Balance the scales of justice

23rd February 2007 at 00:00

Graham Fowler's overview of students' unacceptable behaviour and management support (FE Focus, February 2) has analytical merit. However, one area of concern was not considered. This is when poor student behaviour ventures into the realm of complaints concerning lecturers' behaviour.

As colleges accommodate more learners who are disaffected, have severe learning disabilities or experience mental health problems, staff are at increased risk of being accused of assault, abuse or victimisation.

Anecdotal observations, personal experience and increased case work for professional associations strongly suggest staff are increasingly investigated under child or vulnerable adult protection regulations.

Organisations such as the teacher support network do provide excellent advice and support but when staff are confronted by a system that marginalises and isolates them, robust mechanisms of defence are vital.

When staff are suspended they are often instructed not to communicate with colleagues. This is an affront because in the world of education fellow workers are often friends and this adds to the sense of isolation. Many staff find that their emotional, mental and physical health suffers and they have to seek medical attention.

Further, when allegations are proved to be false or malicious, employers often expect staff to return to normal duties immediately. This is an improper situation. Reasonable adjustments need to be made and a phased return encouraged.

There must be a balance of justice.

The major concern is that when allegations are proved false or unfounded, notes can be left on the CRB record of the staff.

Lyn Parkyn Vines Cross Horam East Sussex

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