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Accused of abuse

Allegations of abuse by teachers against pupils have increased, according to teacher unions.

When an allegation is made it is usually to a member of staff, another professional worker, or the police. In a school the incident should be reported to the head, who must consult the local education authority to decide whether the matter can be dealt with by the school and LEA, or whether it needs to be referred to social services and the police. If it is alleged that the pupil has suffered "significant harm", an immediate referral will be made. If it is alleged that a criminal offence has been committed, it will be referred to the police. If the allegation represents inappropriate staff behaviour, the matter can be dealt with by the school.

Suspension should only occur when a child may be at risk; the issue is so serious that dismissal might follow; or suspension is necessary to allow an investigation to proceed unimpeded. When suspension is being considered the teacher should be advised to seek union help, given the name of an LEA contact, and offered a counselling service. A meeting should be called to give the teacher an opportunity to make representations about the possible suspension. Eventually the head or the governing body has to make the decision.

Chris Lowe

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