir" and "Miss" in a child's mind. Unless, of course, we teach them that there is, which is what this so-called academic seems to want to do.

    I went to a secondary school where we called teachers by their first names. It did nothing to improve anything. The same school has now stopped the pointless and rather disrespectful practice.

  • rate this
    -31

    Comment number 378.

    For 27 years I taught in a school where the pupils used our first names. I encountered no disrespect or problems with that from either pupils or their parents. This went right from Kindergarten through to Form 13. I enjoyed seeing children I had taught in the Infant Section, go through the school and still say "Hi, Jenny!" when on their way to lessons in the Senior Section. I liked it!

 

Comments 5 of 9

 

More Education & Family stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Stained glass of man with swordFrance 1 England 0

    The most important battle you have probably never heard of


  • Golden retriever10 things

    Dogs get jealous, and nine more nuggets from the week's news


  • Pro-Israel demonstrators shout slogans while protesting in Berlin - 25 July 2014Holocaust guilt

    Gaza conflict leaves Germans confused over who to support


  • The emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-SabahFreedoms fear

    Growing concern for rights as Kuwait revokes citizenships


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • CastleRoyal real estate

    No longer reserved for kings and queens, some find living in a castle simply divine

Programmes

  • Leader of Hamas Khaled MeshaalHARDtalk Watch

    BBC exclusive: Hamas leader on the eagerness to end bloodshed in Gaza

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.