Automatic suspension axed for 'unreasonable force' claims

8th April 2011 at 01:00
'Innocent until proved guilty' plans aim to return classroom authority to teachers

Teachers accused of using unreasonable force on pupils should no longer be automatically suspended from their jobs, ministers have said, as part of attempts to "strengthen authority in the classroom".

The Government said it was determined to ensure teachers are innocent until proven guilty when faced with allegations from pupils.

Education secretary Michael Gove launched new guidance earlier this week in which he set out the Government's policies on improving pupil behaviour, which he claimed had reached "critical levels" in some schools.

Most local authorities recommend that teachers accused of using excessive force in the classroom should be suspended while the case is investigated, but the guidance says this should no longer happen automatically.

"Allegations of abuse must be taken seriously, but schools should ensure they deal with allegations quickly in a fair and consistent way that provides effective protection for the child who is the subject of the allegation," the guidance says.

"Every effort must be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against unwanted publicity while an allegation is being investigated. Suspension must not be used as an automatic response when an allegation has been reported."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said he was pleased the guidance would ensure the "presumption of innocence until proven guilty".

"We are in favour of this policy and it should be applied throughout the system, but what actually happens should be up to the individuals," he said. "Some teachers might wish to be suspended while an investigation is ongoing, others will not."

The news that teachers should no longer face automatic suspension was welcomed by Peter Campling, head of Deptford Green School in south London.

"Suspension can be automatic," he said. "But in practice this doesn't always happen. In some areas, heads are advised to take a "common sense" approach and I would support school leaders being able to have the autonomy to decide what to do."

Mr Gove also announced that details of malicious allegations will no longer be kept on employment records. All cases of false accusations will have to be resolved within three months and the "vast majority" should be settled within four weeks.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said she supported the new guidance, and added: "It is right that staff who are suspended should be kept in touch with the progress of the investigation and supported on their return to work," she said.



The Government has appointed a new behaviour tsar. Charlie Taylor, currently head of the Willows, a special school for children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties in west London, will take on the full-time post for one year.

Mr Taylor is determined to improve behaviour training for student teachers. He said: "There is nothing worse than the feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are walking down a corridor knowing you are going into a classroom to face bad behaviour."

Education secretary Michael Gove said: "He is on the side of teachers and has worked on the front line ... When he asks for changes, I will know this is something I can do to make the job of teaching easier and more effective."

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