Exclusive: ‘Older teachers bullied to breaking point'

Union says bullying is 'rife' in order to drive out expensive older teachers, while psychotherapist reports 'massive increase' in teachers seeking counselling

older teacher bullying

New evidence reveals a "massive increase” in the number of older teachers being bullied out of their jobs “because they are too expensive”.

The NASUWT teaching union has highlighted how older teachers are being put under “intense” pressure to leave by being “disproportionately” placed on capability procedures and having pay progression "withheld", as well as being subject to “excessive” observation and scrutiny.

And a psychotherapist and counsellor has contacted Tes to express her concern that the number of teachers seeking her counselling service has risen from “the odd one or two a week” a year ago, to six-a-week currently.

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She said: “It’s shocking. It’s a massive increase, and that’s just me. I don’t know about other counsellors.

“These are all teachers who are in their forties and fifties with 15 to 20 years' experience, and they’re all in academies.

“It seems they are being forced out because of the cost. I’m seeing it so much. Schools seem to be more about business and less about education nowadays.

“They’re being monitored in class and told they’re not good enough – yet new teachers who are doing exactly the same things are being told it’s absolutely fine.

She added: "Quite often they say it’s happening to colleagues but they’re told they’re not allowed to talk to each other about it.”

The psychotherapist, who did not wish to be named for fear of losing her job, said the teachers had symptoms including problems sleeping, lack of motivation and concentration, panic attacks and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts.

Last year the NASUWT highlighted how headteachers were swapping anecdotes of what strategies they’d used to get rid of older, more expensive teachers, and that some schools were putting them under more scrutiny than younger colleagues.

Inequality and discrimination 'rife'

The union today said it had no recent statistics, but said the practice was "rife".

Chris Keates, acting general secretary, said: “All our evidence shows a catalogue of older teachers being disproportionately placed on capability procedures, denied access to professional development, subject to excessive observation and scrutiny, having pay awards and pay progression withheld and put under intense pressure to leave their job.

“We have even had examples of overt and blatant age discrimination, with teachers over 60 being asked outright by headteachers whether it wasn’t now time for them to think of doing something else.

“Inequality and discrimination is rife across schools and despite being confronted with irrefutable evidence ministers still fail to act."

The Education Support charity, which supports teacher wellbeing, said it was receiving calls to its hotline about the same problems.

One primary teacher, with 22 years' experience, who did not wish to be named, called the hotline for help after being "bullied and indiscriminately placed on a support plan which undermined my confidence".

The teacher, who is now on supply, said: "I suffered a really difficult time. I didn't feel hugely supported and experienced daily injustice and felt very unhappy. I had been teaching at the school for 22 years. However, my last three years there were really tough.

"Teaching has been my life and what happened had really affected my health."

Meanwhile, another teacher has contacted Tes about the same problem, and said a colleague at the top of the upper pay scale had been placed on "a capability procedure" simply because she was too expensive.

She said: “If she isn’t fit to teach, nobody is. How can this be happening? There are teachers being bullied to the point that they’re having a nervous breakdown. They are all very experienced and they’re all very expensive. It is appalling.”

“Senior leaders need to realise that people know this is happening

“Another friend is a very experienced teacher and she is now struggling to pay her mortgage because she was bullied out. To begin with, they tried capability proceedings and in the end they reduced her hours.”

A spokesperson for the DfE said: "No teacher should face bullying or ill-treatment in the workplace and schools have a duty to protect their staff and promote a diverse workforce. 

"We are committed to supporting teachers of all ages, which is why we have established the Working Longer Review Group to set out recommendations for school leaders, employers and government on how to support older teachers.

"Schools now have much greater freedoms to pay teachers within broad pay ranges to help balance costs and we publish clear staffing and employment advice on this."

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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