Book reveals extent of workplace bullying in schools

Published 17 May 2012

bullying2More than 95 per cent of staff members in Australian schools have experienced some form of workplace bullying, according to a book launched in Sydney last week by General Peter Cosgrove AC, MC.

The book, Bullying of Staff in Schools, is published by the Australian Council for Educational Research and aims to assist school employees to understand the phenomenon of staff bullying – its existence, the forms it takes, and its impact on staff members and their schools.

Written by Dr Dan Riley from the University of New England (UNE), Dr Deirdre Duncan from the Australian Catholic University (ACU), and John Edwards, it draws together responses from more than 2,500 Australian government, Catholic and independent school employees about 42 separate kinds of bullying behavior. More than 95 per cent of respondents had experienced at least one of those behaviours, and more than 75 per cent had experienced a third or more of them.

The research revealed that the types of bullying most likely to be experienced by school staff members are the questioning of their professional judgement, and being set impossible targets, deadlines or workload. Over 80 per cent of respondents had experienced these. The least-experienced types of bullying were those actionable by law under sexual harassment and anti-discrimination legislation, or criminal action such as assault.

Dr Riley, an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in UNE’s School of Business, Economics and Public Policy, said that bullying of staff members was largely invisible in schools – except to the target of the bullying – because it becomes part of the culture. “Bullies are frequently unaware that their behaviour has an adverse impact on their colleagues,” he said.

“Bullying behaviour needs to be named and shamed if it is to be eliminated from the workplace,” said Dr Duncan, an Adjunct Professor of Educational Leadership at ACU.

John Edwards, a teacher and statistical analyst, said the book contained implications for educational leaders and provided strategies and tools to build and maintain a bully-free workplace culture.  “The importance of reducing and eliminating bullying of school staff members is a major challenge for Australia because it costs the country approximately 0.85 per cent of GDP and has an adverse impact on the health and wellbeing of all those involved,” he said.

Bullying of Staff in Schools (ACER Press, 2012) was launched at ACU’s North Sydney campus on Thursday 10 May. Print copies can be bought from the ACER Online Shop or by contacting customer service on 1800 338 402, or via e-mail at