Page last updated at 05:57 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Thousands of teachers 'at risk'

Classroom generic
False accusations are a 'blight' on teaching says the NASUWT

Thousands of teaching careers are being destroyed by heavy handed child protection procedures, teachers' unions and an MP have claimed.

One union leader told BBC File On 4, that teachers facing complaints are "guilty until proved innocent."

Barry Sheerman, chair of the Commons select committee on schools, said teachers were being treated unfairly.

The Department of Children, Schools and Families said it was working hard to improve the handling of allegations.

'False allegations'

Unions argue that teachers faced with abuse allegations or claims they used excessive force against pupils, face suspension, police investigation and unfair disciplinary systems.

PROGRAMME TRANSCRIPT

And even if the teacher's name is cleared, the complaint is still on record.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of NASUWT, said 800-plus complaints were being made against its members annually and the vast majority related to the way teachers dealt with difficult situations in the classroom.

"It's a blight on the modern teaching profession," she told BBC File On 4.

'Pupil's slur killed my career'

Ms Keates said the majority of accusations are false, but added: "Whatever the outcome of the investigation that will be on the teacher's file. If that teacher applies for another job that allegation will be resurrected under the Criminal Records Bureau check.

'Guilt presumed'

"So you could say that everyone of those 800 teachers has got a blight over their career for the rest of their time teaching."

She claimed that unlike a criminal case, teachers faced with disciplinary action over complaints from pupil had to prove their innocence.

You cannot suspend a teacher without damaging them as a professional.
Barry Sheerman MP, chair of Children, Schools and Families Select Committee

Ms Keates said nobody doubted that children needed protection but she added: "This presumption of guilt is one of the major flaws in the current system."

Mr Sheerman said thousands of teachers were being affected by false complaints with their careers left in ruins.

'Ruined reputation'

The chair of the Commons Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families, added: "You cannot suspend a teacher without damaging them as a professional."

He also said: "What the government is doing is full of good intentions, but it is not being felt down at the grass roots in schools."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families told the BBC, "Guidance on more consistent and swifter handling of allegations was issued for education in 2005.

"We are also looking at whether guidance should be amended to make clear that accusations which have been demonstrated to be untrue do not need to be included in teachers' references."



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SEE ALSO
Heads want action on false claims
01 May 06 |  Education
Teacher posthumously acquitted
21 Apr 06 |  Education
Lying pupils 'must face charges'
31 Mar 05 |  Education
Accused teachers 'need shielding'
01 May 06 |  Education
Teachers 'demand more protection'
16 Apr 04 |  Northern Ireland

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