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Saturday, 17 June, 2000, 02:32 GMT 03:32 UK
Action over teacher abuse claims
teacher adrian wells
Teacher Adrian Wells: falsely accused of hitting a boy
The Conservatives are to propose giving a right of anonymity to teachers accused of abusing pupils.

The move follows concerns expressed by teachers' unions about the number of false allegations made against teachers.

William Hague
William Hague: Seeking to be seen as a teachers' champion
The Tories' leader, William Hague, and education spokeswoman Theresa May discussed the issue this week with a number of unions.

A spokesman said an amendment was likely to be introduced in the House of Lords to the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, to give teachers a right to anonymity until they were charged with a criminal offence.

The government bill would make it an offence for those aged 18 or over to have sexual intercourse with anyone under 18 if they were in a position of trust in relation to that person.

Compensation call

The bill was defeated in Parliament last year, failing to get a second reading. But the Home Office reintroduced it - and ministers have said they are determined to force it through.

We see too many cases of innocent teachers whose lives and careers have been ruined ... mud sticks

Union leader Kay Driver
The Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) has welcomed the Conservatives' move, but would also like compensation for teachers against whom no criminal cases are brought - thought to run into hundreds a year.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which was also represented at the meeting, has seen the number of alleged assaults rise from 70 in 1996 to 120 last year - almost all subsequently shown to be without foundation.

At its annual conference recently, maths teacher Adrian Wells wept as he recalled the trauma of being falsely accused of hitting a boy.

There were also calls for teacher anonymity at the annual conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers in April.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said he would consider the issue of granting anonymity to accused teachers, and revealed that a working group was looking at the problem.

PAT's general secretary, Kay Driver, said it was right the government was bringing in measures to protect young people from "abuse of trust" by adults.

But she believes that the victims of false accusations also need protection.

'Severe distress'

"We see too many cases of innocent teachers whose lives and careers have been ruined by false allegations of abuse, even after they have been acquitted of any offence," Ms Driver said. "Mud sticks.

"Those cleared of allegations must be compensated. Being falsely accused and suspended can cause severe personal distress and long-term damage to the accused's career."

She suggested financial compensation or a period of paid leave.

It was also unreasonable for an acquitted teacher to have to work with the child who made the false accusation, as happens at present.

"The pupil - not the teacher - must be moved to another class or school," she said.

Men were increasingly reluctant to work with children, partly because many were afraid of being thought suspect merely for wanting to do so.

"Many are frightened to pick up and comfort an injured child in case they are accused of being an abuser.

"Primary schools throughout the country have no male teachers and, if current trends continue, there will soon be no men teaching in primary schools. I have heard of cases where children think teaching is a woman's job."

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See also:

08 Jun 00 | Education
Teacher cleared of assaulting boy
06 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Hague promises to tackle school 'thugs'
27 Apr 00 | Unions 2000
Anonymity call for accused teachers
17 Sep 99 | Education
Concern over teen abuse sanctions
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