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Scared to meet the head in corridor

ASSOCIATION of Teachers and Lecturers' conference delegates will call for a government inquiry into bullying next week after a survey revealed that more than half of teachers were victims.

The poll of 2,000 ATL members uncovered bullying by other staff, parents or governors ranging from continual unfair criticism, sometimes in front of parents or pupils, to the deliberate withholding of information.

Heads were identified as the people responsible in more than half the reported cases, with one secondary teacher saying that they were scared of running into their head in the corridor or staff room.

Next week, at the ATL conference in Blackpool, Sandra Douglas, Northern Ireland executive member, will call on the Government to investigate the issue, support victims and deal with the perpetrators.

"We regularly see the devastating effect that workplace bullying has on victims and their families," she said. "I would like to see the perpetrators named and shamed."

Elsewhere the teacher workload agreement is likely to dominate, with no less than nine resolutions on the conference agenda.

Phil Baker, Swindon branch secretary, is proposing withdrawal from the agreement unless the limit onthe time teachers can spend covering for colleagues is dropped well below 38 hours and assurances are given that classes will only be taught by teachers and that there will be no doubling up of classes.

He believes there is a lot of grassroots opposition to the deal in the ATL.

"A whole group of us still feel uncomfortable about the national agreement," he said. "We think the union is wrong to jump into bed with the Government before consulting with the whole membership."

Ralph Surman, chair of the union's schools conditions of service committee, says he will tell members that if the workload deal does not deliver then they must take industrial action. "We are not going to be patient for much longer," he said. "If these remodelling proposals don't deliver then we must take the law into our own hands."

The only proposal for industrial action from the traditionally moderate ATL members will be a resolution calling for a boycott of key stage 3 English tests unless they are substantially improved.

The conference will be broadcast live on the internet as the union begins an experiment that could lead to virtual branch meetings.

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