Bullies thrive in staffroom

18th February 2000 at 00:00
More than a third of teachers claim they have been victimised. Karen Thornton reports.

SCHOOLS are bullying black-spots, with more than a third of teachers saying they have been victimised by colleagues or managers in the past five years.

A survey of 5,300 private and public-sector workers has suggested that teaching is one of the worst professions for workplace bullying. One in 10 of those surveyed complained of being bullied in the past six months, but the figure rose to 15.5 per cent for teachers. Over five years, the figures were 24.2 per cent for all workers - but 35.4 per cent for teachers.

Cary Cooper, co-author of the report, suggested that many school managers did not have the training to cope with their jobs and workloads - and resorted to bullying to control their staff.

But the report has been greeted with scepticism by heads. They claim that many staff allege bullying only when facing proceedings over incompetence. A teacher union has also suggested that the report has exaggerated the problem.

The report, from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, found that most bullying (75 per cent) is by managers rather than colleagues. This bullying ranged from employees having their views ignored and being given unreasonable workloads and deadlines, to fault-finding, humiliation, and having gossip and rumours spread about them.

Professor Cooper said: "Mangers in education are overloaded. A lot of people haven't been properly trained in their management roles, so when the going gets tough they use bullying as a management tool," he said. "Just because a teacher is good in the classroom doesn't mean they are going to be a good manager."

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, agreed. He said: "It's all pressure and targets. The only way you can meet targets is to offload the pressure on to teachers. I don't see any easing of the pressures, so this problem can only get worse."

But the National Union of Teachers said it believed the report may have exaggerated the situation in schools. It is working on 120 cases of stress-related illness involving bullying - among a teacher population of around 500,000.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, suggested that some teachers were alleging bullying when faced with competency proceedings.

He said: "I don't want to underestimate the need to reduce bullying, but our regional offices are reporting that when people are put on competency proceedings, their first reaction - on the advice of their unions - is to go sick and complain that this is because of management bullying. I would treat these figures with a lot of caution."

TUC website www.tuc.org.uk;

Teacherline, telephone 0800 056 2561

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