Bullied teachers are being encouraged to sign settlements with gagging clauses that mask the true scale of the problem in schools, a union conference has heard.
The concerns were raised today at the annual gathering of the NASUWT teaching union in Belfast, where delegates passed a motion raising concerns about bullying and adverse management practices.
Elaine Paling, from Oxford, said: “Schools consider themselves absolutely experts at safeguarding pupils against bullying, but we don’t really say the same for the staff, and I have to say the unions sometimes are a little bit complicit in this.
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“We help to get our members out of some very difficult situations, often not of their own making and often coming from adverse practices. We do this by actually arranging settlements – not always, but sometimes that’s the way.
“Now these settlements often have a non-disclosure agreement in it. This masks the scale of the problem, and conveniently sidesteps the grievance process against the perpetrators, which are often management, as we know.
“We need to campaign for these agreements to be outlawed, and then perhaps we can get an idea of the actual real situation in our schools.”
She added that those who go through the grievance process rather than settle their dispute “are very brave individuals” whose achievement must be celebrated.
The motion expresses deep concern about the management style and culture in many schools “that is damaging the professional status and mental health of teachers”.
It says these include inappropriate use of support plans, manipulation and misuse of data, and the imposition of a ‘no excuses’ regime.
It calls for the union’s national executive to continue to support members by challenging such practices “through all means necessary, including industrial action”.