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Accused teacher takes on Blunkett

Union seeks judicial review in effort to clear its member of suspicion of abuse, reports Karen Thornton.

A TEACHER who has been suspended from work on full pay for the past five years after allegations of child abuse is to take court action against Education Secretary David Blunkett.

Anthony McNally has worked at Woodhey secondary school, Bury, Greater Manchester, since it opened in 1979. He has been investigated by his governors, police, and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty against Children. None has upheld the charges against him, which he denies.

His union, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, claims he has been the subject of a "list 99" inquiry by the Department for Education and Employment, which also came to nothing. List 99 is the DFEE's internal register of teachers accused of abuse.

The case dates back to March 1995, when the parents of a 15-year-old boy made an allegation of "inappropriate touching" to the police and school authorities.

Mr McNally was suspended. But in July 1996, following a police investigation which found no evidence to support the allegation, he was exonerated by a disciplinary committee of governors and reinstated. He was suspended again when Bury education authority intervened, and sought to have him permanently disbarred from teaching by applying to the then secretary of state, Gillian Shephard.

She decided not to intervene, and Bury said it would seek a judicial review. Last March, Mr Blunkett said he would direct the governors to re-hear the case.

Now the NASUWT is seeking a judicial review of Mr Blunkett's direction. It is concerned that Mr McNally will not now get a fair hearng, and wants to see him re-instated. "We think the treatment Mr McNally has received is outrageous," said Nigel de Gruchy, the union's general secretary.

"He has been suspended for nearly five years, there have been various hearings, and he's been exonerated on every occasion.

"For some unknown reason, the local education authority seems intent on pursuing a vendetta against him. We think enough is enough, and it's about time he was given some fair treatment."

Mr de Gruchy maintains there is no new evidence for the governors to hear. The union is hoping the judicial review will be heard this spring.

A spokesman for Bury council declined to go into the details of the case and said he was unable to comment further pending the judicial review.

Greater Manchester police told The TES that Mr McNally had been the subject of a "serious and full" investigation in March 1995. But no charges were brought.

A spokeswoman for the DFEE refused to say if he had been subject to a list 99 inquiry, saying the department never discussed individual cases.

She was unable to comment on the frequency of judicial reviews of the Secretary of State's decisions.

The NASUWT, which represents around 178,000 teachers, says 154 allegations of physical or sexual assault were made against its members in 1998 - the most recent year for which it has figures. Only seven cases led to court convictions - comparable to previous years' figures.

The teacher unions and education-authority representatives have now agreed guidelines on the proper procedures to be followed when allegations are made against teachers and heads. These are being reviewed and updated by a working party.

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