Targeted by cyber-bullies

30th March 2007 at 01:00
I was called 'narrow-minded' by pupils on a website. It stung. I had no right of reply

HEADS NEED to do more to protect teachers from bullying by pupils and other members of staff, according to MPs.

The intensity of schools makes it harder for teachers to avoid their bullies than people in other workplaces, the Commons education select committee found.

New powers which come into effect next week give teachers a clear legal right to discipline pupils. Jim Knight, schools minister, said teachers would be able to confiscate mobile phones used to film bullying or text insults. And new parenting orders will force parents to take action over a child's behaviour or face a hefty fine.

However, teachers remain concerned that they will be targets for bullying by pupils and other staff members.

Andy Brown, a drama teacher at Ballymena academy in Northern Ireland will tell the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' annual conference next week that more should be done to stop pupils victimising staff via websites such as RateMyTeachers. Mr Brown's teaching methods were criticised and he was called narrow-minded by a pupil on the website.

"That stung," he said. "Teachers are not necessarily thick-skinned. It is bullying because you have no right to reply."

Steve Sinnott, NUT general secretary, told the education select committee that bullying of teachers had increased and was "creating an environment in which everybody feels under stress".

Many schools had not done enough to protect teachers from being bullied or assaulted by pupils, he said.

In their report to the Government, the MPs said school leaders should "ensure that anti-bullying policies do not overlook the bullying of teachers, either by students or by other staff and that incidents of bullying that involve staff are dealt with appropriately".

The report called for more guidance for parents and schools to counter cyber-bullying of pupils. MPs warned that some schools were excluding pupil victims of bullying for health and safety reasons and called for guidelines to ensure the practice stopped. They recommended that pupils should instead help decide how to punish bullies with penalties such as litter-picking.

They also recommended that the Government commission a long-term study into bullying to counter a lack of accurate data and evidence on the effectiveness of anti-bullying policies. There should be more teacher training and an open approach to the problem from schools, which should have independent appeals procedures to ensure bullying complaints were taken seriously.

The select committee also called on ministers to require schools to develop policies against homophobic, disability and race-related bullying. The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham and head of the Catholic education service, said he thought this was unnecessary but the MPs disagreed .

* Leading article, page 26

Signs of victimised teachers and pupils

Poor health and spending lots of time off sick.

Mood swings.

Constant nervousness.


Tearfulness for no reason.

Lack of confidence, putting themselves down and devaluing their abilities.

Hostility and defensiveness, complaining of feeling "picked on".

Becoming withdrawn and not participating in lessons.

Physical injuries.

Torn or damaged clothing, with no explanation.

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