Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland headteachers being 'hounded, stalked and vilified' on social media

Geri Cameron giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. Credit: House of Commons
Geri Cameron giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. Credit: House of Commons

Headteachers in Northern Ireland are being "hounded, stalked and vilified on social media", it has been claimed.

Geri Cameron, principal at Loughshore Education Centre in Newtownabbey, told MPs at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday that headteachers were being offered no support in dealing with online abuse.

The select committee is holding an inquiry into education funding in Northern Ireland.

Ms Cameron, who represents the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said that a teacher health and well-being strategy is needed.

She said: "I can't imagine any other situation where a school principal could be hounded and stalked and vilified on social media and held up for public ridicule with no consequence.

"As a trade union we are inundated with principals who are suffering at the hands of all sorts of individuals with very strange motives, but nevertheless they are there."

"No other profession would sustain it or tolerate it."

The comments come after new figures reveal the number of reported physical assaults on teachers in Northern Ireland rose from 210 in the 2014/15 academic year to 650 in 2015/16. The sharp rise has been blamed on the withdrawal of classroom assistants, the NI Affairs Committee heard.

Ms Cameron said: "I've been assaulted many, many times and have never looked to anywhere for support other than to my colleagues within the teaching profession because I simply know that what is beyond my own colleagues is not fit for purpose.

"There's a huge number of assaults on staff in special schools - staff frequently with bite marks, punch, kicks, all sorts of assaults.

"These children and young people have behaviours that are beyond their control.

"There are no leafy suburbs any more - there are children with challenging mental health and challenging difficulties across every school."

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