Headteacher, leave the staff alone

28th February 2003 at 00:00
SOME heads can go too far in their drive for greater efficiency and achievement.

A primary teacher was recently awarded a pound;230,000 out-of-court settlement after a county court found that his former head had bullied him for more than five years. The judge considered the head's campaign against the teacher to be illegal.

The teacher claimed that he suffered psychological damage because the school failed in its duty of care. Schools are legally obliged to take action to reduce unacceptable stress levels.

Teachers whose health is not affected might also claim compensation for alleged bullying under the Prevention of Harassment Act 1997. Harassment occurs if a head, for example, subjects a teacher to such an excessive amount of monitoring that any "reasonable person" would consider it "amounted to harassment". A head who persistently bullied a member of staff could in extreme cases be found guilty of a criminal offence, carrying a fine or a prison sentence of up to six months. But it is more likely that a school would be sued for damages. This could include compensation for anxiety and any financial loss.

A teacher could also apply to a court to stop the bullying. If it continued the teacher could even apply for a warrant for the head's arrest. This seems rather bizarre, but it underlines the seriousness with which bullying should be taken. The problem has become so acute in schools that the National Union of Teachers has issued guidelines on such bullying. The NUT recommends victims should confront bullies and try to get them to understand the damage they are causing.

"Workload, stress and bullying" can be downloaded from the NUT website at www.data.teachers.org.uk

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