Allegations Against School Staff - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents


Memorandum submitted by the Local Government Association (LGA)

INTRODUCTION

  The Local Government Association (LGA) represents over 400 local authorities across England and Wales, including all twelve councils which currently have directly-elected mayors. In its role the LGA aims to put councils at the heart of the drive to improve public services and to work with government to ensure that the policy, legislative and financial context in which they operate, supports that objective.

SCALE AND NATURE OF ALLEGATIONS OF IMPROPER CONDUCT MADE AGAINST SCHOOL STAFF

  Recent evidence suggests that the rate of allegations against school staff is running at around 2,500 per year. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) should be able to provide more accurate information.

  Over half the cases involve an accusation of inappropriate physical contact and around 30% of cases relate to sexual behaviour.

  High profile cases do, of course, become widely publicised. Information about teachers given sanctions by GTC or "struck off" is in the public domain. The GTC will, of course, be able to provide further information.

SHOULD STAFF REMAIN ANONYMOUS WHILE THE CASE IS INVESTIGATED?

  Where possible, staff against whom allegations have been made should remain anonymous. Following the initial consideration of the allegation, almost a quarter of staff involved do not have any further action taken against them. The LGA would not want local authorities' duty of care to their employees to be compromised through unjustified public disclosure of unfounded allegations.

  However, it is inevitable that those interacting within the school on a day-to-day basis—including staff, governors and parents—are often likely to know when an allegation against a member of staff has been made, particularly as this will often (but not always) lead to suspension. As always, a balanced approach will be needed in dealing with allegations.

SHOULD CURRENT GUIDANCE BE REVISED, PARTICULARLY RELATING TO

    —  Disciplinary procedures;

    —  Criteria for determining whether a staff member should be suspended;

    —  When should a staff member be arrested; and

    —  Retention of records of false allegations.

  Over the last few years, the Department has published a significant amount of guidance, including:

    —  Working Together to Safeguard Children (2006); and

    —  Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education (2007).

  In 2002, the National Employers' Organisation for School Teachers (NEOST)—the employer representative body in England and Wales relating to conditions of service for teachers working in maintained schools—issued joint guidance with the six teacher trade unions on:

    —  Staff facing an allegation of abuse—guidelines on practice and procedure; and

    —  Preventing abuse of trust—guidance for teachers, education staff and volunteers.

  NEOST also published employer guidance in 2002 on "conduct" for teachers, education staff and volunteers.

  All this guidance deals effectively with most of the issues identified by the Select Committee, although clearly a review of current guidance would be worthwhile to ensure that it continues to be "fit for purpose".

  In this connection, the LGA understands that, following a review of the guidance in 2007, the DCSF has issued a consultation paper on "practice guidance" relating to the handling of allegations of abuse made against adults who work with children and young people. This will provide the opportunity for the Government and stakeholders to develop some further practical advice for employers and aid them in implementing agreed policy objectives.

  LGA will be responding to this consultation and will take the opportunity presented by this consultation to assess whether the previous joint advice published by NEOST and the teacher unions referred to above needs to be revised.

  In terms of the retention of records of false allegations, the LGA is pleased to note that the DCSF intends to amend the current guidance to make it clear that allegations which have been investigated and demonstrated to be completely untrue do not need to be included in a teacher's references.

May 2009





 
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