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Bullying of teachers by senior staff

Discussion in 'Scotland - education news' started by Spyder101, May 16, 2008.

  1. I know of a HT who is extremely rude and verbally abusive to staff. She also works as a part-time HMIe inspector.
     
  2. gnulinux

    gnulinux Occasional commenter

    Bullying of teachers by senior staff does go on - everybody knows it does. This includes the more obvious 1 on 1, but also collectively, e.g. not allowing any collegiate input from staff, comment or feedback. Staff meetings where staff are talked at - no questions allowed. Any comments sent to senior staff which could be construed as containing criticism are dealt with very reactively e.g. meeting called 2 of them v you etc.

    There is some anecdotal evidence that bullying is also going on at the Faculty Management level. Some of those who have been appointed as FM's appear to be little more than ignorant control freaks who enjoy throwing their weight around and are actually doing a great deal of damage to staff morale in schools. I wonder to what extent staff turnover has been affected by the FM system.
     
  3. The views of the writer are correct, further, it is good to hear that a union president is stepping forward and stating an informed view of what is actually happening now.

    Quote

    '....president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA), will tell the union's annual conference in Peebles that "far too many" teachers are now subject to intimidation from management.

    She maintains that in six local authorities in Scotland bullying is "endemic" but believes there are schools in every council area which experience bullying.
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    "Some schools have a management system based entirely on bullying and, should a member of staff be daft enough to question a decision made, have no hesitation in crushing that teacher beneath the collective boot," she is expected to tell delegates.

    "Since bullies tend to be appointed by bullies, there is frequently little to be gained by approaching the local authority and the only possible remedy is legal action.

    "How many of us are aware of a case against a bully which has collapsed because colleagues who could support the victim are unwilling, or perhaps unable, to raise their heads above the parapet?"'

    This exert from the article is the tip of the iceberg. There are instances where the rot goes right to the top and i imagine that there are many isolated individuals who have escalated their cases to Director of Education level expecting their evidence to be examined but where the Directors of Education have effectively ignored the obvious and have hidden behind the farce that is a disciplinary system. Each target being unaware of the possibly many others in the same situation.

    The disciplinary system is based on internal investigations using inexperienced investigators (often DHT's overseen by bullying HT's from the same 'bullying' environments who fail to investigate and whose presence is intrinsically intimidating to any witness who might otherwise support the target.)

    There is always justifiable fear of bias which contravenes both the councils dignity at work policies and the councils managment policies which state that decisions must be fair, justifieable and transparent.

    As indicated in the article - most witnesses have some reason to remain quiet - temporary contract, wanting promotion, fear of the bully, being favoured by the bully (and being a co-dependent sycophant), This latter category support the bully and tell lies on their behalf. They are often 'rewarded' after the event with promotion or further favour.

    The HR departments have tactics which are tried and tested to destroy most people who justifiably complain of bullying and leave the bullies stronger and guaranteed to bully again. Each time they get away with it, they learn more how ineffective the system is and the more arrogant they become.

    Tactics used include :-

    1) Delaying investigations and allowing the targets to be victimized (often using the SMT) in the time between raising the complaint and the investigation starting. Bullies tell major lies often 'in the passing' to turn even 'good' people against the targets.

    2)Failing to inform complainants of the investigation process (only the most basic information is made available despite explicit requests). Complainants are often like 'a rabbit caught in a cars headlight' at the meetings with HR and management playing different angles often feeding lines like 'So Mr X, would it be fair to say that you dislike Mrs Y ?' Their response, if it was 'Yes' would be quoted later.

    3) Having HT's make life difficult for the complainant. (The scope here is enormous). Over supervision, excess workload etc)

    3) Arranging impromptu meetings then getting HT's to issue formal warnings to complainants for failing to attend inappropriate meetings. - just to add to the pressure and to move focus from the lower level bully. If the target goes off, then a variation would be to use absence management procedures.

    4) At investigation meetings, complainants will typically go armed with substantial hard evidence. They are not allowed to present the evidence but are told that they will have the chance during the investigation process - the information is never requested. (Anyone in this situation should have the information checked then send it to the investigators by email and copy the information to the Director of Education. That way, in the future, when the internal investigation finds effectively 'no bullying' the Director of education cannot deny knowledge of the details of the case or the existence of the evidence. Even when made aware of the serial nature of the bully's behaviour and previous 'sham' investigations / victimization of those who have supported previous targets, nothing is done. The people in the big jobs believe they are untouchable.

    5) Bullying is about patterns of behaviour. Investigations fail to look for a pattern. They focus on a small number of 'complaints' where they know they can rely on conflicting witness statements to find no hard evidence of fault. As indicated - witness statements are unreliable as indicated above and the complainant is never allowed to see what was asked or the response. This allows for the complainant to tell the truth (as is always the case in real bullying situations) and the bully and supporters to tell the most amazing lies. Bullies state confidently the antithesis of the truth with conviction and are often able to add a few tears for effect. The result - 'faults on both sides / personality clash'. Things which can be investigated impartiality, e.g inaccurate minutes of department meetings, timetables, cover records, external people who are involved, telephone records, emails, notes, photographs, memos - all ignored.

    6) Minutes of investigation meetings are always inaccurate and heavily biased to suggest that the bullying claim is unfounded. These minutes take weeks to arrive and typically are posted to arrive late Friday or Saturday morning. Legislation is ignored. Targets do not see any information about what the bully was asked or said nor information on the scope of the investigation. They are simply told that a thorough investigation has taken place and the findings are 'no evidence of bullying'. The result is conveyed by a third party who 'was not involved in the investigation' and cannot comment on any issues.

    7) All questions, no matter how relevant are dodged / ignored. Often 'While the investigation is in process, we can make no comment' or something similar.

    8) The delays are deliberate. The intention is always to push things out so the complainant has no right to an Employment Tribunal (3 Months) after which the HR forces closure with an abusive judgment. If the claimant goes to appeal, the sham continues, people change on the management side - there is no accountability, no transparency and no rigor. Regardless, the right to an Employment Tribunal has been missed.

    The end result is people who are damaged and often destroyed and a bully who's 'untouchable' reputation has been enhanced. People who understand what has happened know the very real danger of taking on the bully. Some will even join ranks for safety.

    Targets start the grievance beleiving that the system is fair and thorough and knowing that the evidence is strong. When the system fails to deliver - Can you imagine how damaging this is ? There are analogies to seeing a person who you know to be guilty of a serious crime against a loved one getting off with less than a warning. The result is not made public, the target is not informed of any action taken against the bully and the bully can boast that thy were cleared by the investigation. A total sham. These people typically have no conscience, no guilt, are unable to empathise and tell lies convincingly with ease -- Thats how they get the jobs in the first place.

    While some limited success can be had at Employment Tribunals, even though fault is found, employers tend to retain the bully in post but do not reinstate the target.

    Rather than using the Employment Tribunal, i'd suggest that the Unions focus on using the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This act makes the employer vicariously liable for damage done by bullies in the workplace. Damages are unlimited, the internal investigation sham is irrelevant (although its failure to investigate effectively and fairly enhances the targets claim). Most importantly, the time limit for raising a claim is 6 years rather than 3 months. A few test cases won would become a real deterrent to employers who fail to fulfill their duty of care. The unions might already have people who they could win cases for regardless of previous outcomes. (There is an issue that if a judgment is made at an Employment Tribunal then that might disallow a claim under the PfHA - the unions should be able to clarify)

    Further, it would be clear that if a case was won that the bully would be eligible for the sack for 'gross misconduct'.

    It would be much more satisfactory if the employers took bullying seriously, investigated properly and if managers or supervisors were found to have been dishonest or to have abused rank, then the 'gross misconduct' clause should be used.

    Finally Finally - I always find it amusing when I read about senior people in councils / authorities claiming that bullying is not tolerated and that they have effective procedures in place to deal with any bullying.

    Clearly this is the antithesis of the truth and shows these people's true colours.

    https://www.tes.co.uk/section/staffroom/thread.aspx?story_...

    The start of this link is most revealing when considering the mindset and motives of people in authority who display antisocial traits. e.g. stating the antithesis of the truth with conviction and authority.

    It doesn't take much thinking about.

    All opinion, but informed opinion.






    between
     
  4. Have a look - think about it - learn why they continue to get with it - start pushing for change or at least supporting others who are being targeted.

    There needs to be an effective deterrent which does not involve the need for farcical internal investigations to deal with managers who bully.

    Further, both employers and unions should be doing more to educate all staff on exemplifications of bullying behaviour so the at least recognise what is going on. Bullies do not like when their behaviour is recognised as unacceptable.

    In some schools, the ethos (use of guilt, threat, gossiping , belittling others, unrealistic deadlines, emphasis on following instructions without question etc) is such that the entire staff is being bullied but most simply accept it as normal because its all they know.

    The unions both have the resources and access to the evidence which would justify the need for change.
     
  5. Flyonthewall75

    Flyonthewall75 New commenter

    John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education, also denied there was widespread bullying in schools.
    "Ten years ago you could have made this accusation but I have seen no evidence for that approach now," he said.
    "Over the past five years, local authorities have become much more alert to the issue and all work closely with teaching unions to encourage reporting of these incidents. If the only course of action is legal action then there would be something very wrong."

    I see. So what happens if the person who has instigated or condoned the bullying is the Director of Education?

    Sadly this does happen especially where an employee has reported serious breaches of Council policies and procedures. The investigation is dragged out, the victim is discredited and, in some cases, pressurised to resign. In short, even with Union support, the employee is left isolated and vulnerable and colleagues fear for their own employment security as justice is not seen to be done. If we are genuinely interested in tackling the bullying of staff within education, without the need for legal action, we require all alleged cases of staff bullying to be investigated independently.
     
  6. Spot on - Totally independent investigations are essential if there is to be any chance of fairness. Further - what councils normally do is to move the target before the investigation which allows the management to covertly intimidate anyone who might support the target and to allow the bully to look efficient and 'nice'. The correct protocol is to move the accused pending investigation.
     
  7. When local authorities support head teachers to operate a policy where grievances against the head teacher is investigated by the head teacher, who then chairs the grievance hearing, they cannot claim to operate a bully-free system.
    We need an independent system which supports all staff and removes bullys from our schools
     
  8. Oops got carried away there and forgot to spell!!! Bullys is not a word, should be bullies!! Having a headie and LA who are not bullies I have no fear of admiting to a mistake!!!!!!
     
  9. Its so obvious - Can someone explain why the unions, particularly the EIS and the SSTA don't actively fight for change so that there is a real reason not to bully staff.

    The local governments are required by their own policy to have transparent and fair decision making where there is no justifiable fear of bias.

    Both Dignity at Work and Disciplinary processes are blatantly biased and closed and unfair. The unions are aware of this.

    Further, where decisions have been made which are based on incomplete evidence or on information which is known to be incorrect, then the decisions are invalid.

    By searching the net for local government management policies and codes of conduct, it is easy to find fine words and statements of intent which are clearly not consistent with what actually happens in internal disciplinary proceedings.

    http://www.stroud.gov.uk/info/antifraud_policy.pdf

    The link is not totally relevant but is typical of the rhetoric which justifies the unions making legal challenge for change.
     
  10. quidditch

    quidditch New commenter

    by senior staff!! I know a school where the PSA was the bully.... the unions did their best but the council put the bully back into the school after several staff left....
     
  11. morrisseyritual

    morrisseyritual Occasional commenter

    It's old advice - even playground advice - but stand up to them. Bullies are stupid - usually promoted in places they work in because of time-served or that they were in the right clique. My situation was even more uncomfortable - bullied by a rather indomitable classroom auxiliary. I pulled rank in the end, to said individual's face. Not pleasant. To bullies in seniority, pause an unpleasant conversation by pointing at them, take a deep breath and recite "I find your tone unpleasant and insulting and if you continue to speak to me this way I will involve legal and/or union agencies - do you understand that?" Bit of an Oscar-nom job but can work.
     
  12. quidditch

    quidditch New commenter

    morrisseyritual I was bullied by my PSA (and confronted in front of students and fellow staff by her)... for something that wasnt going on she simply got annoyed that I wasnt rising to her argument... so she picked on other members of staff.... (teaching and aux)

    long story short... she was suspended, i had a breakdown, I left teaching, the council (no names)!.. saw her actions to not be bullying... and have actually replaced her into a school where staff are in fear.
     
  13. gnulinux

    gnulinux Occasional commenter

    It is a significant flaw in education that once a teacher has been promoted, it is very rare for them to be demoted or sacked. Some senior staff should never have been promoted at all - they are not up to the job and when they are also a bully they have an enormously detrimental effect on staff morale. If SMT are collectively involved in bullying then that is the worst case scenario, where there is little/no accountability and when one of these is challenged they will simply close ranks. Perhaps SMT's should be on short-term contracts - 3-year (say) - shape up or back down the greasy pole you go - decided by a staff vote of course. I bet that would stop bullying.
     
  14. phil-osophy

    phil-osophy New commenter

    quidditch I am completely with you - it is not always senior staff that are the bullies. Sorry to hear that it drove you out of teaching.

    I got a job as a PT and one of the other teachers in the school who was unsuccessful has completely made my life a misery for the past two years. I got little or no backing from the SMT and was made to feel that this was 'part' of the job.

    I finally decided that it was just not worth it - life is too short - I have just got a job as a class teacher in another school and resigned. My head was suprised and could not understand why I wasn't continuing in a promoted post - I am just so much happier now - I can concentrate on my own teaching and relax with my own family instead of being continually on egde and stressed out.
     
  15. Quidditch and Phil, I am really sorry that you felt you had to give up jobs to escape bullies. I came very close to that, but dug my heels in and came through it. If certain other circumstances had been different, there is no doubt that I would have chucked it.

    I have experienced bullying first hand, as well as having been involved in supporting a colleague who was being bullied. Unfortunately, it is by no means unusual for HTs and local authorities to be unwilling to recognise bullying or to deal with it.

    As at least one previous poster has indicated, one major weakness in the education system is that it will prop up and hand meal tickets to people who should be shown the door. I would add to that, simultaneously it will allow people who are good teachers doing their best to be given a hard time.
     
  16. quidditch

    quidditch New commenter

    well in my case my management team were in full support as she actually has tried to intimidate and bully them too at some point..... i think she bullied all the lowerschool staff at some point.....

    the upperschool staff refused to support our petition to have something done... shes been returned and started picking on staff again...

    i loved my job, I loved my workmates and atmosphere but to watch myself and This PSA actually went online to search my conversations in forums which she claimed were during school time (it was at lunch! or McCrone).... went in my bin to dig out messages I'd sent a collegue asking her what we were doing for lunch..... it was simply insane at the time and I cant believe i told noone or stuck it out for so long.... I had a full on breakdown at 26.... and It was sad to see others have mental breakdowns through fear it just isnt worth it..... and to know your employing council just dont support you (1 did but he was literally ignored!)... its a fault that they have to fix as it will loose them faith and moral in staffing which is sad.... in the longrun...

    funnily after a year of teaching in an alternative setting... im going right back to supply in the same council and I will create a GIANT hoo ha as if they dont get me work as after 8 years service and them having the full reason for me leaving a great post... they know i could get rather "snappy"....

    funnily... i feel i could go back to do supply at that school..... as im a bit like teflon now she cant touch me.(heehee)... shes well warned and the unions have agreed she was victimising me due to my heritage and background (born in the UK but from another nationality.....).....
     
  17. OH GNULINUX HOW VERY RIGHT YOU ARE ...
     

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