Nowhere to hide for accused teachers;NASUWT conference

16th April 1999 at 01:00
Frances Rafferty reports from the NASUWT conference in Eastbourne

TEACHERS accused of improper behaviour by pupils will continue to be named in public, even before their cases come to court.

Ministers have refused to grant anonymity to teachers under investigation, despite coming under pressure from the second largest teaching union, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

Estelle Morris, the school standards minister, said she did not agree that the law should change. She said it was sometimes useful for an accused teacher to be named in order to encourage other children to come forward.

Delegates at the union's annual conference in Eastbourne last week heard that thousands of teachers are accused by pupils, but only a handful are eventually prosecuted.

A wrongly accused teacher is still treated with suspicion by parents, and a large number leave their job because of the stress and pressure. Ms Morris was told that at least three teachers have committed suicide following allegations and subsequent publicity.

Nigel de Gruchy, the NASUWT's general secretary, said that, since 1991, there have been 974 police investigations into criminal abuse allegations made against his members, but in only 182 cases were there grounds for prosecution.

His union backed members who refused to teach the children who made malicious accusations. Mr de Gruchy said in these cases the child should leave the school.

The union is supporting a 10- Minute Rule Bill, sponsored by Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, which would give anonymity to defendants in sex cases.

John Hoyle, from Sandwell, during a motion calling for the NASUWT to campaign for compensation for members who are falsely accused, said at one school he visited, Year 7 children taunted him by saying that he couldn't touch them.

He said that once teachers are suspended, rumours start. Even when they are found innocent, they are still subjected to gossip.

Stephen Luscombe, a teacher in south London, said one of his members who was falsely accused needed to be treated for depression while on suspension. Although he was cleared, he later resigned.

He said the union needed to do more to help such teachers. He said: "There is a forgotten army, wounded and hurt, whose careers are ruined."

Ian Crossland, from Walsall, told delegates of a case where a Year 10 girl claimed she had been assaulted and had bruises to prove it.

It was only when another girl from her class said she had deliberately injured herself with coat hangers that the case was dropped.

Alison Broady, from Tyneside, said her members worked with visually and hearing-impaired children where it was necessary to touch them.

She said: "We can't do our job without touching children ... but if a child equates touching with abuse, every one of us who puts a hand on a shoulder is put at risk."

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