Guernsey is a step above the rest of the country when it comes to teaching staff’s wellbeing according to the States, at a time when a national teacher’s union is reporting a bullying crisis.
NASUWT – a national teacher’s union – surveyed 2,000 UK teachers during the first few months of this year and found four in five of them had been bullied. That workplace bullying was, according to the union, ruining those teachers’ lives, particularly as the majority of incidents were perpetrated by senior management.
But, fortunately, Education, Sport and Culture has said the situation is not the same in Guernsey. The Committee told Express that ‘to date’ [since the appointment of Liz Coffey as the Executive Headteacher for the island under the new education system], there had not been a single concern raised about teacher bullying, and despite that, there were numerous measures in place to ensure staff’s wellbeing was given the highest priority.
“[ESC] has clear and open lines of communication with all professional associations representing staff working in education, including Headteachers, teachers, mental health and wellbeing leads, staff from both Education Services and Health, and Union representatives,” a committee spokesperson said.
“Regular liaison meetings between the Director of Education, Senior HR representation, and local and national union representatives allow issues and concerns relating to teachers and school staff to be explored. Staff have access to the Occupational Health Service and this approach is further supported by the Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools policy. This policy ensures there is clear guidance in place to support all schools in order that they continue to promote and support positive mental health and wellbeing of all learners and staff.”
In the summer of 2017, staff at Les Beaucamps High threatened to go on strike over a ‘culture of fear’. They said it was over ‘poor management practices’ at the school, and the threat of striking was a last resort. While the strike never went ahead, Les Beaucamps High school was later given a new Acting Headteacher. An inspection of the school found there had been problems with leadership but that has improved since the change in management.
Pictured: Martin Haimes, acting head of Les Beaucamps. Since he took over following the strike debacle, an inspection found that conditions at the school have improved.
In the UK, the majority of the reported bullying was carried out by senior leaders in schools. The forms of bullying being spoken about covered a wide range, from shouting and verbal abuse to teachers being threatened and having their work criticised in front of others.
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:“Evidence of bullying is alarmingly prevalent in schools and colleges.
“While there are many schools that treat their staff with courtesy and respect, teachers tell us that in too many a culture of bullying and abuse of teachers is far too common.
“Bullying is destroying many teachers’ physical and mental health, and driving some teachers from their schools or the profession entirely.”
Locally, there have been concerns among teachers because of uncertainty over the future of secondary education. While things now seem to be coming together – with Deputy Matt Fallaize’s ESC committee forging ahead with plans for one college across two sites – the future of some teaching jobs are not completely clear.
ESC said it has been more than aware of these potential concerns and had put into place a number of measures to help reassure and listen to staff.
Pictured: Liz Coffey, the island's Executive Headteacher.
The ESC spokesperson added: “Since Liz Coffey took up her post as Executive Headteacher, there has been a full staff survey to all staff working in the secondary schools to gather their views on the transformation of secondary education.
“In addition to this a group to support transformation from a staff perspective has also been established. The SETS group, Supporting Education Transformation for Staff group, has a teacher representative from each of the existing four schools, a support staff representative and the support of local and national union representatives.
“Additionally, extensive consultation is underway with subject leads and senior leaders across the schools. Staff are able to raise concerns directly to Liz Coffey or through their school representative, their Union or to the HR team.
“To date there have been no concerns raised about teacher bullying.”
Pictured top: St Sampsons High and Les Beaucamps High, the two sites chosen as the two colleges for the future of secondary education.
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