Memorandum submitted by The National Governors'
1.1 The National Governors' Association
(NGA) is the national membership body for school governors. NGA
has several categories of membership comprising individual governors,
school governing bodies and independent local associations of
school governing bodies. NGA seeks to represent the interests
of all school governors and governing bodies in all phases and
types of school.
2.1 Nature and scale of allegation against
The NGA does not collect information about the
level and nature of complaints against school staff.
The NGA believes that all staff disciplinary
matters should be dealt with on a confidential basis and staff
members subject to allegations of misconduct should not have their
identities splashed across local press. The NGA is not, however,
clear whether such anonymity is achievable.
2.3 Disciplinary panels
The NGA believes that further guidance would
be helpful to both those conducting investigations and governors
sitting on disciplinary panels. The NGA would also support the
introduction of independent investigators.
2.4 Suspension of Staff
The NGA believes that more thorough guidance
should be made available and widely disseminated about the alternatives
2.5 Retention of records
The NGA believes there is no justification for
retaining details on the file of an individual staff member of
an allegation which has been shown to be false.
3. WHETHER STAFF
3.1 The guidance for dealing with allegations
against school staff produced by the DCSF Safeguarding Children
and Safer Recruitment in Education states "Every effort
must be made to safeguard against unwanted publicity while an
allegation is being investigated or considered".
3.2 While is clear that when an allegation
is made public it is hugely stressful for the individual concerned,
the NGA has no evidence that in most cases matters are not handled
with absolute confidentiality.
3.3 The NGA does not take lightly the personal
distress caused by the public airing of an allegation and where
a case is made public, but the staff member in question is subsequently
exonerated, the NGA would be supportive of some form of public
statement by either the school or the LA to make the situation
clear. This could be in the form of a press release or a letter
3.4 The protection of children and young
people is of vital importance, but it cannot be right that the
lives of school staff, often with years of unblemished service,
can be destroyed as a result of false allegations.
3.5 The NGA is supportive of the idea of
anonymity for school staff, but we have significant doubts about
whether this can be achieved in practice. In most workplaces confidentiality
is an absolute when dealing with disciplinary matters, but this
often doesn't prevent seemingly the entire workforce having knowledge
of an "incident" usually by the end of the same day.
While this is unfortunate for the individual concerned, the crucial
factor is that while such incidents provide fodder for office
gossip, they are rarely of interest to those outside the workplace.
The situation is very different for school staff, where "allegations"
become fodder for playground and parental gossip. School staff,
school governors and local authorities can be held to account
for any breaches of confidentiality, but this is not the case
for pupils and parents. Schools can consider disciplinary action
against pupils who spread details of allegations (although the
NGA is not aware of any school which has done so), but they have
no power to act against parents.
3.6 To provide anonymity for teachers would
require legislation and the NGA is not sure how this could be
implemented effectively. The NGA is not clear how the name of
a member of school staff could be kept out of the public domain
if a parent or pupil went to a newspaper.
4. THE PROCEDURES
4.1 The NGA believes that further guidance
would be extremely helpful in relation to the investigation of
an allegation and the conduct of disciplinary panels.
4.2 Where an allegation is against a member
of staff then the Headteacher would take the lead. The Chair of
Governors should be informed about any allegation and may be involved
in discussions about the process going forward, this would certainly
be the case if the allegation were about the headteacher.
4.3 The governing body, whatever the individual
expertise of its members, are not the "professionals"
in this context and the NGA does not believe that it is appropriate
for any member of the governing body to be involved in the formal
investigative process. The chair of governors should be kept informed
about the progress of investigations, but should not be directly
involved in the taking of evidence. Other members of the governing
body would become involved if disciplinary matters are delegated
to the GB, or where the staff member appeals against any decision
made by the headteacher.
4.4 The governing body is guided by and
to a large extent reliant on the advice it receives from the professionals
in the process (principally the headteacher and local authority).
Anecdotal evidence given to the NGA, which appears to be supported
by the cases described in the recent File on Four
programme, suggests that the quality of advice given to governing
bodies is variable. Having said that, where the governing body
is required to set up a disciplinary panel it must ensure that
it gives equal weight to all the evidence presented. The governing
body has a duty of care to all the members of staff in its school
and this requires it to ensure that any disciplinary hearing is
fair. In line with the NGA's policy of the importance of training
for governing bodies we believe that governors sitting on disciplinary
panels should receive appropriate training. The NGA believes that
it would be helpful for LAs to establish a bank of appropriately
trained clerks, in each local authority, who would be available
to clerk such meetings. This would ensure that all such panels
are clerked by properly trained individuals able to give appropriate
advice as to procedure.
4.5 The governing body must ensure that
its policy for dealing with allegations sets clear lines of responsibility
to ensure that no individual may investigate an allegation in
which they are also a witness.
4.6 There is a difference between demonstrably
false allegations and those which are subject to interpretationie
an allegation in which can rapidly be shown to be untrue (eg the
member in staff in question was not on the school premises on
the day of the alleged incident) and allegations which are based
on different interpretations of the same incident (eg when a staff
member removes a pupil from classroom with what s/he deems to
be appropriate force but which the pupil claims is excessive force).
These latter cases are more difficult to resolve and are often
the ones which lead to lengthy suspensions and subsequent Employment
Tribunals. It would be helpful if guidance could be provided about
the role of the investigating officer and the ways in which evidence
should be collected and interpreted.
4.7 The NGA believes that it would be more
appropriate for any investigation to be carried out by a properly
trained person who is independent of the school, and preferably
of the LA; although we recognise that this latter provision may
have significant cost implications. The NGA does not believe that
the headteacher, who will have worked in some capacity with the
staff member and will also have direct knowledge of the pupil,
should be placed in a position of having to investigate when an
allegation is made. It is in the interests of all concerned that
investigations are carried out in a transparent manner and are
seen to be fair.
4.8 It is a clear from the cases reported
in the recent File on Four programme and other cases highlighted
over recent years by all the teaching unions, that time is a major
factor in all of these cases. While LAs, headteachers and governing
bodies cannot control the length of time any criminal investigation
takes, they are directly responsible for disciplinary proceedings.
Where a criminal investigation has already taken place it cannot
be right for internal disciplinary proceedings to drag on for
months. While there may be grounds for internal disciplinary action
if criminal proceedings do not take place, or even if a trial
has found an individual not guilty of a criminal offence; the
facts of the case are already known and there can be little justification
for further lengthy investigations.
4.9 The NGA would support more thorough
guidance about what issues should be considered where a criminal
investigation has already taken place and either no prosecution
has taken place or the individual concerned has been found not
guilty. The guidance should address the issue of whether any further
investigation is required and the need to resolve matters quickly.
4.10 Lengthy investigations are not just
traumatic for the staff involved they also cause operational and
financial difficulties for the school and can impact on pupils.
5. WHEN SUSPENSION
5.1 The Safeguarding guidance makes clear
that suspension should not be automatic in all cases and alternative
courses of action should be considered.
5.2 Suspension is deemed to be a "neutral
act" which does not in any way indicate guilt, but in reality
can be extremely traumatic for the individual involved and without
appropriate re-integration policies can be career threatening
even if the allegation is deemed to be unfounded. Suspension can
also impact upon anonymity as the disappearance of an individual
member of staff from the school population can lead to rumours,
and such rumours could be damaging to the individual's reputation.
5.3 The NGA does not have hard facts and
figures, but anecdotal evidence does suggest that suspension is
often an automatic reaction, rather than a considered judgement
on the merits of the evidence. The NGA does know of a situation
in which a Chair of Governors was phoned by the police and told
that the headteacher would need to be suspendedthis before
any details of the allegation had been given. This is wholly inappropriate
as only the Chair of Governors can make a decision about whether
to suspend the headteacher, and guidance should indicate that
this would only happen in consultation with the LA.
5.4 All those involved in dealing with allegations
need to have clear guidance about when suspension is appropriate
and what other courses of action are open to them. Guidance should
also make clear who is responsible for making decisions about
suspension as in the NGA's experience other agencies involved
in these situations sometimes have little understanding of the
role of the governing body.
6. THE RETENTION
6.1 If an allegation is found to be false
it has been demonstrated that it could not have taken place and
the member of staff is wholly exonerated. There can be no justification
for such an allegation remaining on a member of staff's individual
file or being disclosed. The school should keep a record that
an allegation has been made by a particular pupil because as in
some of the reported cases it has been shown that unfortunately
some pupils make false allegations on one or more occasion.
3 DCSF Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment
in Education Chapter 5, paragraph 5.7. Back
File on Four, BBC Radio 4 (Broadcast 3 March 2009)-programme
transcript can be viewed via the attached link http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/03<_>03<_>09<_>fo4<_>abuse.pdf Back