Focus: Frontline - Teacher Support Network

Anita Pati, anita.pati@haynet.com

WHAT IT IS: The national charity for teachers and lecturers that provides free advice and support on issues from bullying to meeting government targets

WHAT IT DOES: Provides practical and emotional support to teachers and lecturers, both serving and retired

HOW IT'S FUNDED: Individual donors, trusts, unions, agencies, central government and Local Education Authorities. Just because you're grown up, it doesn't mean you can't be bullied.

Although this week's anti-bullying week campaign focuses on children and young people, bullying among adults at the workplace is rife.

According to the Andrea Adams Trust, one in four people is bullied at work, and many of these are teachers. A recent survey by the Teacher Support Network showed that 60 per cent of teachers and lecturers would leave their jobs if they were being bullied at work.

On Ban Bullying at Work Day earlier this month, Patrick Nash, chief executive of the network, said: "Bullying in schools is not confined to the playground.

Staffroom bullying is a very serious matter that must be tackled before teachers and lecturers quit as a result of stress, depression and anxiety."

'Marginalised and excluded'

The Teacher Support Network began as a benevolent fund in 1877, providing financial assistance to teachers to help them stay in the profession and support them in retirement. It offers counselling through its Teacher Support Line, as well as online coaching on a range of personal and professional issues through its website, www.teachersupport.info.

Issues cover work-related stress, career development, getting a job, pupil behaviour, classroom management, discipline, pressure to meet targets and pupil allegations.

The network picks up some of those victimised at schools and colleges, working with 450 bullied teachers and lecturers in the last academic year.

One of these is Elizabeth (not her real name), who contacted the network after she received a leaflet through her door asking for donations. Elizabeth had been bullied by the head teacher at her primary school after "a distressing interview". After this, she was "marginalised and excluded", despite being a senior teacher.

"Because of stress, I took sick leave over a year ago," she says. "Just before Christmas, I phoned a network counsellor, who was most supportive."

Elizabeth is now trying to find work as a supply teacher, but she is finding it hard because her self-esteem, she says, "has taken a battering".

This is a common by-product of bullying, according to Nash. "Unfortunately, bullying has a destructive effect on the confidence, morale and health of the bullied person," he says. "It can also have a knock-on effect on their students."

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