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EDITIONS
Unions 2000 Thursday, 27 April, 2000, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Anonymity call for accused teachers
Jayne Jobes
Accusations against Jayne Jones's husband had caused "sheer hell"
By Alison Stenlake at the NASUWT conference in Llandudno

Teachers accused of abusing or assaulting children could be granted anonymity until allegations against them are proved.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said he was prepared to consider a change in the law after another teacher broke down in telling a union conference about a malicious allegation made by a pupil.

Jayne Jones, from Wrexham, said an accusation - made against her husband - had caused her family "nine months of sheer hell".

She told Mr Blunkett that teachers should be granted the same rights as other citizens and "deemed innocent until proven guilty".

I do know that once an allegation is made, it can blight the teacher or head teacher for years to come.

Education Secretary David Blunkett
She asked Mr Blunkett what the government was going to do to help those in her situation, and wept as she received a standing ovation from delegates at the annual conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) in Llandudno.

Mrs Jones is the second teacher to open her heart to a conference audience over malicious allegations in a week.

Broke down

Last week, maths teacher Adrian Wells, from Aberystwyth, mid-Wales, broke down as he told delegates at the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers how a pupil had falsely accused him of assault.

He said: "No one else should take my pain. No one else should suffer what I have suffered." He also received a standing ovation from delegates.

Mr Blunkett told Mrs Jones: "My heart goes out to your husband and yourself."

He commented that "we live in a climate of fear", and said he wanted to work with the teaching profession on getting the right balance between adequate protection for pupils, and protection for teachers.

"I do know that once an allegation is made, it can blight the teacher or head teacher for years to come.

Speaking to journalists later, Mr Blunkett said he would consider the issue of granting anonymity to accused teachers, and revealed that a working group was looking at the problem.

Anonymity

Last year, Education Minister Estelle Morris turned down the suggestion of granting anonymity.

But the union's general secretary, Nigel de Gruchy, said he had been "much encouraged" by Mr Blunkett's "sympathetic response".

"All we ask is that when any accusation of this kind is made, no teacher should be suspended over an allegation of just one person."

The union had known cases when teachers had been suspended for as long as five years - which was a "slow death".

"There must be some corroboration of evidence."

Mr Blunkett said: "I am prepared to sit down and discuss any option which is manageable and feasible.

"The difficulty is that teachers are very much on the public platform. All of us would be sympathetic to not publishing people's names widely if that could be avoided."

See also:

21 May 99 | UK Education
11 Nov 99 | UK Education
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