Teachers are considering self-harming and have even quit the profession because of bullying by headteachers, new research suggests.

A UK-wide survey by the NASUWT teaching union indicates four in five teachers have been bullied in the last year.

The union said workplace bullying was ruining the lives of teachers, with many left feeling depressed, anxious, lacking confidence and turning to the medical profession, drugs and alcohol to help them cope.

The survey of 1,995 UK teachers found 80% had been victims of bullying. The majority of incidents were reported to have been perpetrated by headteachers, senior leaders and line managers.

Four in five of those surveyed said they had suffered anxiety a result of bullying they had experienced.

One said: “It has been horrific. I genuinely thought about harming myself so I wouldn’t have to attend work.”

Another teacher said: “I have put up with bullying for the last two years and you have to be incredibly strong to keep going in each day and continually take what is thrown at you. Education is a nasty, back stabbing, cruel place to work.”

Jane Peckham, NASUWT Scotland National Official, said: “Evidence of bullying is alarmingly prevalent in schools and colleges.

“While there are many schools that treat their staff with courtesy and respect, teachers tell us that in too many a culture of bullying and abuse of teachers is far too common.

“Bullying is destroying many teachers’ physical and mental health, and driving some teachers from their schools or the profession entirely.

“The abuse, bullying, ostracising and undermining of teachers has to stop. The NASUWT will continue to challenge, using every means necessary, any employer not treating teachers with dignity and respect.”

Nearly half the teachers had visited their GP, while other respondents said they were turning to prescribed drugs and alcohol to help them cope.

Just over half of teachers have experienced depression because of bullying, with 41% saying it had affected their ability to deliver high-quality lessons.

Some 70% of bullying was carried out by headteachers or senior leaders, the survey found - with 38% reporting their line manager was bullying them.

Teachers said they were subjected to a wide range of bullying including shouting and verbal abuse, to teachers having their work criticised in front of others. More than half said bullying had got worse in the last year.