Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
17 JUNE 2009
Q60 Chairman: But where is the
local safeguarding board coming in on all this?
Fiona Hammans: As a head teacher,
if I were to receive an allegation, I would have to make some
judgment about its level of severity and seriousness, and so on.
But if it is something that is easy in the sense that there is
clear evidence, or the allegation is serious enough to be able
to pass straight on to the local authority designated officer,
that person makes the judgment call about what happens, in what
order and in what way. The difficulty arisesand the variability
in response isif the head teacher or a governor makes a
decision and does not follow the protocols. It is about the protocols
that are there to safeguard.
Q61 Chairman: But the only person
with protocols is Nick Garganhe read out what the police
have to follow. If they can do it, why can't the teaching profession
have that sort of guidance?
Clare Collins: There is a very
real issue if it is the head teacher because the responsibility
usually falls on to the chair of the governing body. I cannot
emphasise too much how difficult it can be to get hold of the
information; as a chair of governors, you won't have that on your
shelf. It will be on a website somewhere, it might be password
protected, and I have had someone from my local authority HR saying,
"I'm not sure you want the whole document, it is rather long."
I won't say what I said back, but that is the sort of thing you
are dealing with. I think there was a suggestion earlier that
there should be a small booklet that tells you what to do if the
balloon goes up. That would be incredibly useful.
Q62 Chairman: No one came back
to that question about the local safeguarding board. Where does
it get involved? Does it get involved?
Clare Collins: I don't know.
Chairman: I am told it does.
Sir Steve Bullock: We will happily
give you a written detail on that,
but I think it depends on the nature of the allegation. If it
is clearly child abuse and so on, that kicks in, but we will come
back to you.
Q63 Chairman: What we are trying
to get at is this: if an independent person is asked to look at
the case, who chooses that independent person, and on what criteria?
It is quite important, is it not?
Kathryn James: Picking up on what
Fiona and Steve both said, it very much depends on the nature
of the allegation as to who will make that decision. The local
safeguarding board does come into play, but actually that is probably
quite high on the level in terms of the severity of the allegation.
There is a protocol that is in force, but there is a plethora
of guidance, and none of it necessarily ties in with the protocol
that is there. It was mentioned in the previous session. It is
known as the CLEA guidance, and it is the local authorities working
with the teacher associations. It was a good piece of work. I
think we have moved on a stage, but maybe that is something that
ought to be revisited.
Q64 Mr Chaytor: To clarify, in
regard to who decides who will investigate, would it usually be
the head teacher, or would it be referred up to the Director of
Kathryn James: If it is an allegation
that is made to the head teacher, the head teacher would take
that first decision, in terms of the severity of the allegation.
Whether the head teacher would refer it up or whether they would
allocate an investigator depends on the severity of the allegation.
Clare Collins: If it is the teacher
whom the allegation is against, the governors would have to work
closely with the local authority as to who is allocated the role
of the independent investigator. They would be dependent on it
to identify one. What I expect is that they would run it by the
Q65 Mr Chaytor: It is still a
little bit fuzzy as to exactly who has a legal responsibility
to appoint an independent investigator. You are all saying that
it varies according to the circumstances.
Sir Steve Bullock: We don't always
appoint an independent investigator. It is only in relation to
the most serious allegations that you would do that. I would not
expect it to happen in my authority. I would expect, if it was
a very serious case, a senior officer of the authority to be the
person who carried out the investigation. So it is not always
the case that you look for the independent investigator.
Nick Gargan: It is very clear
who investigates, and in terms of the serious case reviews, we
have a procedure for appointing, usually, a detective inspector
from a separate local police area to come along and carry out
the review. When you move into complex cases, we would refer to
the joint Home Office-DCSF guidance, which is very clear and sets
out the kind of strategic management board structure that we have
activated in Thames Valley police over the last couple of years,
but only on one or two occasions.
Chairman: We will move on to the question
of arrest, which Edward will lead on. It is a pleasure to have
you here, because the Committee very much believes that of the
10 departments that we follow in relation to the activities and
lives of children and families, the police and the relevant departments
are very important to us. We find in all our investigations, we
need the co-operation of you when we look at the welfare of children.
So it is very good to have you here.
Q66 Mr Timpson: You already flushed
out a little about the role of the police in any investigation
involving teachers and, in particular, the issue of arrest. Can
I draw you in a little bit more and ask you whether you would
be opposed to the submission made by Paul Kaufman, the solicitor
who was in the previous panel? He has put forward in his paper
that, in relation to police investigations, teachers should be
treated as a special case, and that clear guidance should be given
to child abuse investigation teams to ensure that teachers are
arrested only in exceptional cases, where it is necessary.
Nick Gargan: I didn't hear the
evidence, but I have read his submission and I would make a couple
of comments. First, there are lots of groups of people who would
like to be treated as special cases; in a way our role is to put
up with the noise of such people while maintaining an independence
in order not to forget the victim's position and the interests
of the wider community. I think that there is an existing, informal
practice, which we pick up from discussions with child abuse investigation
units and others, that people think carefully about arresting
teachers. They think carefully about arresting anybody, but they
already think especially carefully about arresting a teacher.
I think that the way to deal with these odd cases that one hears
about from time to time, where the power has allegedly been used
carelessly or inappropriately, should be through the police conduct
regulations, not through changing the rules about arresting teachers.
The evidence that I have seen is that the police are very careful
indeed. I shall give you a sense of the figures in our policing
area: Thames Valley police has 8,000 employees4,000 of
whom are police officerswe police a population of 2.2 million
and we record around 200,000 crimes a year; those are pretty large
numbers. We arrest about 70,000 people a year,
not all for recorded crimes, and of those 116 are teachers. Many
of those arrests are for other crimes: 20 are for drink-driving
or possession of drugs, there are even a few burglaries and frauds
in there as well. Those are not to do with their professional
lives, but to do with criminality away from the workplace. This
issue accounts for very few of the arrests made and it would be
my contention that they are made, by and large, for very good
reason. Reading the submission from Mr Kaufman that we are discussing,
on occasion it might be that the police have some very good reasons
for a course of action, but it is not in our interest, or anybody's
interest, to discuss those, confer or collaborate with the defence
solicitor. Part of investigatory activity from time to time will
be covert and we cannot announce it to everybody. The argument
for making a special case is not supported by either the evidence
or by good investigative practice.
Q67 Mr Timpson: As a Committee,
how do we square what you tell us with the evidence given to us
by the NUT and the ASCL? They say that the police arrest teachers
Nick Gargan: We can look at the
figures and the cases and assess whether the arrest is justified.
In the wake of human rights legislation, if we look more broadly
at reviews such as Sir Ronnie Flanagan's review into policing,
we continually find evidence of risk aversion on the part of the
police, rather than reckless risk taking. I think that we need
to shine a light onto the facts and see whose argument is best
supported by them. My view is that our use of arrest against teachers
is very limited.
Q68 Mr Timpson: Is there any guidance
from the Department for Children, Schools and Families about when
to arrest? They didn't give us a response when we put that as
part of the terms of reference in their memo to us.
Nick Gargan: I haven't seen any
guidance from them; we tend to rely on the National Policing Improvement
Agency. There is some very effective guidance dating back to 2005
on investigating child abuse and safeguarding children that has
an annexe specifically dealing with these issues. We are also
guided by Working Together to Safeguard Children and the
initial police learning and development programme and the Professionalising
Investigation programme, which are our own in-house training materials,
one of which I have quoted to you already. We turn to those for
adviceI am unaware of guidance from the DCSF.
Q69 Chairman: I don't think the
Hansard reporter could see you lift that document. Do you
think they can have a copy?
Nick Gargan: They can have my
copy if they want.
Q70 Mr Timpson: Just on a slightly
different issue about CRB checks. I know you were not here earlier
to hear the evidence given, but there is quite clear concern among
many in the teaching profession about the enhanced information
on CRB checks; the police feel that such soft information is relevant
to that person and their future employment. Both the terminology
used by the police in that and the necessity for it in every circumstance
is not always right. Do you accept that? If you do, is there anything
the police should be doing to try and improve the phrasing they
use on CRB checks as well as their role?
Nick Gargan: The first point I
will make is general. All we do is supply the information. We
don't make decisions, we simply provide information on which others
will base decisions. At the risk of diving back into the safety
of numbers, a force like Thames Valley policewith a population
of just over 2 millionsees enhanced CRB checks coming in
at the rate of 1,000 a day.
Q71 Chairman: How many?
Nick Gargan: A thousand per working
day, or 200,000 a year, and of those, about one a day will fall
into this category. This is in relation to all categories, not
simply teachers. About one a day will be considered for disclosure
either of soft intelligence, or of conviction information, where
we decide to put some additional context to that information.
For example, somebody might have been convicted of assault causing
actual bodily harm, but to do justice and understand the context
of that offence, we want to add some information, such as that
the victim was a seven-year-old child. Together, those two categories
amount to one per daythe additional information disclosure.
The person in our force who makes the decision on whether or not
to disclose that information is me. It is always a chief officer
in Thames Valley police. I make half a dozen of those decisions
a week. If you compare that to the authority level required to
conduct an intimate search of somebody, carry out surveillance
or acquire communications data and so on, those authorisation
levels are taken at much more junior levels in the organisation.
We do that because we take this incredibly seriously. With the
majority of cases that come my way, I sanction the disclosurethe
additional information. In relation to teachers, so far this calendar
year we have made five disclosures in Thames Valley police. Three
were related to violence, one to a matter of public indecency
and one to a matter of grooming of a young woman in the workplace.
Q72 Chairman: What was that?
Nick Gargan: Grooming of a young
woman in the workplace. All five of those were considered very
carefully by a chief officer, as are all of our additional information
disclosures. There is an avenue of appeal back through the CRB
to ask us to reconsider in the light of additional information
provided. I cannot speak for every police force in the country,
but I know that police services are acutely aware of the risk
they takethe risk of being sued or of being held to account
for a perverse decision. We balance that with the risk of hanging
on to information that might be relevant or true and that might
prevent harm to children. I apologise for the long answer but
it is a complicated question. We discharge that serious responsibility
with an appropriate level of care.
Chairman: David, shall we come back to
Q73 Mr Chaytor: Just a couple
of things. Clare, you touched on the question of more training
needed for governors in this complex area. What would be the three
most important areas for further training? What do they need to
Clare Collins: Basically, just
understanding the law and what they should know and then some
sort of role play where they work through a process. When this
happensand it has happened to meyou feel like a
rabbit in the headlights. If you had gone through it in that safe,
secure environment, you would respond more appropriately.
Q74 Mr Chaytor: Finally, just
one specific point. When staff go to disciplinary hearingsif
it is for a very serious allegationdo they get legal representation,
or should they?
Clare Collins: Are you looking
Mr Chaytor: I am just throwing it out
to anyone who may know.
Clare Collins: It might be better
if Fiona dealt with this.
Fiona Hammans: It would probably
depend on the local authority agreed protocol. In our authority
you can have legal representation if the Governors are happy to
Q75 Mr Chaytor: So, will it vary
authority by authority, or school by school?
Fiona Hammans: Depending on whether
the status of the school is community or foundation. The association's
view is that if it is so serious that it could have such a level
of impact on your professional and wider life, then you would
be well advised to have counsel.
Q76 Chairman: Who pays the lawyer?
Fiona Hammans: It could be the
individual if they chose to, or it could be their professional
association or union.
Q77 Derek Twigg: Just one general
thing. When I was at school, if I ever got in troubleof
course, it was never my faultI would be more worried about
my parents finding out, because I would be in trouble with them.
All head teachers these days tell me that the number of teachers
who come in on the bounce, because their little Johnny "Couldn't
possibly have done anything wrong and would never tell an untruth,"
has massively increased in recent years. That is your view and
that is what head teachers tell me, so what is the role of the
parents in this procedure? We have not talked about parents at
all today. What happens to the parents? Are they interviewed,
do they come in, do you talk to them? Often the parent can tellnot
all the time, obviouslywhether their child is telling the
truth or not. What is the role and the responsibilities of the
parents in these procedures?
Kathryn James: I go back to my
earlier point about the ethos within the school. The way that
the school operates within the community is crucial, because that
will bring about a frame of mind. Parents will come into school
very angry, something has happened to their chid which has made
them very angry. Quite often in our members' situation, they need
to reassure that parent that they will take their complaint very
seriously, sit them down and give them a cup of tea and say, "Okay,
let's not get too agitated about this, let's sort out what has
actually happened and I will deal with it." If parents have
confidence that things will be dealt with, that can defuse a very
Q78 Derek Twigg: So it is about
preventing things going further?
Kathryn James: I think it is,
in a lot of cases. Parents, when they talk through the issues
with the school leadership team that is there, will quite often
say, "Okay, he or she does this at home, so okay, but I would
like you to look into it." As long as they are confident
that the school treats them with courtesy and also recognising
that there is an issue that must be reviewed, parents are reassured
and will go away and be content to see the school bring the investigation
Fiona Hammans: That is certainly
true, but when we look at distraction or malicious allegations,
the first you know about it is when you have the schools liaison
officer from Thames Valley police, for example, saying, "I
need to talk to you, because these parents presented themselves
with their child last night and this is the allegation, what are
you doing about it?" The local paper already knows about
it and that is where you get your rabbit-in-the-headlights, what
do I do? Quick, phone the chair of governors. There are two different
routes and that is a management issue, as well as the allegation.
Chairman: That is a very good point.
Clare Collins: I agree with what
has been said about the ethos of the school and I think this perhaps
refers to something that you were trying to get underneath earlier,
Graham, when you talked about deprived areas. I am concerned to
see that schools have a good complaints procedure, that parents
know about it and that everybody takes it seriously. One thing
that comes through all this is that these are allegations made
for which there is no substance, but there are allegations made
where there is substance. Parents must have confidence that, if
they say something has happened, they are not going to get a knee-jerk
defensive reaction from the head teacher"That couldn't
happen in my school." That is where the ethos comes in: the
professionalism of the people at the top really matters.
Q79 Chairman: Yeswe are
after good, well managed schools, are we not? Is there any evidence
that cyber bullying is common now? We did our inquiry into bullying,
as you know, and a very nasty, pernicious form of bullying it
is. There has been some suggestion in the media that MySpace and
Facebook are used in order to spread a network"This
is what you do if you want to get back at your teacher."
Is there evidence of that, or is it just nonsense?
Fiona Hammans: Definitely. I can
say from my own school that there is evidence that there can be
campaigns from certain groups of youngsters who have taken a dislike
to their teacher, and you need to manage it within the school.
7 Note by witness: In any documentation reference
should be made to the Department's Working Together to Safeguard
Children publication (2006). Chapter 3 deals with the role,
functions, governance and operational arrangements of LSCBs. Paragraph
6.20 onwards in Chapter 6 focus on the LSCB role in handling allegations
of abuse. Back
Note by witness: The number of people arrested in the
Thames Valley in 2008 was 68,376. Back