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Bullying against teachers: a common problem in Australia

As we focus on World Teachers’ Day, we have compiled another article about bullying to expand upon earlier reports in our June In Brief edition. Our WTD focus was to produce a celebration of teachers for 25 October and you will see that in our celebratory slideshow on Facebook. That celebration is even more important when you consider how teachers, day after day, merely want make a difference for all children despite the involuntary intrusion of bullying in their workplace.

Very few teachers will tell you that they go into the job for the money. Teaching is a student-focused role, aimed at bringing the best out in children and equipping them for a happy and successful life.

This is part of the reason why the growing number of reports of teachers leaving the profession due to incessant bullying, intimidation and violence are so upsetting.

In separate research, both La Trobe University and the OECD have identified worrying trends that identify verbal, physical and social media attacks (cyber-harassment).

La Trobe conducted a month-long social media survey of 560 teachers across Australia in 2018 and found that more than 70 per cent of participants were bullied or harassed by a student in the preceding 12 months.

The OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey, which is released every five years, identified an increase in bullying, intimidation and cyber-harassment in Australian schools, with the problem significantly worse than in most other countries.

La Trobe researchers added that around 83 per cent of respondents who were interviewed disclosed a desire to leave the profession due to teacher-targeted student and parental bullying. One teacher told the researchers: “I worry about grades on report cards and how parents will react. They no longer accept it, but instead try to influence and intimidate teachers to change the grades based on what they believe their child deserves.”

NSW Secondary Principals Council president Chris Presland said the findings echoed those of recent principal wellbeing surveys and seemed to mirror declining standards of civility in broader society.

“Kids model their parents’ behaviour and, with easy access to technology, the end result of that is what we’re now seeing in schools.”

Close to half of all Australian teachers have felt ill-prepared to manage classroom behaviour, with a significant portion claiming to “lose quite a lot of time” due to students interrupting lessons. Even though 45 per cent of teachers in the OECD study reported being “well prepared” or “very prepared” to manage classroom behaviour, 29 per cent said they still lost teaching time due to disruptive students.

The OECD research found that during an hour-long lesson, teachers averaged 47 minutes of teaching, eight minutes keeping order and five minutes on administrative tasks.

Australian teachers work an average of 45 hours a week – including 20 in the classroom and 25 preparing lessons, supervising extra-curricular activities or marking.

Bullying impedes on the well-being of teachers and the effectiveness of education for all children.