Teachers face out bullies in the staffroom

Click to follow
Brow-beaten teachers are calling stress helplines in the middle of the night after suffering at the hands of staffroom bullies. Amid mounting evidence that "school rage" is no longer confined to the playground, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers yesterday issued guidance to help victims stand up to their tormentors.

On the second day of its conference in Cardiff, the union heard that bullied teachers were reporting vicious campaigns of persistent undermining, intimidation and humiliation, usually waged by heads and senior managers.

The bullying can be physical, verbal, or non-verbal, and might include ostracising, setting impossible objectives, unreasonable allocation of duties, or even inappropriate eye contact, according to the new guidance.

Teachers falling victim to such behaviour could, in extreme cases, develop school phobia, and fear going to work to face threatening colleagues. They might also suffer a loss of confidence in their professional abilities and become reluctant to voice opinions to managers.

The worst culprits were headteachers and senior school managers who abused their power, often because they were under pressure, but the tactics were also used by classroom teachers, governors, parents and non- teaching staff. Belinda Hall, who runs the ATL's stress helpline, said the number of bullying-related calls had increased to one new case every working day.

Peter Smith, the union's general secretary, denied that it was launching a "get headteachers' campaign". He said that its guidelines would give teachers "valuable weapons to identify and combat adult bullying in their schools and colleges."

The guidance identifies eight common types of bully and the tactics used. Among them are "the refrigerator" who freezes out exceptional teachers in favour of poorer, less threatening colleagues, and "the allocator" who singles out staff unfairly by allocating them the worse jobs.

"Changelings" are sly managers who fail to treat their staff consistently, fairly and equally, leaving them unsure where they stand, while "proceduralists" are headteachers and department heads who abide by school rules exhaustively and very slowly to undermine morale.