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Tuesday, 20 April, 1999, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Teachers demand action over abuse slurs
Teachers say false allegations destroy careers
By Adrian Dalingwater in Eastbourne

Children who make malicious allegations of abuse against their teachers should be expelled from school, a union leader has said.

The General Secretary of the NASUWT, Nigel de Gruchy, advocated permanent exclusion from school in "very serious" cases where the allegations were found to be untrue and malicious.

"The point is that such behaviour is totally unacceptable and they have to pay the price," he said. "That price must be expulsion."

John Hoyle
John Hoyle: "Decisions made by bureaucrats in school services departments"
He said that if a teacher was suspended while an investigation took place, the pupil should also be suspended, adding that parents had a responsibility to ensure their children did not make malicious allegations against "highly vulnerable" teachers.

Mr de Gruchy was speaking after the union's annual conference in Eastbourne had heard that a " forgotten army" of teachers had had their careers and lives wrecked by pupils' false allegations - even after they were cleared by police investigations.

Three NASUWT members are said to have committed suicide as a result of false claims.

The NASUWT says that 156 of its members were accused of sexual or physical abuse last year, but only five cases resulted in criminal convictions.

Since 1991, 974 of the union's members have faced abuse investigations - in 792 cases there were no grounds for further investigations.

On the final day of the conference, delegates heard a series of cases highlighting the effects of false abuse claims, including:

  • A young married primary teacher who had a nervous breakdown and resigned from his job after a parent alleged that a child had been sexually assaulted. Although an investigation found the teacher had no case to answer, other parents withdrew their children from his classes.

  • A teacher who is unable to find work after he was arrested at his home at 6am and spent nine months waiting for a Crown Court case in which he was found not guilty.

  • A secondary school teacher who was only cleared of beating a girl when another pupil came forward and said the injured girl had thrown herself against coat hooks in a changing room.

    Natural justice 'turned on its head'

    A delegate from Southwark in London, Steve Luscombe, said "There's a forgotten army out there, wounded and hurt, whose careers have been ruined."

    John Hoyle, from Sandwell in the West Midlands, told delegates that natural justice was turned on its head when a pupil made allegations of abuse.

    The policy of routinely suspending teachers from work while investigations took place was akin to assuming they were guilty, he said.

    "That decision is not made in a court of law, not by solicitors, but by some bureaucrat in a school services department."

    But a teacher of deaf children, Alison Broady, from Tyneside, warned that the union's advice to members not to touch children under any circumstances was difficult to follow when pupils were deaf, blind or otherwise disabled.

    "We can't do our jobs without sometimes having to touch children," she said.

    Calls for compensation

    Conference delegates backed a motion calling on the union's leaders to campaign for compensation on behalf of NASUWT members falsely accused of abuse.

    The issue has already been raised at the union's conference, when delegates urged the School Standards Minister, Estelle Morris, to consider anonymity for teachers until allegations against them were proved to be correct.

    But the minister said the protection of children was the government's priority. "Some teachers are falsely accused of abusing children, but some teachers are rightly accused," she said.

    "There are some teachers who abuse children, and every one of you would want to protect children from further abuse. We have to err on the side of caution to make sure children are protected."

    To cries of "shame", she added: "We would not take action that would keep this in the dark and would mean that children didn't come forward."

  • See also:

    14 Aug 98 | UK Education
    10 Feb 99 | UK Education
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