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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 March 2008, 15:26 GMT
Call for 'crying wolf' pupil list
By Gary Eason
BBC news, at the ATL conference in Torquay

ATL solicitor Sharon Liburd
ATL solicitor Sharon Liburd says parents increasingly go to the police
Pupils who make malicious false allegations about teachers should be placed on a school register to protect other staff, a teachers' union says.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said these records should be forwarded if a pupil moves.

It also wants charges brought against children as young as 10 who make false allegations.

The government has said it will look at whether further legal changes are needed to protect teachers.

The issue was raised at the association's annual conference, in Torquay - as it is every year at teachers' gatherings.

The NASUWT union, for example, says it has had 2,316 allegations brought against its members in recent years, of which 2,231 have been concluded.

Only 105 or about 5% had resulted in any action being brought against the teacher.

If a pupil makes an allegation, the teacher is normally automatically suspended from work and is not permitted to talk to colleagues or pupils while the matter is investigated - which can take months.

Distressed

Wolverhampton teacher Brenda Walters told the ATL conference: "Whereas the pupils or students are relatively unscathed and remain on site, the effects upon the teacher or lecturer can be catastrophic and stressful in the extreme."

Martyne Ellard from Berkshire described how an experienced teacher in her area had been accused by a girl of touching her inappropriately during a lesson.

"The pupil subsequently withdraws the allegation, justifying her action with the claim that she thought the teacher didn't like her," she said.

"He returns to school, distressed. The pupil also remains at school.

"Other staff are not allowed to know who this pupil is. They don't know they need to take extra care."

It's a sad sign of the times that parents often go to the police first and often to the press saying, 'I want that teacher sacked'
Sharon Liburd, ATL solicitor

And if the pupil were to change school the staff there would be even more at risk, Ms Ellard said.

ATL solicitor Sharon Liburd said she was dealing with several allegations a month - and in 75% of them the Crown Prosecution Service took no action against the teacher involved for lack of evidence.

But in the interim, the teacher was in limbo until called on by the police, who quite often first interviewed the pupil while "rumours are running rife" in the school community.

"It's a sad sign of the times that parents often go to the police first and often to the press saying, 'I want that teacher sacked'," she said.

She said a teacher's life could be destroyed as a result.

Registers

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said it was in the nature of the profession that allegations of abusing a child were particularly damaging.

"Teaching more than virtually any other profession involves you as a person.

"It's incredibly stressful. They feel a very important element of who they consider themselves to be is being attacked."

She said there was nothing to stop schools operating their own registers of pupils who made false allegations - while stressing that every claim must be investigated.

And she said this information should be passed on if the pupil moved to another school.

"I think it's important that if a pupil or student has made a malicious allegation which is unfounded against a teacher that at the very least if the child stays in the school there should be a record," she said.

In response to previous complaints from the teacher unions the government did tell local authorities to speed up the process of investigating children's claims.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said he would discuss with ministerial colleagues whether more needed to be done.

"You have got to make sure that allegations are looked at - but looked at quickly," he said.



SEE ALSO
Teacher tells of false claim ordeal
10 Apr 07 |  Northern Ireland
False claims 'fuelled by lawyers'
04 May 07 |  Education
Accused teachers 'need shielding'
01 May 06 |  Education
Lying pupils 'must face charges'
31 Mar 05 |  Education
Accused teachers anonymity call
13 Dec 04 |  UK Politics

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