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The problem lies with the bully

For reasons which are all too familiar, six years ago I was desperate to escape from the post of deputy head in a primary school.

I had worked happily and productively with the former head and when he left for a bigger headship I was expecting the same harmonious relationship. But from the start, the new head set about undermining my self confidence and became so aggressive I became afraid he might physically attack me one day.

I was terrified of his sneering and ranting at me in the privacy of his office. Then it became apparent that a less experienced and more ambitious colleague had her sights on my job.

At the age of 48 I started to apply for other posts without success, and started an MA course with the Open University to improve my chances of promotion. It took me a while to work out why I was not reaching any shortlists. Then one day the head said to me: "I've just had an inquiry about you from X school (to which I'd applied). I told them a few things." Stumbling block number one was the telephone confi-dential.

My position was compounded by the fact that the school had a religious foundation and the head was involved in the church hierarchy. So stumbling block number two was getting anyone to (a) believe me and (b) have the courage to challenge what was happening. The other stumbling blocks are those you have identified already: age, sickness record and the scarcity of teaching posts.

I was prepared to consider anything that would enable me to use my skills to earn my living. Then I happened to see an advert for a lecturer in higher education, to teach on BEd and PGCE courses. It asked for a reference from someone who could comment on my teaching record and another on my academic ability. This was too good to be true; I could bypass the telephone confidential.

I contacted my former head who gave me a glowing reference; one of my Open University tutors provided the other. I was appointed and have never looked back or felt so fulfilled in my work.

You may guess who was appointed deputy head in my place!

So my advice is this: * Continue to believe in yourself; the problem lies with the bully, not you.

* Be prepared to change direction if necessary - be flexible to maximise your chances. There are plenty of educational institutions that can use your skills.

* Read all the adverts in the education magazines in your local library. How about an OFSTED course? Get yourself further qualifications if you can.

* Above all, never give up. Refuse to let this bully win; if he does, he will destroy others again and again.

* Stop being angry; use your energies more productively and fight for your right to work.

Good luck!

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