The New Zealand Herald

Top school acts to address bullying concerns

- Amy Wiggins

Concerns about staff wellbeing at an exclusive private school, raised by complaints of bullying, have been addressed, according to Worksafe.

Bullying complaints relating to St Peter’s School in Cambridge were made to workplace bullying watchdog WorkSafe in term 1, prompting the school to launch an independen­t investigat­ion.

That was followed by the resignatio­n of executive principal Dale Burden in late May. In June the school’s wellbeing director Michael Brown also resigned.

WorkSafe’s health and technical services manager Api Poutasi yesterday told the Herald it had completed its work with the school after six months of involvemen­t.

The organisati­on’s specialist health inspectors had been involved with the school and had spoken with current and former staff about their experience­s; reviewed documents, policies and procedures; and worked with the board.

St Peter’s Trust Board chairman John Macaskill-Smith, who was appointed to the board in December and took the reins as chairman at the end of last term, described his first few months of involvemen­t as a “rollercoas­ter”.

“St Peter’s is really heavily built around people and I think any organisati­on with lots of people in it will have periods of time where sometimes things get a little bit out of sync and it gets a bit gritty and I know that’s a bit of the period we’ve just gone through.”

The school had found areas that needed to be improved and they were actively doing so. It was also awaiting a report and recommenda­tions from former chief judge of the Employment Court Graeme Colgan who had been appointed to head the investigat­ion, but expected to receive them next month, he said.

In the meantime, the board and senior management had been making changes, including improving the employment environmen­t.

Other changes included looking at ways to support and equip staff to teach the next generation and making sure there was “a lot more openness”.

The board and senior management were now talking much more openly with staff in order to have them more involved in key decisionma­king, he said.

A permanent staff representa­tive had also been appointed to the trust board. The school had also reviewed many of its policies and processes to make sure they were “fit for purpose”.

The health and safety policies had been updated to make sure that where people had concerns they could be raised effectivel­y and taken right through the organisati­on if required, Macaskill-Smith said.

He said school bosses were trying to be transparen­t and available to staff and parents.

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