The mental health of teachers is being damaged by the bullying they are suffering in schools, according to survey results released today by the NASUWT teaching union.
Eight out of ten teachers claim to have been bullied within the past year, according to the poll of almost 2,000 teachers conducted by NASUWT over the past three months. And those victims 80 per cent of says they are suffering from anxiety or depression,
The scale of the problem is ruining the lives of teachers, in extreme cases driving them to consider self-harm or suicide, according to the teaching union. Almost half of victims (45 per cent) have gone to their GP for help, while more than one in seven have turned to drink (17 per cent) or prescription drugs (18 per cent) to cope.
One survey respondent said: “I genuinely thought about harming myself so I wouldn’t have to attend work,” while another commented: “The bullying broke me mentally and I was left with no choice but to resign for my sanity’s sake.” In one case, a bullied teacher confessed they “had a breakdown and contemplated suicide.”
Seventy per cent of victims accused headteachers or senior leaders of being responsible, while 38 per cent blamed their line manager. One in five victims claimed their colleagues had bullied them, with 8 per cent citing support staff and 4 per cent accusing governors of bullying behaviour.
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Being undermined or belittled is the most common form of bullying, cited by 81 per cent of victims. Having work criticised in front of others or being ostracised are common complaints and one in four (24 per cent) victims reported being shouted at in front of colleagues.
In the vast majority of cases, the bullying is not an isolated incident. One in three victims (32 per cent) have been bullied on more than ten occasions in the past 12 months.
And 52 per cent of teachers claimed the situation had worsened over the past year. Just eight per cent said it had improved.
The problem affected the performance of teachers; 41 per cent said it affected their ability to deliver high-quality lessons.
More than half (52 per cent) of teachers had no confidence in their employer’s commitment to tackling the issue. In the vast majority of cases, reporting the bullying did not result in meaningful action. Only one per cent of victims said legal action was taken against perpetrator and one per cent said disciplinary action had been taken.
The findings come ahead of a debate that will be held on bullying at NASUWT’s national conference, which starts in Belfast tomorrow. Delegates will vote on a motion to tackle bullying “through all means necessary, including industrial action.”
Bullying is “is alarmingly prevalent in schools and colleges,” according to Chris Keates, the union's general secretary. “While there are many schools that treat their staff with courtesy and respect, teachers tell us that in too many a culture of bullying and abuse of teachers is far too common.”
She added: “Bullying is destroying many teachers’ physical and mental health, and driving some teachers from their schools or the profession entirely.”
Ms Keates demanded an end to the “abuse, bullying, ostracising and undermining of teachers” and pledged that the union “will continue to challenge, using every means necessary, any employer not treating teachers with dignity and respect.”