Pyjama-banning head Kate Chisholm: parents have called me an “over-paid prostitute”

The Telegraph has an interview with Kate Chisholm, the primary school head who made headlines around the world this week after asking parents not to do the school run in their slippers and pyjamas. 

It wasn’t just Australia who wanted to talk. She also had requests from Nairobi to New York, where breakfast television studios were even willing to bump Donald Trump off the news agenda in favour of this well-spoken primary school head teacher from Darlington in County Durham. 

The letter in question was a four-sentence missive Miss Chisholm sent out in the school bags of her 450 pupils at Skerne Park Academy on Monday evening.

…Since it was sent (and posted on Facebook, where it went viral) she has received “hundreds” of emails in support. Some fellow teachers have also expressed horror at slipping standards not just at the school gates but in parenting in general. Most have applauded Miss Chisholm, 36, for speaking out.

But the support has not been universal. Some parents have seen the letter and as a personal attack. 

Miss Chisholm says: “In every school there are always some parents, regardless of what type of school it is, who are either anti-establishment or think they know better. I am sure every head teacher in the country can name parents who don’t agree with them when it comes to education. But these parents have been very vocal about their dislikes. That letter gave them their chance to voice an opinion.”

A hardcore group of parents decided to attack the messenger, turning up the following morning in full nightwear to make their point. Others took to social media to brand Miss Chisholm as ‘snobbish’. 

One mother, Kim Daniel, threatening to take her children out of school, said she had seen Miss Chisholm “dressed in a low-cut top, wearing high heels…. What example is she setting the kids?” 

“…I’ve been called an overpaid prostitute and a failed fat supermodel. Both times this was parents saying this to me in front of their kids. If I want to have a word with the parent about a discipline issue, say, some parents have shouted at me, they’ve sworn at me, they’ve told me that I don’t know what I am talking about.” 

She insists she has a thick skin and is able to laugh it off — even when one parent said she hoped she was barren “because if you have children, they’ll be the spawn of the devil”…

She insists her objections to Pyjamas are not because she is being “snooty”, it is because she thinks the children will suffer…

More at: Pyjama-banning head Kate Chisholm: parents have called me an “over-paid prostitute”


It’s well worth reading the full interview for an idea of what Kate Chisholm is up against from some parents. 

How do you feel about this? Is it fine and proper for parents to see things differently (not, obviously, to the point of abuse), or is there a more fundamental issue here with a basic disregard amongst many for the kind of standards we might want to instil in children?

Please let us know what you think in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. 5N_Afzal

    Last night I was watching an Urdu serial on TV. The story centres around a woman who’s husband goes off & marries a wealthy woman and then her young daughter dies during heart surgery. She is grief stricken. Her mother-in-law tells her that her other daughter had told her that her friends had made fun of her when her mum had attended parents’ evening but hadn’t dressed well or put on makeup and that she had been embarrassed. This made me think of this case. I wonder if the children of parents who routinely turn up in pyjamas get embarrassed.

  2. This is more complicated than the article has described. William Glasser says “All we do is behave” that we make choices based on the situations we find ourselves in. The problem comes when we are either limited in those choices, we have limited experiences of how to behave (respond) and few strategies to draw on. 

    We can learn a lot from the nature of the response to the letter the head sent home. In fact it is invaluable in helping to take things forward for it has exposed the very core of of the worries and concerns parents have. The nature and language of the rebuke by the parents gives us an insight to their needs. They did after all make an effort to get their children to school. This to me shows they value education. 

    I am not condoning behaviour that results in one group attacking the other, of creating sides or the drawing of lines to stand behind but both parties have done exactly that.  I have read the letter and I have to admit I would not have worded it in the same way. The language and structure shows a disconnect between the head and the parents. For example I am sure few of us would refer to every day cloths as “day wear”.  

    What has been “attacked” by the letter is a behaviour and we are apt to defend our behaviours (even if they are wrong or indefensible) because they are ours! 

    In teaching, and I am a teacher, we tend towards responding to behaviours rather than seeing them as symptoms to which we should actually respond. This is not some “namby pamby” approach, it takes more time and effort to work in this way. It is far easier to seek compliance than to seek understanding. Dealing with symptoms and understanding how they influence behaviour helps in finding lasting solutions. Working in this way builds empathy and respect.

  3. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove People feel justified in doing this due to the perception of teaching given by media and MPs; well done folks!

  4. Nairb1

    ‘This to me shows they value education.’
    Yes, so much so that one is threatening to take her children away because she’s been asked not to turn up in her pyjamas.

  5. Nairb1 It’s not about the behaviour it’s about the symptoms. The parent felt threatened. What other course of action is available to her after demonstrating outside school? It’s the age old strategy, when you have something somebody else wants you can withhold it in order to have some power or control over a situation. How many times have you seen the tall child hold something out of reach of the small child to tease them? 

    We need to look past behaviour and stop making assumptions about the actions of others. 

    The head obviously has a set of standards she wants to impart, the problem is some of the parents either don’t understand why she wants those standards or they don’t know how to satisfy them. Surely this is part of what education is about – communication, explanation, engagement and inclusion.

  6. Nairb1

    It’s also about growing up, which is what these parents need to do.
    Sorry if I lack the patience that you demonstrate. Many years of successful headship taught me that I have better things to do than pander to the childish tantrums of a small group of parents who are engaged in the adult equivalent of throwing their toys out of the pram.

  7. This reminds me of the case of two mothers who decided to pass fast-food over a school fence because it was their children’s right to eat junk food after the school promoted healthy eating and (I think) stopped kids leaving the school at lunchtime to buy take-aways.

  8. Dai_James1942

    SchoolsImprove The Poll is interesting. In democracy education must reflect the electorate, even when it can’t see its own faults.

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