Case 006 - Senior Manager - School

Female, 50 years.

In May 2000 my colleague in the faculty went off sick, she was later retired on the grounds of severe stress. Even though she was the second person in 2 years in the faculty to leave through stress it didn't occur to me that I might be next. The Head had repeatedly told me I was doing a good job and he was very pleased with me.

In August 2000 my mum died, she collapsed and choked to death in front of me. Although the paramedics revived her at the scene she never regained consciousness and died ten days later. I was consumed with guilt and exhaustion.

Two days before the funeral I was asked to attend a training day in school. I returned to my post after 2 weeks compassionate leave. I was in the depths of despair. There were many mornings when I cried throughout the entire fifty minute journey to work, and the tears were never far away even when I got to the classroom. I was trying to run the faculty virtually single-handed. The teachers who had been drafted in to help still had full teaching commitments and they were also totally inexperienced. Sleep eluded me most nights. The Head was kept fully informed, whenever I suggested it might be better if I went off sick he warned me/threatened me if I went off I would probably never return.

At the beginning of November 2000 the real bullying tactics started. I was called to attend a stream of meetings where it was suggested that perhaps I had never coped very well or I was told off for failing to check tasks had been completed while I was on leave. Then he started to tell me that the teachers in the faculty were unhappy with the way I was managing them, (they always denied this) he insisted I start training them. Life was one long nightmare, less sleep more work, longer hours. Working 10 to 12 hours at the weekend became the norm. Still the Head wouldn't leave me alone. He sent the SEN governors to check all the pupils' files and told the Head of English to monitor my teaching. At the beginning of December 2000 my doctor signed me off for 6 weeks.

When I returned, at the end of January 2001 I was accused of a range of things, mostly lies made up by the Head. My office had been re-organised, furniture moved; files re-arranged and the work had piled up on the desk. I was told that the office had been ransacked within a week of my going off sick. I was given extra lessons to supervise and one of the new teachers who had been drafted in stopped going in the office when I was there. I soon discovered that external agencies had been told I was inefficient and useless.

In public the Head referred to me as "she" or "the Senco" (one of the roles of my job.) Despite the difficulties the Head threw at me I actually started to feel better. I came to terms with my mum's death and replenished my energy by refusing to take work home. Then I was told that within 3 days of my return the other teacher had told the Head she didn't want to work with me. She had been given a new line manager without any consultation with me. The accusations about my work started again yet when I asked for specific examples none were given. My physical and mental health began to deteriorate rapidly. When I was referred to Occupational Health I was sent home immediately, I stayed there for 3 months.

I returned to work in April 2001 and was awarded my threshold payment for being a good teacher, which the head had approved in July 2000. A return to work with clear and specific arrangements was negotiated by my union. I am due to attend the review of these arrangements next week. The majority of the conditions have been broken and new humiliations have been piled on me. I don't know what will be the outcome of the meeting but I am not hopeful. I am not a quitter, I can't afford to throw in the towel and resign but I am helpless. No one is prepared to take on this bullying head. I have only been back 4 weeks but I am already crying at my desk and the pains are returning in my chest. What does it take to stop him? It's ironic that when I phoned Occupational Health for an appointment they knew it had to be for stress as soon as I mentioned the name of my school. The greatest number of referrals for stress come from my school, they had seen all my predecessors.

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