Cog Notes: Bullying in the staffroom

An INTO survey found 44% of members had been bullied or harassed at work

Awareness of bullying among students has risen considerably in recent years, but what about bullying among staff? UCD lecturer Declan Fahie has been researching workplace bullying in primary schools for many years, and in the latest edition of Irish Educational Studies he presents a new analysis of the problem "through a Foucauldian analysis of the complex exercise of power which is at the heart of all bullying relationships".

Beyond the social science jargon are a number of very poignant examples of “blackboard” bullying, including the case of “Catherine”, a school principal whose staffroom turned against her in nasty fashion. The instigator was a colleague who became resentful about missing out on a promotion, but in time the principal found a number of other teachers refusing to co-operate with agreed reforms. Catherine found herself unable to carry out her duties and attended counselling to help get over the ordeal. A sense of disbelief that other teachers would act in such a matter was said to have compromised her ability to tackle the problem effectively.

“It’s a school, for God’s sake; we shouldn’t be treating each other like this. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?” Catherine said.

A survey by the INTO in 2006 found 44 per cent of members said they had been bullied or harassed in work.

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While progress has been made in training principals and boards of management about workplace bullying, the issue “needs to be foregrounded in discourses about policy and practice in primary schools,” argues Fahie.

“To this effect, anti-bullying policies in schools need to address and name the issue of adult bullying with a named, designated liaison staff member with responsibility for same. In addition, strict adherence to correct appointments procedures to promoted posts of responsibility would serve to pre-empt claims of bias and partiality.”

Mini scientists made up with mascara study win

Ten-year-olds Jamie Boyle and Róisín Dunne, from Timahoe NS, Co Laois, claimed first prize in the recent Intel Mini-Scientist competition for researching the bacteria that lurk within tubes of mascara.

For the project they surveyed 100 people at Carlow shopping centre on their make-up use and travelled to the lab at Portlaoise hospital to learn how to test for bacteria. “They concluded that mascara, with its very short shelf-life, had the potential to be the most dangerous, and the project – as well as the bacteria – grew from there,” says Martina Mulhall, deputy principal.

The girls also conducted a social experiment aimed at changing people's behaviour, by creating a hygiene tip sheet and organising a mascara exchange programme with a local pharmacy. Timahoe NS, a finalist in the two previous years, was one of 92 schools in 13 counties that took part in the contest at the Science Gallery, Dublin. miniscientist.ie

Progress in maths teaching

Ruth Tighe of Ballindoon, and Claire Flanagan, of Killaraght, both Co Sligo, were among 288 secondary teachers who graduated recently with a professional diploma in mathematics for teaching.

The two-year programme at University of Limerick, which targets out-of-field teachers (those teaching a subject for which they have no formal qualification) of maths, is funded by the Department of Education as part of the national strategy to support the implementation of Project Maths and improve standards of maths teaching in post-primary schools.

Tomás Ó Ruairc, director of the Teaching Council, says there are now more than 5,000 teachers on its professional register who satisfy the council's new qualification criteria for maths. "This compares very favourably with history, Irish and geography," he says.

Lion King on school stages

Hakuna matata, drama teachers. That means you've no worries about staging The Lion King under a new licensing arrangement announced by Disney.

The production company has released two versions of the popular musical, The Lion King Kids and The Lion King jr, for schools to perform on school property. Amateur rights have not been released, but schools can register their interest at disneymusicals.ie.

With both versions, schools receive a collection of materials about stagecraft and performance.