Nanny in action;Leading Article

24th September 1999 at 01:00
THE PROPOSED legislation to criminalise sexual relationships between teachers and sixth-formers is an unhappy example of an overbearing nanny state in action. The clue is in Home Office Minister Lord Bassam's assertion that "There is widespread public and parental concern about this problem." Oh, is there? Two highly-publicised recent cases seem to be the main evidence. Can it be that the Government sees the opportunity for a bit of cheap acclaim - at the expense of good practice and common sense?

In fact, the guidelines we already have (TES, page 11) are perfectly adequate. Teachers can be, and are, drummed out of the profession for inappropriate relationships with pupils. Enforcing the current age of consent properly would be a far more effective way of protecting the vulnerable. The danger is that the climate of fear already infecting our primary schools - where young men are reluctant to enter the profession and crying children go unhugged - is about to enter the sixth form too. All the best teachers take risks in nurturing pupils; only a tiny proportion overstep the mark.

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