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Last Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005, 15:27 GMT
Teacher abuse inquiries revised
Teacher with head in hands
Unions have highlighted the plight of wrongly-accused teachers
Teachers accused of abusing children should not be automatically suspended and their cases must be speedily dealt with, the government says.

National guidelines for England on how to deal with allegations of abuse have been published.

They include the right of accused staff to enjoy anonymity while their cases are being investigated.

The advice is aimed at schools, police officers, local education authorities and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The guidelines follow a long campaign by the NASUWT union to protect the rights of teachers who have been wrongly accused of abusing children.

'Devastating effect'

However, Education Secretary Ruth Kelly said the guidelines would also protect children.

"The number of allegations made each year is very small as a proportion of the children and staff in our schools," she said.

"But it is vital that they are dealt with properly and fairly.

"We must protect children. Being abused by a trusted adult can have a devastating effect on a child and their future.

"Equally, I am very much aware of the devastating effect that being wrongly or unfairly accused can have on an individual, their family and career, and how delay and publicity can exacerbate that.

"The new arrangements will improve the way cases are dealt with and ensure more of them are resolved more quickly.

"But we will continue to monitor the position to ensure they achieve the desired effect."

The new arrangements include:

  • avoid suspending staff automatically
  • use designated officers in police and local authorities to sift cases, improve decision-making and consistency, and reduce delay
  • agreement by the police and CPS to liaise and review progress of criminal investigations to speed them up
  • advice to police and social services about getting consent to share information
  • indicative timescales for stages of the disciplinary process
  • support for children who may have been abused, and staff who are accused
  • maintain confidentiality while cases are under investigation
  • keep clear and comprehensive records
The general secretary of the NASUWT, Chris Keates, said the new guidance was a significant step forward.

"This guidance will not prevent those who abuse children from being identified and dealt with appropriately. Those who abuse children have no place in schools," she said.

"It does, however, have the real potential to ensure that those who are falsely accused, and their families, are spared the months and sometimes years of trauma and distress before being exonerated."

But she was concerned that - with the devolved education systems - it applied only to England.

Drawbacks

The union would now continue its campaign in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to secure the introduction of the guidelines there too, she said.

In Wales, Education Minister Jane Davidson said: "We will want to discuss with the Association of Chief Police Officers in Wales how best we can share this good practice across the whole of Wales."

Steve Sinnott of the National Union of Teachers said the guidelines were welcome but there could still be confusion between national and local guidance.

"There will be a minimum of three different sets of guidelines that will have to be followed when an allegation is made," he said.

"This could lead to inconsistency in the treatment of teachers depending on which area of the country they work.

"Without the opportunity to ensure that malicious false allegations are removed entirely from their records, teachers will be vulnerable to such allegations blighting their careers."




SEE ALSO:
Head teachers complain of abuse
29 Apr 05 |  Education
Lying pupils 'must face charges'
31 Mar 05 |  Education


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