Essex: Calls for teachers to be better protected against false allegations of physical and sexual abuse


- Credit: PA

A union has called for teachers in Essex to be better protected from false allegations of physical and sexual abuse against pupils.

The call comes after new figures show less than one in five of those accused end up having any action taken against them.

Figures obtained from Essex County Council show that over the past two academic years, schools have reported receiving 96 allegations of physical and sexual abuse against teachers working in nursery, primary and secondary schools across the county. But during that time, only 12 cases resulted in a teacher being suspended and five ended up with the teacher being dismissed.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) says the vast majority of allegations of this type are unfounded and, in many cases, are malicious - leading to innocent teachers becoming stressed and professional reputations being damaged.

The NUT says more should be done to protect the anonymity of teachers who are placed under investigation after an allegation is made.

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General secretary for the NUT in Essex, Jerry Glazier said: “In my experience, the vast majority of allegations of physical and sexual abuse that go through social services and the police end up with no action taken.

“Of course, on the rare occasion where teachers have acted unprofessionally there must be channels where concerns can be reported but there has to be a balance. Teachers are in a vulnerable position and can be the victim of malicious allegations and when this happens this can be incredibly stressful.

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“Pupils and parents will inevitably start talking and it can be very difficult for a teacher to put things behind them even when they are totally innocent. It’s important that schools, social services and the police do all they can to protect a teacher’s anonymity after an allegation is made and while an investigation is being carried out.”

The figures obtained via a Freedom on Information request show that 48 of the allegations were made against teachers working in primary schools while teachers in secondary schools faced 31 allegations over the same period. In total, 72 allegations were made about physical abuse and 24 concerned sexual abuse.

Mr Glazier added: “I remember one case where a child at an infant school had bruises on him. They had been caused by the mother who hadn’t been coping very well but to deflect attention away from herself she said the teacher had done it.

“in another case, a teacher was accused of grabbing a pupil’s elbow and throwing them to the ground. It was untrue but an investigation had to be carried out.”

A spokesman for Essex County Council said each school should have its own HR resources for supporting teachers who are suspended for such allegations.

He added: “There are a number of options available to support the teacher, such as being offline for a period, working from home, undertaking different duties or tasks, and suspension should be seen as a last resort.

“Support can be given by way of a designated person to be the dedicated point of contact between the school and teacher, referrals to occupational health and access to stress support and stress counselling lines.“

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