This article by Richard Garner first appeared in the Independent here.
Pupils who make malicious accusations against their teachers could face criminal prosecution under new guidance on school discipline issued by the Government.
Figures show that as many as one in four school staff have been accused of wrongdoing, often claims of assault, by pupils during their careers. The new guidance tells headteachers they have the right to exclude either temporarily or permanently any pupil who makes a false allegation. In extreme cases, it adds, they should inform the police if they believe a criminal offence has been committed.
The new policy document also warns schools they should not adopt a “no touch policy” against pupils.
“It is often necessary for a teacher to touch a pupil,” it says. It cites the example of a disturbance in the classroom and also points to complaints made by music teachers who say that a “no touch” rule would make it impossible to teach a pupil an instrument such as the violin.
“We know that the majority of pupils are well behaved and want others to behave well, too,” said Schools Minister Nick Gibb.
“The role of the Government is to give schools the freedom and support they need to provide a safe and structured environment in which teachers can teach and pupils can learn.”
The guidance, slimmed down to 52 pages from an earlier document running to almost 600, also guarantees teachers anonymity against charges unless a prosecution is brought – and tells heads not to automatically suspend staff if an allegation has been made against them.
It also recommends that any investigation into a complaint, except in the most complex of cases, should be completed within three months.
Also announced is a series of measures to crack down on school discipline, in the wake of statistics showing that nearly 1,000 children are suspended from school as a result of assault or abuse every day.
Also, 44 school staff have needed hospital treatment for injuries in the past 12 months, the highest for five years.