Save heads from staffroom bullies

5th September 2003 at 01:00
I refer to the disturbing findings on "bullied heads" by Colin Campbell, former MSP and headteacher, in The TES Scotland of August 22. As a former head I can, regrettably, recognise many of the scenarios he describes.

For members of staff to "frame" a new or existing headteacher is an offence against the democratic process, which put the head in post. Such conduct is completely unacceptable and it is a weak authority indeed which simply sidelines the post-holder rather than addresses the real issues.

The fact that certain staff, sometimes promoted and senior staff, are prepared to act in such a wilful and destructive manner is a sad reflection on the teaching profession, which can only bring it into dispute.

In many schools there are individuals who put their own comfort zones, power bases and personal egos well above the needs of the pupils who should be their first and foremost concern. Any responsible authority has a moral obligation to support the head that they appointed to do the job unless it can be clearly demonstrated that he or she has acted in an unprofessional manner.

One wonders if certain authorities actually know their own schools; the historic difficulties, the real reasons why staff leave and the negative pervading influences which can make other lives (including those of certain pupils and parents) a misery. An enthusiastic and committed head deserves the full support of his employers in overcoming entrenched and misguided actions.

Surreptitious and deceptive behaviour of this type stifles the head's ability to carry out his or her legitimate leadership role. The hostile behaviour described by Mr Campbell needs to be dealt with effectively in order that everyone can carry out their duties and obligations in an atmosphere free of conspiracies and strategies to hound the head from his or her post. The "who does he think he is" mentality is still a feature of some mindsets.

The Scottish Executive has a role to play here and should familiarise itself with the realities, which are likely to prevent many very able and talented individuals from applying for headteacher posts in this country.

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