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'I felt so squashed, I tried to commit suicide'

Bullying nearly cost Paul, 52, his life. He had worked as a teacher for more than 20 years without any problems but when he and his wife joined a private school in the North East, the head made both their lives a misery.

"It was clear from the start that there was a very weird atmosphere in the staffroom," he says. "Then I realised my head was keeping negative notes on me. I asked for an appraisal so I could show her how good my lessons were but the feedback turned into a disciplinary hearing with her verbally abusing me."

The bullying continued for three and a half years, although Paul did not define it as that for many months.

Despite exceptionally good exam results, the constant wearing down of his self-esteem destroyed his love of teaching.

"I should have stood and fought but I felt too bewildered. I just felt entirely squashed."

Paul had a nervous breakdown and resigned. He then attempted suicide. He is now doing menial work for the local university.

Meanwhile, his wife, Maxine, was sacked in 2003 following an almost daily regime of critical observations. "I was destined to fail," she recalls.

"The head had made a decision to get rid of me and she used her senior management team to find fault with everything I did. I began to doubt myself and would end up shaking as I was being watched."

Maxine, 51, was made seriously ill by the bullying and ended up with a resting heart rate of 170bpm. She was on incapacity benefits for two years and the couple's combined income plummeted from pound;60,000 per annum to just Pounds 9,000.

As a result, their three children have had to swap their private school for free school meals at a local state school.

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