A union has warned the government not to introduce measures that would make teachers criminally responsible for failing to report the forced marriage of a pupil.
The NEU teaching union provided evidence to a Home Office consultation on preventing and tackling forced marriage, which had sought views on the proposed introduction of a new legal duty for teachers to report cases.
Amanda Brown, the NEU's deputy general secretary, said a law that could make teachers criminally responsible was the "wrong approach".
"The idea of criminal sanctions does raise the stakes for professionals, but without [supplying them with the necessary] training, knowledge and understanding,” she told the BBC.
Campaigner's view: 'Forced marriage isn't cultural, it's abuse'
As reported in Tes in November, when the consultation was launched, options being considered for teachers' failure to report range from a warning, dismissal, barring or a criminal charge.
The Home Office consultation document states that the government wants to ensure that cases of forced marriage are being appropriately reported to the police in order to increase investigations and potential prosecutions.
It states: “The professionals most likely to encounter cases of forced marriage are teachers and health and social care professionals. One approach would therefore be for any duty [to report] to apply to teachers and regulated health and social care professionals.”
However, as part of its submission to the consultation, the NEU suggested alternative measures, including investing resources in local authority designated officers (LADOs) to support individual students, as well as mandatory training for all school and college staff about forced marriage.
The NEU submission also states: “We think the focus for progress should be on building prevention via strategies to address gender inequality.
"This includes ensuring all schools can deliver an RSE [relationships and sex education] programme that equips children and young people with the skills to know what healthy and unhealthy relationships are, and to understand gender-based violence (of which forced marriage is just one form).”
The Home Office said the consultation was now closed and that information was being analysed.