Number of complaints against Norfolk and Suffolk school staff revealed

Parents in Norfolk and Suffolk were last night reassured that incidents remain “extremely rare” after new figures showed more than 250 complaints were made against school staff in the two counties during the last year.

The alleged incidents – 139 in Norfolk and 109 in Suffolk – are among more than 1,700 across England unearthed by a request under the freedom of information act.

Of the 248 complaints against teachers, support staff and those driving school transport in Norfolk and Suffolk between April 1 2009 and March 31 2010, 134 alleged physical abuse, 78 sexual abuse and 14 emotional abuse.

Fifty of the cases are still being investigated, but 61 have been dismissed as “unsubstantiated”, 91 have been proven, 27 decided to be unfounded and two ruled to be malicious.

Teaching unions have long been campaigning against the career-wrecking danger of malicious accusations against staff – but the two case recorded in Norfolk were among only 50 across England during the year.

The government has promised that teachers who face allegations will be given anonymity until the point when charges are pressed.

Figures were not available in Cambridgeshire.

But in Norfolk, 22 of 139 complaints led to a criminal investigation, with six staff members receiving a caution and three a criminal conviction. Thirty-five members of staff were suspended, six sacked and seven resigned.

Of the complaints, 77 were against teachers, 52 against support staff and 10 against school transport workers.

Fred Corbett, Norfolk’s assistant director of children’s services, said: “Cases of this kind are referred to specialist officers who work alongside the police and other relevant agencies, where necessary, to establish the circumstances and outcome. They are also referred to Ofsted and the Independent Safeguarding Authority, when required.

“Allegations against school staff remain extremely rare – we have 17,700 staff working in our schools, supporting 109,000 children and there were three convictions and six cautions against staff in the last year.

“However, any case of this kind is one too many and part of the training and support available to schools is aimed at helping them to identify and prevent potential risks, wherever possible to ensure safer working practice.”

Of the more than 1,700 accusations across England, more than half alleged physical assault or “inappropriate restraint”. And 143 of those accused were dismissed or resigned.

The numbers are set against a context of more than 800,000 classroom staff, plus hundreds of thousands of other employees and volunteers who work for schools or with school children.

These figures were drawn from the responses of more than half of the local authorities in England.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers(ATL) said the survey failed to show the “vast majority” of false allegations, as they would have been dismissed immediately and would not have reached the local authority. The union has claimed that as many as one in four teachers have faced a false allegation.

A spokesman said: “We want anonymity for staff, no automatic bar on staff keeping in contact with colleagues (who are quite frequently friends) and investigations to be speeded up.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The government believes teachers should be protected from the damage that malicious allegations can cause. Last month, ministers announced the intention to give anonymity to teachers accused by pupils and take other measures to protect against false accusations.”

Source and Acknowledgement: EDP24

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