Quackers to put up with this injustice

25th June 2004 at 01:00
At a recent training event, a participant compared teachers today with ducks at a fairground shooting gallery. Teachers feel that they are there for punters to take pot shots at. We get hit, or duck down, hopefully to bounce back up ready for someone else to take a pot shot at us. How often can we bounce back? There will come a time when the ducks will migrate.

We live in an increasingly litigious society where there is always someone waiting to make accusations against teachers - sometimes in the hope of compensation. A recent survey shows that complaints made against teachers have increased by 400 per cent in the past 10 years.

Is this because there are more incidents or because people are encouraged to make claims under a "no win, no fee" umbrella? I don't believe that there are many more genuine incidents. And I am concerned about the effect this constant bombardment of claims is having on the profession.

The constant flow of trivial complaints is the most wearing. So many could and should be sorted out before they get out of hand. Whatever happened to the parents who asked their children: "What did you do to deserve a telling off?" The norm today seems to be: "How dare you tell my child off."

Sometimes complaints are genuine, and I support the system that is in place to investigate and deal with matters fully. Many claims, however, are malicious and vindictive accusations made by persistent complainers. Once accused, the teacher is automatically tainted. Unlike the complainers, they are not given anonymity.

There are far too many cases of unfounded malicious allegations destroying careers and even lives. We don't appear to have any protection against those making allegations. There is no mention of evidence having to be provided before an allegation can be put before a complaints committee.

The ducks on the education pond are somewhat disadvantaged in this shooting gallery. Who manages the aftermath? How is the process of reinstating and rebuilding careers handled?

The safety and welfare of children is paramount but we must have a fair system. There is also an urgent need to provide specialist training for staff in schools.

Meanwhile, initial teacher-training institutions should adopt strict course selection criteria which require candidates to have an extra thick skin.

The ability to duck would also be helpful.

Terry Williams is head of Litchard junior school in Bridgend. He writes here in a personal capacity

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