Teachers and Their Titles – Will schools ever drop the ‘Miss’, ‘Ms’, ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’?

There are several barriers to achieving a title-free world, and over the last two years, the Go Title Free team has learned to welcome all challenges to our campaign!

Titles endure in only a few very specific places in society, and one of them is in the world of schools.

Can we envisage a world where teachers accept being referred to by their first name?

Ex-CEO of the Girl’s Day School Trust Helen Fraser was very vocal in her opposition to this according to several articles on the subject in mid 2014.

She was reported to have said that, “Calling teachers by their first name would be a disaster for the British education system.”

Tradition does seem to demand a bit of respect in this regard. Without a respectful way for pupils and students to address their teachers, I imagine that the majority of teachers would reject the mission of Go Title Free.

However, as all who follow us will know, this campaign is not about the abolition of titles. It’s about choice and equality.

In that regard, I’m sure that there are many teachers who choose an alternative name to the one they use officially. An alias for their pupils to use, for privacy, ease, or pride. (One teacher I know decided it would be better for her pupils to know her as ‘Miss Hora’ instead of her real title and surname: ‘Miss Hore’. I agree that this change was well thought out…)

Surely any school would grant the request of any teacher who asked for a variation on their birth certificate/ passport or driving licence, and allow a teacher to choose a method of address they are happy with?

Fellow teachers and the pupils being taught are quite unlikely to get a chosen title wrong on a regular basis, so there is a very small margin for error regarding marital status titles.

But because this campaign promises to provide a vision for a title free world, I know I need to suggest an alternative, and I have a great one…

Teachers rightfully demand respect, and school is training for life. The children they teach are the CEOs, Trustees, Deans, and Diversity leads of tomorrow, so it’s important to get this right.

The solution I’m suggesting is not exactly ground-breaking, but the best answers do sometimes come in small packages!

So…Instead of ‘Miss Bradburn’, ‘Mrs Tupman’, ‘Mr Wright’, and ‘Mrs Thompson’, we could have: ‘Teacher Bradburn’, ‘Teacher Tupman’, ‘Teacher Wright’ and ‘Teacher Thompson’.

It may sound a little alien at first, but reflect on it a while, and ask how different it is to using the title of ‘Doctor’ when you visit your GP?

It’s no trickier, and the syllables are the same as ‘Mrs’ and ‘Mr’, so it’s no tongue twister.

A female teacher could choose whether to change her surname if life presents her with such a choice, and she then doesn’t need to make any decision at all about her title.

More importantly, she has an equal term of address to her male counterparts, plus a reference to the profession she’s undoubtedly proud of, instead of her marital status – which is private.

The ideal scenario is not a situation where each teacher needs to make a stand, but one involving implementation by the Headteacher, recognising both the need for respect as well as the need for equality, and implementing the change from the top down.

My suggestion has to be directed at the school, because if change cannot be encouraged from the most senior person, then the onus is on the one individual asking for an exception to the rule, which is a long and arduous rule.

Using ‘Teacher’ as a title, any teacher who decides that their gender doesn’t have to be a daily announcement can have true protection in their choice, because their teaching colleagues are all doing the same.

I hope that Headteachers would do this for their staff.  Especially seeing as ‘Headteacher’ seems to have gladly replaced ‘Headmaster’ and ‘Headmistress’ over time.

Obviously we still have the huge remaining issue of ‘sir’ and ‘miss’, (or ‘ma’am).

Is it too complicated for young people to just talk respectfully, maybe using ‘may I speak?’, or ‘excuse me’, along with the timeless gesture of raising the hand?

If teachers stop accepting ‘sir’ and ‘miss’ / ‘ma’m’ then eventually it really will just slide out of fashion. If they can walk away from titles in order to help those who do not feel represented by them, then title free world may be within reach…

If you are a teacher and want to give us your thoughts on Teachers and Titles, please complete our new survey for teachers:


Stella Sutcliffe

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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