More than a quarter of teachers face false accusations by pupils

30th October 2009 at 00:00
Union pleads for staff not to be 'presumed guilty until proven innocent' as allegation epidemic hits UK

Teachers awoke on Monday - the first day of half-term for most - to headlines telling them what many felt they knew already.

Newspapers, TV and radio were reporting an Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) survey that found more than a quarter of school staff (28 per cent) have been the victims of a false accusation by a pupil.

Additionally, one in six (17 per cent) have had a false claim made against them by a member of a pupil's family, according to the study. And half (50 per cent) of school staff said they, or a colleague, had had a false allegation made against them by a pupil or a member of a pupil's family in their current school or college.

In half the cases, the allegation was immediately dismissed by the school, and the police were notified in only 16 per cent of instances.

Dr Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said school staff are having their careers "blighted" by false allegations and their "private lives damaged as a result of the stress".

"We are losing good teachers, heads and support staff to the detriment of children's education," she said. "We all accept that the protection of children is paramount, but that should not be at the expense of natural justice - school staff have rights, too.

"This survey suggests that huge numbers of staff are facing false allegations every week. It's time the balance was redressed so that school staff are not presumed guilty until proven innocent.

"We would also like heads to avoid putting an automatic bar on staff having contact with colleagues, because this cutting of contact compounds stress and feelings of isolation, making a return to school less likely even when allegations are proved false."

The survey questioned 1,155 ATL members working as support staff, teachers, department heads and school leaders in state and private schools around the UK.


'Anyone who deliberately lies deserves punishment'


"An allegation will almost certainly result in the suspension of the teacher while the investigation is underway, resulting in their inevitable resignation due to rumour and local press bias."


"There needs to be a national complaints agency. In-house investigations invariably cover up the real issues."


"Anyone who deliberately lies about another (person) deserves punishment."


"Whether the information turns out to be true matters not one jot as the allegation can remain on police file as soft info, meaning a teaching career is effectively over. So fining people who make false allegations would do nothing."


"I actually thought the numbers would be far greater."


"When I was at school a PE teacher pushed me over, causing me to tear the cartilage in my knee. It didn't once occur to me to go to the head or anyone else to complain about it - she would have said that I wasn't participating enough or something. Teachers were above us, not to be contradicted and that was that. Why do children not respect their teachers enough these days? Or do parents goad them on?"


"I imagine a large number of false allegations are dealt with at source by savvy heads and do not progress beyond the stage of an in-house investigation."

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