The day my life changed

29th October 2010 at 01:00
Faith school bullies who made my life hell were 'colleagues', but church didn't care

I retired a few years ago after 44 years in teaching. But I love the job and went back part-time at a Catholic primary in London where I was working with special needs children and doing planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) cover.

There was a gang of about eight teachers there, mostly in their 20s and early 30s, who never spoke to me. They never asked me what I was teaching or discussed what they would like me to do. But they did everything they could to disrupt my lessons.

The first Friday I covered PPA, there were no pencils or crayons in the Year 1 classroom. The teacher denied this was a problem and I had to bring in my own.

The next week, the Year 2 teacher began to undermine me. In that class, I was meant to be reading a story and the TA was making a noise the whole time, stapling pictures to the wall. I asked her to stop, but she said she had been told to do it.

The next week, the same teacher walked in with a tall ladder, opened it up in the middle of the classroom, then walked out. Another time she programmed the computer to make noises every few minutes.

There was another, older teacher they also refused to co-operate with. They wouldn't share their planning and would hide her resources and schemes of work. They used to slam doors in my face. Once, as I left the classroom they blocked the corridor when I needed to go to the loo, and I actually dived through their legs.

Every Friday I went to my line manager and told her what was happening. She said, "It beggars belief." But she was also in her 60s and wanted to keep her head down. They treated her like dirt as well.

I went to the head several times, but she said the teachers in the clique were all lovely. There were banners all around the school saying "Love one another" or "Christ's love is in this school", but the head gave them all positions of responsibility. Young new arrivals at the school had a choice: join them and you'll be safe, or take a stand and they'll bring you down.

The final straw came when they accused me of being racist. There was a 16 or 17-year-old West Indian girl in on work experience. They put her at the very front of the class with me. She was so disruptive, always shouting at the children. On the third day with her, I asked the girl to leave the classroom (another teacher had agreed to take her) and she started crying and shouting. The teacher next door, who was part of the gang, reported me.

I only found out when one of my friends, a TA who happened to be black, came to ask me if I knew that everyone was calling me a racist. I knew they had set me up. But only the next day did I realise the extent of it, when one of the NQTs burst into tears. She told me they were all celebrating down the pub. There was a plot to get rid of me before they had even seen me. It all came out.

For three days I could hardly breathe. I was so tense and constantly short of breath. My nerves were getting so bad. I decided to resign.

I would have taken it further, but I didn't want to risk ruining the NQT's career to prove my point.

The way I was treated has made me leave the Catholic church. I wrote to the archbishop, but the church didn't want to know. I was a nun for four years and had been with the church a long time. It caused a lot of pain, but I don't want to go back to a church that doesn't want to know about bullies.

I took a break from teaching after that. I now work part-time at another primary and really enjoy it. The experience hasn't made me lose my love of teaching.

As told to Meabh Ritchie. Do you have an experience to share? Email

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