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Practical suggestions invited to combat bullying by HT or other senior staff

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by JohnRSS, Aug 11, 2011.

  1. It's an emotive topic. We all know it exists, and no true professional abuses the power they have. Probably only a minority of heads or DHs really are bullies (as opposed to having a robust management style). This is a simple request, seeking practical suggestions - rather than rhetoric - as to how to stop/minimise bullying. This call is especially directed at those of you who encountered bullying as your career progressed: with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps, what could have been done to stop or minimise it?
    Are LAs too willing to side with bullying heads using capability procedures to get rid of those taking a stand against bullying? Are unions too willing to accept Compromise Agreements as a quick "fix"? Should there be an independent regulator to fill the space about to be vacated by the GTC? Are the odds still stacked against whistleblowers?

    I suspect that the key to a solution will be identifying a continuing pattern of abuse. Pragmatic responses welcomed - PM me if you would like to be involved in this issue, or can contribute material for a corpus of case studies. Thank you
     
  2. It's an emotive topic. We all know it exists, and no true professional abuses the power they have. Probably only a minority of heads or DHs really are bullies (as opposed to having a robust management style). This is a simple request, seeking practical suggestions - rather than rhetoric - as to how to stop/minimise bullying. This call is especially directed at those of you who encountered bullying as your career progressed: with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps, what could have been done to stop or minimise it?
    Are LAs too willing to side with bullying heads using capability procedures to get rid of those taking a stand against bullying? Are unions too willing to accept Compromise Agreements as a quick "fix"? Should there be an independent regulator to fill the space about to be vacated by the GTC? Are the odds still stacked against whistleblowers?

    I suspect that the key to a solution will be identifying a continuing pattern of abuse. Pragmatic responses welcomed - PM me if you would like to be involved in this issue, or can contribute material for a corpus of case studies. Thank you
     
  3. I don't visit this site very often but when I do there usually seems to be some minor variation of this type of thread in the top couple of pages. This rather implies that the problem is widespread and I am not convinced that it is.
    If I was convinced that the OP was interested in a range of views on the topic I would like to get involved but I have a niggling suspicion that this is not the case.

     
  4. Hi
    I gave a very small smile when reading your post, I left a great job after five years due to the continual bullying from a HT. I was not alone, the school was "outstanding" but every few months someone would be this HT's target. I perhaps was one of the few that was too sensitive - to my own failing - to the continual attack, so I left, leaving a school that I loved. The school exists on teachers who are prepared to lick boots, perhaps I was too old to bend.
    From my viewpoint and knowing many teachers in many schools I am afraid that it is widespread.
    I came into teaching over a decade ago, with the thinking that at last I had found an "organisation" not tainted with politics, bullying and jobsworths.
    I was so wrong.
     
  5. Whether anyone thinks bullying in schools by senior staff is widespread or not is irrelevant. What is indisputable is that bullying exists. I happen to believe it is endemic in workplaces generally and far too prevalent for us to be complacent. I also think many victims of bullying feel powerless. It does not suprise me that some heads abuse their authority. What the OP is asking seems very clear. I would like to see an independent body with the power to investigate allegations of bullying.
     
  6. I have very strong views on bullying, playground or workplace. I am an HT and I know I don't bully (btw they get bullied too quite commonly by governors!). Dealing with it when it arises is very difficult. Competency and capability does seem to get bandied around a lot. I think one of the most important things is to recognise the signs very early on. If you get unreasonable requests ask for them to be put in writing along with an explanation of when and how these tasks are expected to be done and how long it is expected to take. Do it nicely, sweetly even, but do know your own worth right from the outset. You are less likely to be a victim of bullying if you are not seen as an easy target. The same goes for appraisals etc. If you get a bad one ask for it to be evidenced in writing. Always keep a note of things that are going on, and if there is someone you can trust talk to them. If there is more than one of you the same applies and you should approach the problem together. Getting confrontational rarely works and the governors should be your second port of call. Use the grievance procedure, do everything right. Stay calm, do your job as well as is humanly possible in the meantime because Caesar's wife must be beyond reproach if she wants to have a go at Caesar.

    As to an independent body I am not sure we need one, not because the problem does not happen but because it would be terribly difficult to get it to run properly. How long would it take? Would it destroy the careers of thos who have accusations made against them even if eventually they were cleared? After all false accusations of bullying are made by teachers who actually are simply not coping with the job. I daresay not the majority but it does happen, that some teachers have quite unrealistic expectations of their workloads or are unable to distinguish professional crticism from personal attack.
     
  7. Just ask a supply teacher who visits many schools and you will find that it is widespread.
     
  8. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

    Sulla, I endorse your wise observations, on the whole. I would, however, take issue with your thoughts about the 'independent body'. There is no need for one to be invented because the investigation of complaints of misconduct is the proper function of the prescribed regulator for the teaching profession. At the moment this is the General Teaching Council, but it will be replaced by a new regulator in April 2012. 'Bullying' is misconduct and a clear breach of the Code of Conduct.
    Under the current procedures, individuals are able to make complaints of misconduct direct to the GTC. The GTC's role is to investigate these and all who are the subject of allegations are afforded anonymity unless it finds there is a case to answer and there is a hearing. In practice, the GTC will refer complaints back through the school and employer's grievance procedures, unless it can be demonstrated that the internal grievance process has not considered the complaint and evidence fairly.
    Currently, however, the role of regulator is not properly fulfilled by the General Teaching Council as it is both incompetent and open to influence from powerful employers. It exercises its authority when dealing with complaints against individuals by employers. It has demonstrated, however, that it may be influenced to drop complaints of bullying against individual Headteachers when the employer has opted, for whatever reason, to back that Head. Moreover, individuals at the GTC will circumvent its own investigatory procedures to do so.
    There is an opportunity now for the Secretary of State to be pressurised to ensure that the new prescribed regulator for the teaching profession is'strong and independent' - a plea that echoes that of John Whittingdale (Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee) in the recent Commons phone hacking debate. He was referring to a replacement for the Press Complaints Commission, but the issue is the same. If professional standards are important and are to be upheld in teaching, it matters that there is a regulating body to which disenfranchised victims of workplace abuse can turn and have confidence that their complaint will be investigated without fear or favour.
     
  9. Although I can agree that there are unpleasant school leaders around who choose to bully others, I think the danger is that the term is used so often it can become an excuse for poorly performing staff who heafteachers need to deal with. Local Authorities have a 'Dignity At work' policy - it clearly states what bullying is and also that a senior member of staff dealing professionally with a capability issue cannot be accused of bullying. This is worth remembering!
    As a headteacher I was turned (in the eyes of a minority of staff) from a caring employer to a bully just because i dealt with a member of staff who was underperforming. That person left but the unpleasant title sticks.
     
  10. I have seen a couple of remarks which appear to refer to underperforming staff, who would cry "bully"
    I find this interesting, but not suprised at the response.
    Of course this may happen in a tiny minority of cases, but part of a bullying process is to undermind the victim, make them believe they have less worth.
    Believe me, a member of staff knows the difference between being bullied and being brought into line should they be underperforming.
    You can have as many designated members of staff for teachers to go to should a complaint be required, you can go to the governors, even bring in the union, but you will never win.
    It is a sad fact that it is easier to leave.

     
  11. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

    As a line manager I have experienced the difficulties brought by an under-performing team member crying 'bullying' whever her performance was challenged. It makes for an extremely difficult and unpleasant situation, especially when said member immediately told her best buddy and then went if sick for a month each time!

    Robust management is not bullying. The difference, I think, is in consistency. To single someone out is unreasonable; to be seen to apply the same checks, balances and expectations to all staff is fair.
     
  12. Kenny9

    Kenny9 New commenter

    This is an emotive topic !
    Bullying is never right, but the term is over used. It can happen to anyone, at any level. As a head, I've experienced bullying by a group of well established staff. They decided to ignore me and talk about me to parents. They would leave the staffroom if I went in and snigger in assemblies. This was because the deputy didn't get the post. They also made sure that any changes failed. So is issuing a grievance against this behaviour bullying in your book ?
    Unfortunately, the hard fact is that there are a number of teachers who shouldn't be teaching anymore. When they are challenged they are very quick to call it bullying.
     
  13. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

    To be bullied as a Head must be a particularly unpleasant experience, since it leaves you potentially isolated and vulnerable. I trust the deputy whom you beat for the job is supporting you completely and challenging the behaviour of those unprofessional members of your staff who are trying to make your life a misery? Bullying is bullying, whoever is the victim. Of course it would not be 'bullying' for you to challenge it, though a potentially dangerous act, unless you planned it carefully. I know of someone bullied out of her first (and only) Headship in similar circumstances, where staff just would not cooperate in taking a school out of Special Measures. She was an outstanding school leader and is now lost to the profession.
    You are also right that there are teachers who should not be teaching and who resort to cries of 'bullying' when their capability is examined. I have come across a number in my time. However unpleasant for the individual, legitimate capability or disciplinary procedures carried out as part of robust management are never 'bullying' if they are carried out with integrity, fairness and balance.
     
  14. So bullying one person is unfair but if you bully everyone the same it is OK.
     
  15. In all my years of teaching I have seen one case of an underperforming teacher using the "I am being bullied" when confronted with negative criticisms.
    I have seen MANY cases of sheer bullying, manipulation, being ignored, having HT's friends being promoted over teachers more capable, and having "yes" people promoted over teachers more capable. I have seen the effects of HT's causing mental torment to teachers, destroying careers, damaging self esteem and in a few cases ensuring that the teacher no longer teaches.
    As I mentioned before, this may be like the "real world" but in an environment of teaching, caring, responsibility of students, you would feel that teaching is a caring occupation.
    The comments that have been made on this forum, and this question just make me realise more and more that there are more power crazy HT's than I thought.

     
  16. The original post was about finding possible solutions. Too much blaming and anger in this thread! The bottom line when accusations of any kind are made is usually a breakdown in communication for various often complex reasons. Teaching is an isolated profession where people become very involved in what they do and sometimes leads to the loss of perspective. Stamping of feet and childish tantrums are not unheard of in schools and Heads can often lose the plot as much as their staff team. It is a stressful job and tensions arise. Developing communication skills is key for all staff eg training in coaching and conflict resolution and also supporting stress levels at critical times in the year through various strategies. Making lesson observation less personal is very important. To make lesson observation less personal the Teaching Standards need to be used by schools in place of Ofsted criteria/ alongside. The Teaching Standards outline what we are all paid to do and cover Professional attributes as well as classroom expertise. I know they are up for review but are actually a useful tool now. Developing an understanding amongst Teachers of what is expected of them to teach effectively and to conduct oneself professionally helps us all to keep work focused and allows open dialogue. Head teachers need to explain to their staff what they do and also explain how they are held accountable. An area where schools need support is when a new Head arrives at a school with issues. Heads are often pressurised by governors, Local authorities and Ofsted to find quick solutions. Too much pressure and not enough time. This can cause potential conflict and Heads can become isolated and easy targets and scapegoats.
     
  17. I am sorry you have had such a rough time at work. I hope you are seeking advice. There is no excuse for treating colleagues in a threatening way. A bully is a bully and I'm not excusing poor behaviour. I'm not doubting your account or undermining it but Heads need a voice too. You would have to expect this on a Headteacher Forum. There are vindictive and arrogant groups of Teachers in schools who don't want to address their practice or learn and want to undermine leadership and make up lies and cause unnecessary trouble where there is no case to answer, only diverting attention away from themselves. Unions have been known to encourage and back this sort of behaviour. This costs schools and Children's education greatly. Some Heads try and placate such people and end up quite fearful of them. Such schools are lifted when and hopefully if some of the ringleaders move on. It can lift the whole school from tyranny, arrogance and poor teaching. Teachers in groups in schools can cause deliberate trouble. Bullying has many faces and Headteachers are just as vulnerable as anyone else who is singled out by unpleasant gangs or individuals. Heads are advised to try and ignore such behaviour and not make a fuss by their union reps. I have heard of Heads being attacked, followed, watched in their homes, face book attacks, offices tampered with, lies shared in the local press, lies spread to reactionary parents and governors by Teachers. Many cases which go to tribunal are dropped due to lack of evidence. Many Heads crumble whilst others hold on and take back control of their schools and face all this quietly, resulting in amazing school improvement, improved teaching and happier students
     
  18. Very one-sided comment.
     
  19. I disagree, sorry.
    Bullying exists. If a HT, or being further down the teaching structure and being bullied, it does happen. This happens in any business regardless of it's nature, service or product.
    I am not a HT, simply a great teacher, who has been a victim of a bully, and left. While it would be deemed as the one in the "power" who is causing the bullying, it can be the reverse.
    However in my experience it is variably top down that is responsible for the bullying.
    My point was, and always will be, that in an enviroment of teaching students respect, it is a very tragic situation that it does happen. Perhaps many years ago when I came into teaching I expected that teaching would free me from the politics, the power struggles and the people that seem to take pleasure from undermining others.
    I was wrong.

     
  20. I do not understand this comment when linked with the next.
    The two do not go together.
    You are lucky to be a great teacher.

     

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