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Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Accused teachers promised anonymity
Theresa May
Theresa May promised a return to grammar schools
Teachers who are accused of abusing or assaulting pupils should have their identities protected until the police press charges, says the Shadow Education Secretary Theresa May.

Speaking at the Conservative Party's annual conference in Bournemouth, Ms May said that teachers needed to be protected from malicious allegations of abuse or assault.

'Free schools' would ...
Set their own admissions policy
Allow any school to become selective
Set their own expulsion policy
Be subject to on-the-spot inspections
Set their own rates of pay
Receive direct funding
"Teachers are more vulnerable than any other group of professionals to false allegations of abuse from children," she said, citing a teachers' union survey which claimed that 80% of claims against teachers were subsequently proved false.

At present, teachers facing accusations cannot claim the anonymity that is available to their alleged victims - and there have been many reports from teachers' unions of careers being destroyed by the publicity surrounding allegations that are later proved to be unfounded.

Education promises so far
Every school would be a 'free school'
Scrap restrictions on selection
'Partner schools' to be set up by parents and businesses
National funding formula for schools
Allow an expansion of grammar school status
Re-introduce 'assisted places scheme' for state pupils in private schools
Limit role of local education authority
Reform teacher training
Fund universities with endowment payment

Ms May, in a move that will help to build bridges between her party and the teaching profession, promised that a future Conservative government would give teachers' anonymity until the police formally make charges.

"The press will not be allowed to print their names or photos while the accusation is being investigated. Teachers lives should not be ruined by mischievous or malicious accusations," she said.

Ms May also outlined her party's proposals for a radical reform of the education system - which would see the introduction of "free school" status for all schools.

Under this system an educational free market would be created, in which schools could determine which pupils they admitted, which they expelled, term times, lengths of the school day and rates of pay for staff.

There would be a scrapping of restraints on over-subscribed schools expanding, so that schools which were popular with parents could grow rapidly - while unpopular schools would lose pupils and funding.

"Free schools will enable heads, teachers and governors to decide what is best for the children in each school. The bureaucrats in Whitehall don't know what's best," she said.

Under the free school system all schools would be able to become selective - a proposal which has raised questions about where the pupils who were not accepted anywhere would be placed.

But Ms May reasserted her party's commitment to selection - promising to scrap the current regulations allowing parents to vote on whether to keep grammar school status.

And she held out the prospect of many free schools adopting what would effectively be grammar school status.

"I'm confident that yes, there will be more grammar schools in future," she told the conference.

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See also:

23 Nov 99 | Education
Tories pledge to 'free' schools
07 Jan 00 | Education
Tory plans for 'partner schools'
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