'Ghastly nonsense' of false allegation sparks inquiry by MPs

10th April 2009 at 01:00

An inquiry into malicious allegations made against school staff is to be undertaken by a cross-party panel of MPs.

The Children, Schools and Families select committee will look at whether there has been an increase in the number of allegations made by pupils against teachers.

The decision to investigate follows a conversation that Barry Sheerman, the committee chairman, had with a teacher who recently went through what Mr Sheerman described as the "ghastly nonsense" of malicious allegations being made against him.

Mr Sheerman told The TES: "All good inquiries stem from personal experience. This stems from a case reported in West Yorkshire close to my constituency. It seemed astounding what the teacher who was complained about had to undergo."

The teacher, who Mr Sheerman refused to name, was investigated by police, children's services and the school governing body - none of which brought a case against him. Mr Sheerman would not disclose what the allegations were.

"It took well over a year and he wasn't guilty of a thing. His life became intolerable in his village, he was being called names by the kids at his school and he eventually had a breakdown," Mr Sheerman said.

"It seems to me that you are currently guilty until proven innocent. So that provoked the question, how many more cases such as these are there?"

According to Mr Sheerman, the number is around the "several thousand" mark and rising.

A major concern about false allegations is that they can prevent a teacher from getting a job at another school as their name remains with the Criminal Records Bureau regardless of whether or not they have been found guilty of anything.

John Whitehead, a special needs teacher from Coventry, was accused of deliberately trapping a pupil's fingers in a door in 2002 while John Davies, a Kent special school headteacher, was dismissed after he was falsely accused of mistreating pupils.

Although both were cleared by the police, they were still unable to teach for several years.

Earlier this week, the Association for Teachers and Lecturers' annual conference put forward a motion that in child protection cases the mantra "every child should be believed" be replaced with "every child should be heard and their evidence assessed".

The NUT will be putting forward a motion at its conference this weekend calling for the Government to scrap its guidance that false allegations should be disclosed to prospective employers.

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