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

1  Introduction

1. School staff are in a position of trust. Parents and carers entrust children to their care daily in the expectation that they will be safe. In all but a few isolated cases, school staff respect that position and fulfil their duty of care. Occasionally, however, a member of staff will be accused by a pupil or parent of improper conduct of a type which may cause harm to that child. This is the Report of an inquiry which set out to establish whether the procedures for handling such claims are fair to those who are subject to them.

2. The terms of reference for our inquiry, which was announced on 1 April 2009, sought evidence on:

—  The scale and nature of allegations of improper conduct made against school staff;

—  Whether staff subject to allegations should remain anonymous while the case is investigated;

—  Whether the guidance available to head teachers, school governors, police and others on how to handle claims of improper conduct by school staff should be revised, with particular reference to:

  • the procedures to be followed by disciplinary panels;
  • when suspension of the staff member concerned is appropriate;
  • when arrest of the staff member concerned is appropriate; and
  • the retention of records of allegations found to be false.

Although our terms of reference related specifically to school staff, this Report will also have some relevance to allegations made against staff at further and higher education institutions.

3. We received just over thirty written submissions from teachers, unions representing school staff (including school leaders), the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), the Teacher Support Network, the National Governors' Association and others. We also took oral evidence on 17 June 2009. The oral evidence and some of the written evidence is published with this Report. Some written submissions we have neither published nor reported to the House: in several cases, this is because the author requested confidentiality.

4. We have purposely not investigated in detail particular cases described by individuals in written submissions. While this may disappoint some of those who clearly and maybe justifiably feel that they have suffered a serious injustice, we do not believe that the role of a parliamentary select committee is to try to resolve individual complaints.

5. The underlying question for this inquiry was one of balance: whether the rigour of the precautionary approach adopted in order to safeguard children is becoming disproportionate to the cost to those whose careers in working with children in schools may be destroyed on the basis of unfounded allegations.

6. Wherever that balance should lie, we believe that school staff subject to allegations should be treated according to acknowledged principles of justice and that a person accused of wrongdoing should be seen as innocent until proven guilty. The aim should always be to deal with allegations speedily, effectively and justly, to minimise the cost and the impact upon those accused.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 16 July 2009