Protect staff from bullies too

24th November 2006 at 00:00
Governors Wales told safety policies should cover everyone. Andrew Mourant reports

ANTI-BULLYING policies in schools should be drawn up to protect staff as well as pupils, Governors Wales's autumn conference has been told.

As the national spotlight was on bullying among children, National Union of Teachers Cymru officer Steve Jenkins said many teachers' lives were being made miserable by heads or senior managers undermining them.

His comments come as ChildLine Cymru reveals it is receiving more calls from bullied children then ever before.

Mr Jenkins said blocking promotion, training opportunities or withholding work responsibilities were some of the bullying tactics used by senior teachers.

Other familiar complaints were of constant criticism, lack of praise and having disciplinary procedures evoked needlessly.

The former maths teacher told the conference he was once on the wrong end of a very bad head for a long time. He called for a more informal approach to resolving problems, telling governors they had a role to play.

Gwen Williams, a former head now working with Teacher Support Cymru, said a third of teachers claimed to have been bullied, with 75 per cent of those being women.

She said governors had a care of duty to staff. But some delegates felt it hard to distinguish between bullying and strong leadership.

Hugh Pattrick, chair of Governors Wales, said: "There are problems with the way strong leadership can be distorted."

But schools also came under fire for not taking anti-bullying policies seriously enough. Mike Munting, an Estyn inspector, said that when the Welsh Assembly asked schools to submit their policies, a third never bothered. He spoke of policies written in a hurry, with staff unaware of the contents.

Mr Munting said the best way to crack bullying was to listen to all the pupils, not just those on school councils. "We should ask to speak to youngsters who have been excluded - kids who don't get listened to often enough," he said.

Governors Wales this week launched a practical guide on prevention for members, calling on them to ensure bullying is regularly discussed in meetings.

Elsewhere, the Assembly government, schools and children's charities have been holding events to mark Respecting Others Week, running all this week.

Welsh celebrities who are supporting the campaign include Darragh Mortell, who plays Crash in BBC's Tracey Beaker, former world champion hurdler Colin Jackson and Cardiff Blues player Robin Sowden-Taylor.

Scourge of the net

Assistant children's commissioner for Wales, Sara Reid, told delegates at the Governors Wales conference how one of her children had been a victim of internet bullying. The guest speaker told how her child, whom she did not want named, had received abusive emails at home.

Peter Clarke, children's commissioner for Wales, is preparing to launch a major review into bullying. Last year he lobbied multi-national mobile phone companies to investigate ways of reducing text message bullying.

Ms Reid said of the new internet bullying phenomenon: "Children can be got at anywhere - they don't have a sanctuary. This is something we haven't faced before."

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