12 May 2009: The first national online survey into staff bullying in Australian schools has shown that a staggering 99.6 per cent of participants have experienced some form of bullying in the workplace.
More than 800 support staff, teachers, executives and principals from both Government and non-Government primary and secondary schools around Australia took part in the survey – conducted jointly by Australian Catholic University (ACU) and the University of New England.
The vast majority of respondents had more than 21 years teaching experience.
“More than 44 kinds of bullying were listed in the survey, with the most common form being the withholding of information which affects performance,” said Professor Deirdre Duncan, one of the authors and Adjunct Professor at ACU.
“This was followed closely by the questioning of decisions, procedures and judgement.”
The results also indicated that power imbalance is a major factor in bullying, with school executive staff identified as the most persistent bullies, followed by the principal. Teachers were identified as the typical victim.
“A number of the findings of this research are cause for great concern,” Professor Duncan said. “Along with the high number of staff in Australian schools who suffer bullying, our data also showed that more than 50 per cent of those targeted will have their mental and physical health affected.”
The report made several recommendations to reduce the practice of bullying. These included recognising the existence of staff bullying in its various forms and addressing the issue at system and school levels; those in leadership positions reflecting on their behaviour in regards to their relationship with school staff; and establishing a bullying register at schools which is kept by the principal and is open for inspection.
Professor Duncan’s colleagues on the research team were Dr Dan Riley from the University of New England, and statistical analyst John Edwards.