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Staff welfare and Bullying in the workplace


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#1 Kerry Dixon

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Posted 27 January 2004 - 12:07 AM

It's not just students who need pastoral care - should schools and LEAs be doing more to protect staff too?

Use this thread to share your own experiences, positive or negative, or to discuss what could and should be done to support those of us at the chalk face.

#2 ilovesooty

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Posted 29 January 2004 - 06:02 PM

:rolleyes: I was bullied out of the profession, and I remain very bitter about the treatment I received at the hands of both my Head and the LEA. I gave 23 years to the profession, and am now on the scrapheap. My union weren't able to stop it happening either.

My school had an anti-bullying charter which we all had to sign. What about protection for the staff?

#3 Derek McMillan

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Posted 07 May 2004 - 05:54 PM

When I was bullied by the head of a secondary school "somewhere in Sussex", the union intervened and there was a meeting of members of all the unions in the school. The union representative from Region went to see the head with the form of words which had been agreed by the meeting - and which was signed by all the members of staff excluding two senior management. There was also a proposal to ballot the members of the NUT for strike action during an OFSTED inspection.

Yes it still brings tears to my eyes now. The union means the members, the people we work with every day.

Since then I have devoted my time to running a helpline for the union for stressed teachers in West Sussex. The phone number is on the union card.

And I believe that bullying is not a simple matter and that it requires many different approaches including counselling the victims, rebuilding self-confidence and negotiation. However the most important resource for teachers is other teachers.


The union makes us strong.

#4 Andy Walker

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Posted 07 May 2004 - 07:34 PM

How does one distinguish between "bullying in the work place" and the legitimate management of failing or incompetent colleagues?
As a former union rep I know I have been put in some very uncomfortable positions regarding this in the past. I would be interested in hearing other peoples views.

#5 Jean Walker

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Posted 08 May 2004 - 05:04 AM

That's an interesting point and one my union here has to deal with quite often because our principals are also members of the same union. Ony this week we had a case in the office of a principal versus his two Yr 6 teachers who claim they are being bullied by him. After some fairly close investigation, the situation is that the teachers have both been teaching for over 30 years and are "stuck in their ways" to such an extent that parents are starting to complain about the sort of education their kids are getting. They are stiil dishing ou the same worksheets they've been using for 25 years and are both completely resistant to change and are backing each other up. The principal has the parents on his back, demanding better teaching for their children. Principal talks to teachers about their perceived problems and teachers come to us at union claiming harassment and bullying. What to do? I'd be interested in your ideas and then I'll tell you what our Welfare Officer actually did.

#6 David Richardson

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Posted 08 May 2004 - 07:45 AM

Each country's system is different, but here's roughly what is supposed to happen in Sweden.

Each workplace has an ombudsman from each of the unions represented on site (this means that the ancillary staff and the teachers have one each). By law, management has to involve the unions as soon as an issue which affects the working environment is raised, whether it's the loss of a car-parking space, a change in working practices, or a staff member being bullied or accused of bullying.

The members of staff then have the right to have a union representative present at any discussion with anyone in a management position. Minutes have to be taken and circulated, after having been approved as a true record by people elected at the meeting. Both the original issue (which can be submitted anonymously) and the record are allocated a filing number and have to be made available to anyone - even a member of the general public, such as a journalist, on demand, unless certain very specific conditions are met to ensure that it's classified as private.

As a last resort, if all else fails, anyone (management, union reps, staff, students) can call in the Swedish Health and Safety at Work Executive, who have the power to shut a workplace down immediately, if they judge that people can suffer physical or psychological damage by being there. They also go through everyone's behaviour (particularly the management's) with a fine-tooth comb, and can order a wide range of measures, such as in-depth counselling from teams of occupational psychologists (as can the management without the intervention of the Executive).

So how does it work in practice? The first point to make is that any management is in a position of power, and can go to quite extraordinary lengths to impose their will on employees. Employees in turn often feel threatened, and often fail to bring problems to anyone's notice.

However, a friend of mine, who is the site ombudsman at a university in Sweden has just been involved in bringing in the Health and Safety at Work Executive, after having exhausted all the in-house procedures over a number of years. The charges relate to stress, bullying, unfair management practices, etc. The management say that this is what happens when you reorganise.

The Executive had been itching to get at this workplace for a long time, since there had been worrying reports coming out for years, and as soon as the union reps contacted them, they gave as much unofficial help (with procedures, wording, etc) as they're allowed to do.

The management are now furious, since every last detail of their procedure is now going to be laid bare (it's a criminal offence either to hide information, or to even enquire into the identity of anyone giving information). There's a very good chance now that sweeping changes will be made into workplace practice at that university, and it doesn't look good on your CV if you were the manager in charge when the Executive moved in. You're supposed to use the internal procedures to deal with problems before they get to that level.

#7 Andy Walker

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Posted 08 May 2004 - 05:54 PM

What to do? I'd be interested in your ideas and then I'll tell you what our Welfare Officer actually did.

It is very difficult. Obviously the union official is duty bound to defend their members as rigorously as possible. However if the position is indefensible the best and most ethical advice to the member is often something very practical and then seek the best deal for the member.
There is no doubt either that there are many cases of poor management and bullying of staff by senior managers - it is the union official's unenviable task to establish what is actually going on in each individual case. I did it on for a number of years and despite the fact that there were very few cases which were problematic, I found each of them very stressful indeed

One of the problesm I have witnessed in the UK is that quite often, (but of course not always), the crucial position of school union rep. gets taken up by someone who is either border line incompetent in their job, or extremely lazy in their job. Not someone whose professional judgement can be relied on!

#8 Derek McMillan

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 04:51 PM

One of the problesm I have witnessed in the UK is that quite often, (but of course not always), the crucial position of school union rep. gets taken up by someone who is either border line incompetent in their job, or extremely lazy in their job. Not someone whose professional judgement can be relied on!


It is my experience that the members elect whoever will do the job of union rep. The job of "complaining about the union rep" is much more popular than the job of being rep.

I would also say that it is the job of the union rep to see that members are treated fairly. There are procedures in West Sussex for dealing with members of staff "experiencing professional difficulties" and copies of these procedures are available to all members in all schools. The overwhelming majority of members who go through these procedures do so successfully with the assistance of advisers and the assistance of their union.

Illness prevents me from being a school rep but I take my hat off to them. They are doing a thankless job for no money (they do get a free diary!)

#9 John Simkin

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 10:27 AM

A summary of an unpublished Ofsted report was leaked to the Times Educational Supplement last week. Questionnaires returned by more than 2,000 Ofsted staff suggests that one in five claims to have been bullied or harassed at work in the past 15 months. Two out of three staff said they felt unable to speak freely at work or share ideas about changing the way work was done. Less than a quarter (24 per cent) said they thought the management style was one that encouraged staff to do their best. Almost two-thirds said objectives changed so frequently that they could not get work done.

I think we need to send in a team of classroom teachers to inspect Ofsted.

#10 Andy Walker

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 10:30 AM

I think we need to send in a team of classroom teachers to inspect Ofsted.

:lol: :lol: I volunteer to be on the team!

#11 Guest_Andrew Moore_*

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 11:25 PM

I worked in the same school for 21 years. When I left, I would have said that there were some people who tried to bully colleagues, but that was all. After working in a more humane environment since, I can now see that there was more or less systematic bullying.

That is, the senior managers were weak people whose response to DfES diktats was to ask how high we should jump. Worse, the senior deputy head would take what were quite mild ideas from the LEA or the DfES, then magnify them into something far worse, and insist that we "had to" do this, because the government demanded it.

But the causes of the bullying lie mostly higher up the chain - it does often come from unreasonable targets.

This is not peculiar to schools - it happens in many walks of life, of course. It's not very smart - a few people may respond to the stick, but most of us will do far more in response to the carrot.

#12 Guest_Andrew Moore_*

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 11:29 PM

As a sequel, I should add that my current manager (an ex secondary head teacher) takes the work-life balance stuff very seriously. He is totally supportive of his staff, with the caveat that he often exhorts us to work less, and take things more easily - not just as lip-service. He ensures that the work coming our way is not excessive. As a result, I feel that I would readily keep in this work for many years.

#13 Andy Walker

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Posted 21 May 2004 - 07:00 PM

I suppose we need obvious checks and balances to minimise opportunities for bullying in the workplace by people in senior positions are things like:
Good and regular communications between the professional associations and the head teacher.
Clear and unambiguous job descriptions.
Sound, clear and evenly applied school policies on disciplinary matters and matters related to pay.

What else do members think should be on the list??? Hands up if you've got any of them :)

#14 Maggie Jarvis

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Posted 22 May 2004 - 11:02 AM

Only this week we had a case in the office of a principal versus his two Yr 6 teachers who claim they are being bullied by him. After some fairly close investigation, the situation is that the teachers have both been teaching for over 30 years and are "stuck in their ways" to such an extent that parents are starting to complain about the sort of education their kids are getting. They are stiil dishing ou the same worksheets they've been using for 25 years and are both completely resistant to change and are backing each other up. The principal has the parents on his back, demanding better teaching for their children. Principal talks to teachers about their perceived problems and teachers come to us at union claiming harassment and bullying. What to do? I'd be interested in your ideas and then I'll tell you what our Welfare Officer actually did.


You never did tell us Jay! Is it time now maybe? :)




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