I've got to go

I'm sorry to say I'm wrapping things up for the time being.

I just can't commit myself to you as much as I want as I'm a full time working, part time studying Mum now.

I'm leaving the content up but disabling the interactive aspects of the blog until I can dedicate more time to this.

In the future I intend to pursue a career in employment law and human resources, and this blog has been valuable experience. I'd like to turn the work that I've done here into a book.

Thank you all so much for the praise and support, and I've been more happy than you know to discover that I've not been the only one, not by a long shot. I hope I've been of help to you, so far.

Contact your union or post on TES Forums if you need advice.


Frightened Staff: why school managers want teachers to be scared

It’s better to be feared than loved, apparently. This Machiavellian belief is very evident in schools today, where senior managers deliberately create cultures of fear amongst their staff.

Personally, I think there is a difference between being feared and creating fear. The former is encouraging proper respect in your employees, so that your presence creates a desire to work hard whether they believe in the work or not, they will at least want to please you. This is a good leader.

The latter is creating a permanent atmosphere of fear in employees, that is there whether you are or not. Staff think that any one tiny infringement against the establishment will definitely result in ‘terrible things’ happening. They may or may not work hard, but they will certainly work cautiously and on egg shells, yet at the same time know absolutely that it is only a matter of time before their human nature causes them to make a mistake, and that will be the end of them. This is a bad leader.

I think the second description is most prevalent in schools today because the response to raising standards has always been to raise pressure, not to improve conditions. Passing this pressure down the hill has been allowed to evolve unchecked, so that adding more fear is both allowed and encouraged.

Finding another way of operating would, in this environment of institutional bullying, be seen to be weak, and no one is willing to be the trail blazer and stick their neck out to change it. Running a school is a job for conformists.

Managers want teachers to be afraid of losing their jobs, their livelihoods, their reputations and their entire careers. All are within the control of internal SMTs and the destruction of them requires no input from external ombudsman, leaving teachers with little protection against managers who want to destroy them in this way. Excessive fear, even if nothing happens, contributes significantly to mental health issues.

Heads have, over the years, campaigned and won the right to this exclusive control over their staff in order to maintain the culture of fear properly. SMT now create this fear by spying, manufacturing evidence and using unofficial references, meaning that even teachers who have done nothing wrong should still be afraid.

Businesses know well enough that creating such an atmosphere would result in staff leaving for a better deal. I hope that the increasing numbers of teachers leaving the profession, and the difficulty that even politicians acknowledge there is in recruiting good staff, will result in a major shift that allows teachers to work without fear.

Are you teaching in fear? Have you been a victim of bullying and felt that you have been used as an example to invoke fear in other teachers? Please feel free to comment below.

Workplace dilemmas FAQs

“Workplace Dilemmas” as they are termed on TES forums are so commonplace in teaching so as to warrant an entire forum dedicated to them. There are countless teachers who are experiencing a crisis at work that threatens their future in the profession as well as their sanity.

It makes for depressing reading, although some comfort is found in the fact that a lot of the complaints are very similar, i.e. you are not alone. These are the most common dilemmas, as well as some accompanying advice.

Student teacher, no support, bullied, failing placement
Contact regional representative of union
Report to university but expect no support
Ask that everything be referenced to proper standards – don’t allow personal/irrelevant criticisms onto written documents
Most likely outcome: repeat placement, graduate later

NQT, workload too high, bullied, failing assessment, changing schools
Contact regional representative of union
Ask that everything be referenced to proper standards – don’t allow personal/irrelevant criticisms onto written documents
Look for other jobs, negotiate an agreed reference.
Most likely outcome: supply, eventual permanent post, extension on NQT

Established teacher, not getting easier, mental health issues
Go to your GP, follow their advice
Try and cut corners with no one noticing
Look for other jobs, negotiate an agreed reference
Most likely outcome: find a nicer place to work or change career

Very experienced teacher, too expensive, being bullied out
Contact regional representative of union
Go to your GP, follow their advice and request visits to occupational health
Beware of traps and manufactured evidence
Most likely outcome: early retirement or downgrading to a different job

Middle management or SMT (not head), punching bag for head
Be assertive and just don’t allow it
Look for other jobs, negotiate an agreed reference
Beware of traps and manufactured evidence
Most likely outcome: find a nicer place to work

This is all very basic and very general advice, meant to simply highlight your first points of call in a situation. Additional action should be taken as appropriate to your case, and each one will be different. If you think I can help, please email me, but I’m no substitute for the other ports of call. At least you know it’s not only happening to you, and that you fall into a group of teachers who are all being persecuted in the same way.