Website accuses school of bullying 

 Read a transcript of Alan Green’s interview here 

ALLEGATIONS that a  culture of bullying exists at Newcastle Grammar School have been made on a Facebook site.

The site, that said it was dedicated to ‘‘Revitalising NGS’’, was taken down less than 48 hours after the chairman of the school’s board, John Miller, joined Facebook and invited contributors to send their comments directly to the board instead.

Put together by ‘‘ex-student leaders and distinguished members of the community’’, the page invited people to name the top three concerns they had about the school.

Bullying was a running theme throughout the comments made by teachers and students, past and present, as well as parents.

 In most cases the comments were made anonymously. Most of those who were named were former students.

There were also many comments made in support of the school but  supportive, too, of the notion of a revitalisation.

Other criticisms included that the school was more concerned with its image than student welfare, that there was a lack of transparency about issues that were easier to ‘‘sweep under the carpet’’ and that there was a climate of fear among staff who felt their jobs may be threatened if they challenged the status quo.

More than 120people indicated their support for the site, which  launched on February 5 and was live for less than two weeks.

Headmaster Alan Green said this week he was disappointed by the site on behalf of staff who were adversely affected.

‘‘Yes, there is bullying in every school, there is bullying in Newcastle Grammar School and we work extremely hard to minimise it,’’ he said.

‘‘One of the difficulties on Facebook is that it is very easy for someone to raise an issue but not know the whole facts,’’ he said.

‘‘The school, when dealing with particular issues, needs to be mindful of confidentiality and respect for all parties and its very easy for one party to make comments because they are not aware of all of the aspects of ... the situation.’’

Mr Green denied that a culture of bullying existed at the school and said staff and students had had many opportunities to raise their concerns, most recently during an anonymous survey conducted as part of a broader program last year.

There was a large proportion of commonality between the issues raised in material posted on the Facebook site and in the survey, he said.

‘‘There is not a culture of bullying, that is my opinion. 

‘‘Staff and students can raise issues, which they have been given the opportunity through this survey ... which was anonymous. Yes there [were] some issues raised in respect of bullying but there were also some students who said we overreact.’’

Mr Green said it was unfair to suggest the school’s response to bullying victims was ‘‘toughen up’’,  but it was important to build students’ resilience to help them deal with the ‘‘potholes of life’’.

‘‘Life is not totally ice-cream and jelly beans, there are some potholes in the road in life and building up the resilience of students, which might be interpreted to you as hardening up,’’ he said. ‘‘We are not ever going to get to utopia where there’s no [bullying] and anyone who says we are, just in my opinion are never going to get there.

‘‘We deal with it, and we work through individual cases ... and we come up with a resolution. That resolution may not satisfy everyone.’’ 

The creators of the Facebook site declined to comment.

WHAT THEY SAID ON FACEBOOK

Excerpts from comments made on the Revitalising NGS Facebook site

■‘‘Bullying is pretty big. I mean, everything boils down to bullying at our school.’’ (Anonymous)

■‘‘If it weren’t so tragic for our School, the leadership at NGS would be comical. You couldn’t manage people in a way more likely to produce discontent and unhappiness if you planned it as an experiment.’’ (Anonymous teacher)

■‘‘What needs to happen is a vigorous ‘renewal’ process, which starts with our Headmaster and The Board.’’ (Ex-student)

■‘‘For me, the biggest concern at NGS is the fearful atmosphere the staff are forced to work in. Having spoken to innumerable staff members, it is clear that challenging the status quo is something that literally threatens jobs.’’ (Anonymous)

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