Teachers need more support to stop their careers being ruined by false allegations from pupils, union warns
More than a third of school staff claim they or a colleague have faced false allegations from pupils – leading to calls for more support so careers are not “irretrievably damaged”.
A survey of 685 Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) members found some staff had quit because of the false allegations and others were considering leaving the profession.
A total of 38 per cent surveyed said they had been wrongly accused with more than a fifth of those (23 per cent) made by a pupils’ parent or family member.
The ATL is now calling on authorities to provide better support and protection to staff. The union also wants the anonymity until charged rule for teachers to be extended to all education staff.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “It is only right and proper that children are protected and their welfare and safety must always come first, but the balance needs to be right so that teachers, heads and support staff do not suffer unnecessarily when false allegations are made against them.”
She added: “All schools and colleges need to have clear, timely and fairly administered policies to investigate allegations against staff. And they need to make sure innocent staff receive the support and protection they need so that their careers and lives are not irretrievably damaged by a false allegation.”
The union is due to raise the issues at its annual conference later today.
A member of staff in an independent school, who did not want to be named, said: “The child admitted he was making up the allegation of bullying because I had told him off for a genuine offence. At the same time, he alleged that another colleague had locked him in a cupboard and not fed him for three days, and this blatantly wrong allegation was investigated with the same rigour.
“My colleague and I now have a letter in our file which says that we were the subject of allegations which were subsequently proved not to be genuine.”
A primary teacher in a state school in Hertfordshire added: “It was established immediately that the allegation against me was false but I felt that everyone was talking about me.
“I couldn’t sleep. I was afraid to be in the class, I couldn’t face doing my job. I ended up mentally ill over it. My head teacher threatened me that if another allegation was made I would be suspended.”
The union said in a study of recent cases more than half of the staff claimed the allegation was dismissed by the school.
It now wants the executive committee to look into whether local safeguarding boards are taking too long to investigate.
An amendment to the 2011 Education Act in October 2012 made it a criminal offence to report or publish information that could lead to identifying a teacher who allegedly committed a criminal offence made by a pupil at the same school.
And the union wants the law to be extended to other education professionals.
Kathryn Booth, from ATL’s support staff members’ advisory group and joint branch secretary in Dorset, added: “The majority of teaching assistants come from the community in which the school is situated and the consequences of their name, and the allegation, being known locally could be extremely serious, leading to them being punished even when they have done nothing wrong.”