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School

Principals face high levels of bullying and even violence from pushy parents

Principals are almost twice as likely to face threats or actual violence than other working groups.

SCHOOL PRINCIPALS IN Ireland are almost twice as likely as other population groups to be victims of threats or of actual violence at work.

For the most part, bullying is within the school, coming from other teachers but intimidation from parents has increased in the last decade and in secondary schools, senior pupils can also be behind it.

A recent survey of principals and deputy principals in Ireland found that they experience a higher proportion of threats and actual violence than other working groups and the prevalence is higher for female principals. Second level principals and deputy principals also experience three times the prevalence of bullying at work than the general population.

Larry Flemming of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) said that because principals have the authority to move teachers between classes, there can often be resilience or resentment which “degenerates into bullying”.

At primary level that bullying is mainly among staff and principals are under pressure to give into the demands of the teachers.

However pushy parents can be a big issue for principals too. In primary schools, parents can get irate because they think their child has been treated unfairly and the bulk of issues can come from parent teacher meetings.

Equally in secondary schools, issues with parents can relate to suspensions or exclusions for a breach of school policy.

“There are threats of violence but it’s only in a small number of cases that there have been actual digs thrown,” explained National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) Director Clive Byrne.

There would be some cases were somebody would be coming into the school who would have resorted to violence, particularly angry male parents with some female principals or deputy principals.

However Byrne stressed that these cases are “very rare”. He said that in the last fifteen years legislation has re-enforced the rights of parents in schools.

Obviously this is a good thing but it means that some people feel they have an automatic entitlement to arrive at school and they expect to see the principal or deputy principal immediately to have something resolved in the way they want and sometimes they’re not amenable to reason.

One worrying result from this survey, he said, is that when asked, very few principals said they go to management or even their unions for support. Most rely heavily on the support of their families to cope with these issues.

“Whether it’s from other colleagues or from parents obviously it’s something that we need to crack.”

Read: Primary schools to get a lick of paint with €28 million funding>

Read: Principals “picking up pieces” dealing with troubled students>

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