Heads fail to take abuse seriously

1st September 2006 at 01:00
You claim unfair treatment of those falsely accused of abuse - but this contrasts sharply with my professional experience and I am not sure the cases you report are typical ("Staff 'hit by Soham effect'", TES, August 11).

In most cases, across several local authorities that I have been involved with in recent years, suspension after an accusation is far from automatic.

I could offer two possible reasons for this. First, heads are not always keen to use the inter-agency process as they should. Some mistakenly believe that they can deal with the issues better themselves.

However, involving the police and social workers does not in my view make it more likely that there will be injustices. In fact, it is more likely to weed out the trivial cases more quickly and provide the "closure" that less independent investigations cannot.

Second, there seems to be a worrying lack of awareness among many teachers about the need to be very careful not to behave in ways that might be open to misunderstanding. A few then appear to lose a reasonable sense of perspective on their own actions.

Some of the checks, questions and professional supervision available to other workers do not always seem to be available for teachers. We are one children's workforce now and a common standard of conduct is essential.

Ben Whitney

(Author, Protecting Children: A handbook for teachers and school managers, RoutledgeFalmer, 2004)

36 Marsh Lane

Penkridge, Staffordshire

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