An epidemic of staff bullying

5th December 2003 at 00:00
How sad for bullied teacher Margaret Menzies to comment that bullying "is probably happening to a lot of teachers" ("Bullied teacher's landmark victory', TES, November 21) Regrettably, we at Oxfordshire employees bullied out of work - (formed by National Union of Teachers members in 1997 to support bullied teachers) - can testify that it continues to damage the health and careers of teachers.

Failure by employers to deal with bullying is costing them in terms of low morale, lost efficiency, reduced work output, quality of service as well as lost resources when experienced people are forced out.

We estimate that many millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is needlessly being spent on paying for sickness absence and other health costs caused by bullying.

In recent years we have dealt with some appalling cases of bullying and continue to advise and support teachers who are being bullied. Their symptoms of stress often lead to severe depression and thoughts of suicide, low self-esteem as well as serious physical and mental health problems. We are all too familiar with the "drip, drip effect" of the intimidatory tactics encountered by Ms Menzies.

Bullying is often institutionalised and can be rooted in an organisation or workplace culture.

Local education authorities and schools can be reluctant to investigate serious bullying cases that are brought to their attention and often hide behind anti-bullying policies and procedures, which in practice are often woefully inadequate.

An urgent review of this national problem is needed and steps should be taken (by the Health and Safety Executive and others) to review organisations in a systematic way so that we all understand the circumstances in which bullying can arise.

We can then determine what needs to be done to reduce the risk of bullying and also make those responsible answerable for their actions and inaction.

Nigel Nicholas NUT Oxfordshire health and safety adviserOxbow member 87 Gibson CloseAdmiral House Abingdon, Oxfordshire

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