/ Workplace bullying of teachers by teachers 2

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Mr Pinchy on 21 Jan 2013
Following on from an earlier thread where I was trying to get advice for my partner Jane who is being bullied at work:

Jane has subsequently decided that she does not want to involve the unions. She's doesn't think that will lead to a positive outcome. She's decided to apply for other jobs, but is fearful of getting a bad reference from the HT.

Just quitting altogether is risky as people will ask "why did you leave job X then?" I think that could be a difficult one to explain at a job interview or on an application form. But I do wonder if "in the grand scheme of things" that's the best thing to do. The problem is she shouldn't have to jeopardise her career like that.

I'm scared for her because I can see the amount of stress she is under and am worried she's going to break. I'm sorry to be a doomsayer, but this is really upsetting me.

Not sure what I'm really expecting from posting here. Just feel the need to vent.
Infinite Granite - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy:

If it's any consolation whatsoever, I know how you feel completely. My first job out of uni was as a teacher. Sad to say I only lasted a couple of years because of the exact same problem. I'm now a copper so not even using my degree!

My penny's worth is pretty much this, leave, find a better school and enjoy the job. It can be massively rewarding but you really have to be in the right school for it.
I doubt they'd give a bad reference without actual tangible proof, as they can get in all sorts of trouble for that kind of thing, and I mean big trouble.
There is some interesting reading on this site:

For the time being, support her, try and relieve the stress and think towards the future. There are some spectacular schools out there, and if she finds the right one, it'll be the most rewarding career.

Good luck to you both mate.
Mark Morris - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy: I saw the thread before xmas too late to respond before it was archived. I have personal experience of this and it made me become involved in a union as a result.

I'm sorry that she doesn't feel she can involve her union, I'm sure they could provide her some support. There is a teachers support helpline which will at least give her someone else to talk to about it. Getting it off her chest to someone else is always good.

I doubt that the school will provide a poor reference, not really in anyone's interest.

Above all, don't let her resign, it's rule number one when talking to members. As bad as it may be, at least you have an employer and someone to take to task, when she feels strong enough.

Good luck to you and her. PM if you like.

omerta on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy:

No experience of working in education, I'm afraid, but lots of experience working in the public sector and being both a victim of, and witness to, bullying. In my situation, I walked out of one job because I knew they'd broken their 'duty of care' to me and I got them on that technicality. But it's such a unique, horrible thing to go through and if you're worried that Jane's going to break, then I'd cite that as the priority. No-one deserves to reach that ebb.

If I were to give advice, I'd say that if Jane can cut her losses, and maintain her love for the job (overall, not where she is now), that's probably the best outcome; any health at risk from bullying, be it mental or physical, isn't worth it. No, she shouldn't have to jeopardise her career but she may be at risk of jeopardising so much more if she stays.

Give her my love + PM if you need
Iain Downie - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy:

My better half went through something very similar in 2011-12 in her first year at the school (5th year as QT). We clearly identified it as workplace bullying in Jan 12 and this was confirmed by another member of staff approaching retirement. She'd seen no less than 15 members of staff go through similar experiences in the 8 years the head had been in post.

C (the other half) had a similar choice. Kick up a fuss or move on, knowing that there was a good chance of a negative reference. I'd seen C's morale gradually deteriorate, so I asked the question, "Do you think you could still be working in these conditions in a years time?"

The answer was a definitive no. Even if C stayed to fight, it would still be being dragged through the system, which on top of the already strenuous job would have pulled her under. The chair of governers in this case would have beenno help, as he has been in post for 20 years and is suffering from mental health issues, and so the head already runs circles around him.

After making the decision to walk away, everything got better, knowing that there was an end for her experience. The reference was indeed very negative, but C managed to get an interview with the help of a uni friend working at a different school. The contradiction between the character reference and her first HT reference, and that of the bully was enough for the panel to accept C's version of events.

If it wasn't for the uni friend, C would not be teaching now. A bad year followed by being unfairly rejected by other schools would have finished her off. After 4 years of training and 5 years in the job, that would have been a big waste.

It sounds like Jane is ready to commit to leave. That is the scary bit, everything gets better from there.

Has she got a positive reference from somewhere else to contradict the one she is likely to get? Does she know anyone who could give her a character reference who is working in a different school? C also went for a maternity cover. She wasn't sure about this when she applied, but it worked out for the best as there were fewer other candidates. This contract has now been extended and will hopefully be made permanent from Sept.

Feel free to PM me if you want to talk it over, or if you'd like me to put C in touch with Jane. She's definitly not on her own.

shaymarriott - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy:

When I was in 6th Form my psychology teacher took a substantial amount of time off due to stress. She wouldn't tell us as students what the cause of the stress had been, other than that it had been work related.

When she came back it transpired that she had been bullied (along with a number of other teachers) by the Head Teacher. He had clearly been treating them less favourably than other teachers (possibly due to them not sharing his Hitleresque views).

The affected group took formal action, and 3 months later the Head was suspended, then dismissed, for Gross Misconduct. These articles might be of some help.

My advice is not to ignore it. Document everything that happens/is said, regardless of whether it is or isn't actual bullying. What seems irrelevant at the time may be invaluable down the line.

For the record, the man in the above articles was a complete a***hole, and deserved everything he got. He was unpleasant to a number of students, including myself, and the school is widely agreed to have become a far friendlier place, both academically and professionally, since he left.

Tell your friend not to ignore it - and brush up on employment law (esp. in terms of discrimination and constructive dismissal) as there is so much that can be done to stop workplace bullying.

Hope this is of some help!

redsonja - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy: a guy i know is a teacher and a few months ago he reported his colleague to the head for poor work. apparently, the head then made things so bad for his colleague that he went on the sick then resigned. while he was on the sick, he managed to get another teaching job but didnt apply to the school for a reference. im not sure how he did this. im not a teacher but i had a good job with the council. my boss and another employee were "picking" on me for 2 years- which had a very detrimental effect on me. eventually i just left. i soon got another job. i am earning much less than i did then, but i am so much happier and calmer and i have never regretted not having to listed to their bull***t any more! stress causes all sorts of illnesses. no, your friend shouldnt have to jeopardise her career, but she shouldnt make herself ill. bullies are very unhappy people who pick on others who cant fight back. hope your friend gets on ok whatever she decides to do. she is lucky to have a friend who cares about her
paul walters - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy: Perhaps this isn't much help, but on her next application form, in the bit where it says "reason for leaving last job", she could simply say "I was being bullied".... takes a real strength of character to admit that, and might be in her favour in the long run ?
Just my opinion.
marsbar - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy: Maybe she could leave and work as a supply teacher for a while, then she can check out several other schools and find a good one to work in, and get some better references in the meantime?
redsonja - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to marsbar: yes, good idea
Steph-in-the-West on 21 Jan 2013 -
In reply to Mr Pinchy:
Hi again - I replied to this when you posted before. As I said then - a similar thing happened to me and I tried to ignore it and carry on but had a nervous breakdown and ended up with early retirement on the grounds of mental ill health, that going back into a classroom would be severely detrimental to my mental health and to the children. I now work for a mental health charity and am so glad to be away from the education system I am now a valued person, not just a number. It is my belief that employers can't give a negative reference - only a neutral one - but am willing to be corrected on this. My advice would be to involve the union - there must be union rep in the school she can talk to initially in complete confidence. No employment is worth risking mental or physical health for...
Coel Hellier - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Steph-in-the-West:

> It is my belief that employers can't give a negative reference - only a neutral one - but am
> willing to be corrected on this.

That's not true. The law requires that, if you give a reference, it be fair and truthful and not misleading. That means not unfairly bad and not unfairly good either. So, if an employee had been dismissed for stealing from the employer, then that employer would be obliged to say so in any reference. If that employer did not they could be held to be failing in their duty of care towards the new employer that might take on that person.
Ruub on 21 Jan 2013 -
In reply to Mr Pinchy:
First of all I can appreciate the circumstances and felt the need to reply, some of my first thoughts have already been expressed, that being to document what is actually going on or being said.

Secondly, a possible very simple and effective strategy is to ask the person who is doing the bullying....'why are you bullying me?'
Mark Morris - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy: Have re-read the original thread and this one too.

You or jane need to seek advice from your regional office of her union rather than the school rep. She may well be directed to an area/divisional secretary (depending on union, but you may also deal with a professional assistant, who often has a legal background). At least this will give the union an idea of the problem at the school. They may well have other people suffering in silence, together, you can make a change.

In the meantime, keep records of everything. How supportive is her doctor? Whereabouts are you in uk? What category of school is it - academy, faith, voluntary aided, Local Authority?

Sorry for the questions, just helps formulating answers.

Again, feel free to contact me through here. I'm also sure my wife, who knows what this feels like would be able to chat if needs be.

Good luck.
Offwidth - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy:

I've dealt with numerous genuine cases and through friends I've heard of many more. From this I'd say there is no fixed answer. Sadly I think the Public Sector pressures are leading to an increasing number of arrogant bullies in senior positions and frightened middle management so things will continue to get worse until the really bad places like Mid Staffordshire get exposure of their terrible management practice to full public glare (and then hopefully genuine reporting of problems through whistleblower routes will be better protected). Public Sector HR despite all the touchy feely policies and modern awareness of issues are ironically often way worse than the old personnel departments; in particular the bad ones very rarely demonstrate any independence of view or action from senior management teams. As an aside I've also seen quite a few wasters use bullying as an excuse to try and fend off proper management processes (to deal with real workplace issues), so I know the difference between genuine, 'grey' cases and made up. I also know plenty of good caring managers (and they share my sector concerns).

My primary concern as a rep for someone being seriously bullied is to protect health and (if trusted) to ensure GP's advice is followed. When people are feeling more capable again in the more serious situations they have a choice: use the internal processes to the point where either the issue is resolved or you need to resign or if its all too much, consider leaving (doing nothing is not a sensible option). Sadly you also need to be careful about trusting occupational health...too many departments are happy to push an inappropriate biased position. For those that resign and head towards a tribunal for unfair dismal the bad ones tend in my experience to be settled just before the hearing (one day I hope to see one of the senior bullies exposed but they are prepared to pay lots to cover that presently). Where unions are not effective (seen it loads especially with the big ones for lower paid staff) or not relevant (highish management grades) an employment lawyer may be useful...doing it all on your own is complicated and whilst highly stressed is incredibly hard and those in such positions who can't or won't use a union or a lawyer may be better off from a health perspective by just leaving.

Negative references must be strictly factual and require proper evidence bases (disciplinary records, sickness absence details etc) otherwise they risk getting legal action in response. Always insist on your data protection rights to see a reference where you suspect it may be a problem.

On lower level bullying cases often just standing up to the bullies can work (best done with colleagues and with informal union knowledge in case things escalate). Just sharing by talking can help too.
redsonja - on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to Ruub: i once asked my former boss why she was bullying me. she said to me that the way i spoke to her she found intimidating and because of what i said i could be considered to be bullying her! i was quite frightened of this woman. not in the normal sense of the word but she was dangerous because she twisted things that were said (like in this case)
Fluvial - on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy:

After having been in education for a time and can see what happens when you get poor management I can offer only this and much as been already said by my learned collegues here:

1. Document everything - save every email, note every conversation, date everything that collaborates your story. - It is unusual for a bully or poor boss to document everything/anything
2. Quitting is a double edged sword as others have said, without a job getting a job is harder, start applying elsewhere as if/ when they ask for references from the person who wants rid of you (I can only make that assumption) once you confront them and tell you need a reference for a new job the reference will generally be positive as it suits all considered for you to leave. Failure to give a good reference could result in you going to your union representative

Circumstances however vary - I have a teacher under my charge as a Head of department who in my opinion does not pull their weight takes far too much time off for various reasons and has openly said they do not like teaching. I would prefer them to find gainful employment elsewhere but I am stuck with them, my life is not to make their life hell but to help them and the students attain the best they can. Bullying them is the last thing on my mind and the sign of great weakness.

Don't lose heart teaching can be great the rest is just horses**t.
Mr Pinchy on 23 Jan 2013
Thank you all for the responses they've been really helpful and supportive. I think I needed a boost too - it's helpful to hear from sane people and feel that "it's not just happening to her".

On the topic of job references, one of her colleagues (Sam) moved back to their previous school last year. Sam's reference from the current HT was negative, but fortunately as she had contacts there, they took her back. This is why Jane is concerned about getting a negative reference. I suspect that either the HT wants people to stay or is just being plain malicious.

I've looked at threads on tes regarding the legal issues around giving honest references:
It seems all you can really do is ask to see the reference from the HT (which I don't think is likely) or contact the school you're applying to, to ask to see your reference. But no one is obliged to do so.

Fingers crossed that she'll at least be able to make some progress through contacts who work at other schools. Otherwise supply teaching does seem like a possibility.
EeeByGum - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy: This is the anti bullying policy for our local primary school.

Note that it defines bullying as "Bullying is any action by a person or group of persons which causes embarrassment, pain or discomfort to someone whether a child or an adult."

The bottom line is that bullying of any kind between anyone associated with the school (child, teacher or parent) is unacceptable and should be dealt with. It then sets out the responsibilities of all involved. Does your friend's school not have a similar policy?
Mr Pinchy on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to EeeByGum:

The school does have an anti bullying policy.

I suspect part of the problem my partner is experiencing is not knowing how to deal with difficult people effectively. i.e. saying things like "Look, I'm not going to tolerate being treated like this, or spoken to like this..." Although I'm no expert myself. It's a tricky one because you don't know how the HT will react. She wrote a damning appraisal of another teacher after they attempted to stand up for themselves for an unsatisfactory lesson observation.
Ava Adore - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy:

This is the second bullying thread I've commented on today and I realise that my stance on bullying isn't everyone's cup of tea. Basically, I don't cope well with stress of this sort so would always cut and run. So in my view she is doing absolutely the right thing in applying for other jobs. Get her away from the stress.
elsewhere on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to Mr Pinchy:
Damning appraisal (but only if shown to be unjustified) is more evidence of bullying.

I've seen bullying destroy the confidence of a strong person, that was resolved when they got a new boss with balls who stood up to the useless* directors and stopped the scapegoating.

Ava Adore is right, getting another job is the best realistic solution.

*the company didn't last much longer, the directors really were useless!
Cú Chullain - on 24 Jan 2013
Mrs Cú Chullain left teaching last year, although she was not a victim of a sustained campaign of bullying herself she certainly observed a pretty unpleasant cliquiness amongst her colleagues and a culture of bitchiness that was occasionally aimed at her. Mrs had worked for over a decade in senior treasury/accountancy before retraining as a maths teacher and she was staggered by the lack of professionalism that she encountered, and that included any notion of teamwork, in fact anyone seen rocking the boat by bringing in new ideas or other examples of ‘best practice’ was seen as a threat rather then supported. She actually raised the GCSE and A level maths pass rate in her school from a pretty miserable 50 odd percent to well over 80% and was rewarded with a promotion to department head. A few of her colleagues starting to moan about her promotion being unfair as they honestly believed that advancement was based on time served not ability or performance. Anyway, she quit the profession and returned to accountancy and I am delighted.
Mr Pinchy on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to Cú Chullain:

It's weird how this seems so common in schools. The cliquiness and resistance of new ideas are familiar to my other half's experiences.

I've suggested that Jane leave by taking a sidewards step or a step down just to get out of that school. But she's less keen on this as she wants to excel in her career and carry on being promoted. She does have friends who are teachers who seem to have found a decent balance, although even her friends hesitate when asked if they think their HT's are good bosses.

Glad your Mrs found a career she's happier in.

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