[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2004, 16:10 GMT
Teachers report staffroom strife
man using PC
Increasing numbers of teachers have been e-mailing as well as phoning
Thousands of teachers are contacting a support service to report conflict at work - with their colleagues.

This, and bullying by managers, accounted for more than twice as many contacts to the Teacher Support Network as pupil misbehaviour.

The network's support service has helped 76,000 teachers in England and Wales over the past four years.

Four-fifths of all the enquiries came from women, with workload another pressing issue.

The network says numbers are rising. Last year 30,000 teachers - one in every 15 - sought help either by phone or online.

Conflict - 10.2%
Workload/hours - 4.8%
Pupil behaviour - 4.3%
Long-term sick leave - 4.2%

The largest single group of callers were newly-qualified teachers, who accounted for a fifth of all enquiries, with many student teachers also getting in touch.

Stress anxiety and depression accounted for the highest number of calls, the network said.

"Many teachers calling the service have expressed reluctance to discuss stress with their GP, because they worry about being seen as weak if this is put on a sick note.

"They are also anxious about informing colleagues and managers when they feel that they are not coping."

Conflict and bullying

Just over 10% of all contacts were triggered by conflict - in two thirds of cases, conflict with managers, and in a quarter with other colleagues.

"It is not unusual for the caller to feel helpless and lose sight of how to 'get themselves out of a situation' that is having a continuous, debilitating effect," the network reported.

The calls we receive indicate that the bully is more likely to be a member of the senior management team
Teacher Support Network
"In extreme circumstances, conflict - especially conflict with a manager - can lead to a teacher going on sick leave.

"Some teachers in this situation have called the service to say they are 'too frightened to pick up the phone at home for fear that it will be the school calling'."

More than 2,200 calls were from teachers on sick leave, who often said they felt they had failed and felt guilty for letting down so many people.

Senior managers in schools are under increasing pressure to improve results and can no longer tolerate mediocre performance
Sue, Manchester

Counsellors tried to help teachers to focus on their work rather than the conflict situation.

Another 741 teachers reported "harassment".

"In a profession that is very aware of the effects of harassment on pupils and the need to take action, teachers can often feel disempowered when subjected to harassment themselves," the network said.

"While acknowledging that colleagues, parents and even pupils are capable of harassing teachers, the calls we receive indicate that the bully is more likely to be a member of the senior management team."

Conflict-related contacts - 5,382 altogether - were more than double the number about pupil misbehaviour, which was the bigger issue only for special needs teachers.

In general, the naughtiness complained about was mainly the "dripping tap effect" of constant, low-level disruption.

Job shortage?

Workload was another significant problem, with head teachers having spoken of "drowning under a mountain of paperwork that arrives each day, let alone each week".

Deputy heads of department called most frequently about their workload - the only group to rate this above stress.

The network said that although only 791 callers raised concerns related to getting a job, there had been a significant increase in such calls over the past four years.

"Teachers calling the service feel the jobs picture is being misrepresented and that teacher shortage is a regional rather than national issue."

A spokesperson for the DfES said: "We recognise that support for teachers is vital - which is why newly qualified teachers get an individualised programme of monitoring and support, and why we have a national strategy for teachers' continuing professional development.

"Programmes to improve pupil behaviour are providing positive working environments for teachers.

"We are also increasing the numbers of support staff and improving teaching as a profession so that teachers can enjoy a better worklife balance - which in addition to raising standards - is key to encouraging more people to choose and remain in teaching."

Teachers address workplace bullying
23 Oct 02  |  Northern Ireland

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific