This article appeared in the Daily Mail (here)
Nearly half the allegations made against teachers are malicious, unsubstantiated or unfounded, according to a Government study.
The Department for Education survey shows that only three per cent of investigations resulted in a police caution or court conviction for the teacher.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the research justified Government plans to allow teachers facing potentially career-wrecking allegations to remain anonymous while investigations took place.
But ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen sounded a note of caution yesterday, pointing out that it was often difficult for the ‘cumbersome’ criminal justice system to protect vulnerable children.
The survey looked at the number and nature of abuse allegations referred to 116 councils in England in the 12 months to April 2010.
Of 12,086 claims, 2,827 – 23 per cent – were against teachers, and 1,709 were against school support staff. Forty-seven per cent of the allegations against teachers and 41 per cent of those against non-teaching employees were found to be baseless.
But nearly one fifth of teachers and one third of other staff members were suspended while the accusations were investigated.
‘When these allegations are later found to be malicious or unfounded, the damage is already done.’
But Ms Rantzen said: ‘This means that half the allegations made by children require further action.
‘It is very difficult to provide corroboration for serious offences against children because they often happen in secret. So it is not surprising that only a small percentage result in a conviction.’
Warning: Childline’s Esther Rantzen has urged caution because vulnerable children are involved
But she was in favour of the anonymity provision because of ‘terrible’ cases in which ‘good and committed’ teachers had been ‘to hell and back’ after false allegations were made against them.
‘There is no easy way to obtain justice for children. That is why organisations such as ChildLine are so important because we can move them to a place of safety without having to go through the cumbersome and often unfair legal process,’ Ms Rantzen said.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NAS/UWT teaching union, said the anonymity proposal was a ‘small step in the right direction’ but more needed to be done to protect school staff from malicious allegations.
She said that the Government had failed to address the issue of information being kept by police even after a teacher had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
The Government has already revised its guidance to local authorities and schools to speed up the investigation process when a staff member is accused of an offence. The aim is to insure that allegations are dealt with as quickly as possible.
Other measures in the Government’s Education Bill include preventing appeal panels from sending excluded children back to the school from which they were removed and withdrawing the requirement on schools to give parents 24 hours’ notice of detentions.