Spot the bullies coming

15th November 2013 at 00:00

I have every sympathy for the teacher who wrote last week ("We must not let bullying management win", Letters, 8 November) about being bullied and I am horrified by the suggestion that this behaviour is widespread. Nevertheless, I would like to put the other side.

In my 10 years of senior leadership, I have been subjected to what I can only describe as bullying and intimidation by a number of junior staff, including support staff - enough to make me consider resignation on many occasions and to seek counselling in order to get through it. From conversations with other school leaders, I know I am not alone.

Teachers who are bullied have recourse to policies such as "Fairness and dignity at work" and "Bullying and harassment". We, as school leaders, have recourse to capability and disciplinary procedures. But, as both my case and that of your correspondent demonstrate, these policies and procedures are toothless and ineffectual in the face of those who do not wish to behave well, whatever their position within the organisation, and who ignore, flout or abuse them without conscience.

I do not know what the answer is. We now try very hard to spot telltale signs during the recruitment process. Perhaps teachers need to look for ways of assessing a school's culture prior to applying for a job - such as asking to be shown round by somebody other than a member of the leadership team. (A refusal would, of course, give you a strong indication that you might not wish to take your application any further.)

Either way round, bullying and intimidating behaviour from colleagues can make working in what is already a challenging profession well nigh intolerable.

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