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:
scale and nature of allegations of improper conduct made against
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
- when arrest of the staff member concerned is
- 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
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