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

Memorandum submitted by Mark Jeffery


    — A school in difficult circumstances with serious underperformance and vulnerability.

    — A trap is set by a teacher who was underperforming.

    — Allegations and smear campaign were planned and well-orchestrated to maximum effect.

    — Swift action is taken to discredit myself and all those who are close to me. A smear campaign.

    — Step one—union action to bring first allegations escalated to highest level.

    — Step two—An independent investigation. Many more accusations.

    — Suspension of myself and my wife. Others resign.

    — Police investigation—allegations unsubstantiated.

    — Compromise agreement.

    — Called to account by the Independent Safeguarding Authority. Child protection accusations. unsubstantiated.

    — Called to account by GTC. No child protection matters to be accounted for.

    — No apology or declaration of innocence.

    — I am no longer involved in education in the UK.


  I was a head teacher. My career began in 1972 as an English teacher in Secondary School. In 1980 I left teaching to do various other jobs, including buying and managing a shop, writing, television production and charity work. In 1989 I became a primary teacher. In 1991 I was offered a senior position in a school in Lambeth, became a deputy head in 1994 and acting head within two years. In 1997 I became Head of a Primary School in Surrey which was highly successful. We gained Investors in People awards twice and received a School Achievement Award in recognition of our outstanding success in SATS results. We were one of the most successful primary schools in Surrey. Our Ofsted inspections were very good as was my leadership and management substantiated by a 360 degree appraisal with the NCSL.

  In 2005 I left to lead a school in difficult circumstances. I was 58 when I was accused in 2007. I am married for 36 years with six grown children.


  1.  In September 2005 I became Head teacher of a school which had been without a substantive head teacher for over three years. It was at the very bottom of the Surrey league tables. It had many serious issues, including poor teaching, overstaffing, falling role numbers, lack of resources, unruly behaviour, and the largest debt of any primary school in the county. Despite this, the first year was very successful in moving so many issues forward. Two of the poor teachers were asked to leave; new staff were appointed, especially good teaching assistants. Almost everything imaginable in the school needed to be changed, including the uniform and name of the school. The school was under an intensive support programme. I was asked to speak to Heads of other schools about the extraordinary change of fortune for the school.

  2.  In the second year I appointed some NQTs because of financial constraints, and a mature teacher, Mrs C, who was a late entrant to teaching and recently returned from some years in the USA. This is the teacher who organised the false allegations so easily and with devastating effect.

  3.  Getting good teachers to work in schools in difficult circumstances is always challenging and I was unfortunate that the quality of the NQTs was not good. Not only that, but it became very apparent early on that Mrs C's own ability left much to be desired. However she was not only a very charismatic person but also wealthy and influential among the younger staff. With encouragement from my external consultant (County and Diocese) I began to challenge some of the poor planning and superficial teaching in her year 6 class. In contrast she thought she was a very good teacher. My guess is that she saw the danger of her being challenged from her first term as she began to make close links to anyone who was discontented or under pressure in their performance, including the NQTs.

  4.  My consultants encouraged me to challenge her performance more strongly. There were concerns validated by external experienced consultants about teaching performance and failure to implement school policies and procedures. She had not marked her children's books for five months despite warnings. Her response to my challenge was swift and malicious. She met with one of my secretaries and made up to 30 serious allegations about me, including causing the death of a previous Teaching Assistant. My secretary reported the details to me. The smear campaign that started was so outrageous that I was not too worried about the ferocity of the allegations as I assumed wrongly that no one would take them seriously. The next day she stayed home professing stress, and said she would never come back. But from her home she organised a sustained campaign. She persistently telephoned members of staff. She persuaded six other members of staff (teaching, non-teaching and admin), mainly part-timers, to bring a complaint of bullying to her union representative who acted on behalf of all of them and instigated the County and grievance procedure.

  5.  This was the first clever part of the strategy. Even though there was no truth in the allegations they were raised to the highest level because of the number of allegations and the number of staff. I was not allowed to talk to any of the members of staff bringing the allegations. This meant that a formal meeting should have been called. I had no problem with that because at least the people bringing the allegations would have to talk to me. My hope was that there would be a resolution.

  6.  The chair of governors, who was quite new to the role—as were most of the governors—decided to organise an independent investigation through the Diocese of Guildford. Within the normal grievance procedure I would have had a chance to be heard and to present my case. But this changed everything. I was all in favour of transparency. However, the process was anything but transparent. For the next few weeks until the investigation there was an intense campaign organised by Mrs C, who phoned most of the staff to persuade them to join her campaign. Of the six remaining staff who were part of her group, one took sick leave and the others started having "secret" meetings in different parts of the school. They refused to come to the staffroom and met in secret. The strategy in a nutshell was to bring so many accusations that it would cause a virtual whirlwind of panic and confusion.

  7.  During the investigation interviews an atmosphere was created whereby the investigators were told that I had hidden cameras and recorders in the room, and indeed all over the school. The interviews were of unequal length, questions were not consistent and procedures were not followed as some were only interviewed by one person to save time. The danger of these interviews was that those who were seeking to "give me my come-uppance" (as it was expressed) were able to make incredible and extreme allegations without ever having the danger of being called to account. At least 10 of the allegations were concerning child-protection issues. These were reported to the governors and the LA.

  8.  The next day I was sent on "gardening leave". Two days later my wife, who worked at the school was also sent on gardening leave. No reason was given. She was teaching year 3 children but almost all of the allegations were regarding year 6 children, Mrs C's class. Two other Assistants took their leave immediately and other members of staff followed at the end of the term. The school was in chaos. Within a short period of time my wife and I were formally suspended as "a neutral act" which does not feel very neutral. We were told to hand back our school keys, hand over our computers and forbidden to talk to any member of the school community. This made us feel very isolated and defenceless. At this time I had little idea of the allegations that had been made. It felt as though the perception of my leadership had turned 180 degrees and there was a feeling of many people trying to "protect their backs" especially the LA.

  9.  There was intense pressure from the LA for me to resign. A police investigation was mounted and my wife was in great fear of a knock on the door and my being arrested. Over the next few months the police found nothing that could be substantiated. Mrs C refused to come forward and give evidence to the police. It seemed her work had been done and she was not wanting to incriminate herself; the same was true of her classroom assistant who helped her to make the accusations. The psychological pressure for me to resign never abated, though I hoped to be able to go back to the school; I had invested so much of my life in the school for the previous two years that I was keen not to let the children and the families down.

  10.  I was supported by my union rep and an experienced independent consultant who worked in the school. I became aware that my union appeared more keen to get a resolution and so encouraged me to take a compromise agreement. At this point I decided to engage the help of a solicitor. Once it became clear that I was unable to go back to the school, and that I would always have these allegations on my record even if found innocent, I gradually realised I would never teach again. So I reluctantly accepted the agreement after a haggling over the specific amount. Following this my wife was asked to take a compromise agreement. In her case there was no formal accusation against her except that she was married to me and maybe collaborated with me in anything I may have done. She wanted to go back to the school; psychological pressure was placed upon her by the HR department. She was told that everybody hated her. Even though these things were far from true she gave way in the end and resigned, refusing to compromise. She refused to accept any money as she had no wish to benefit from the situation; she just wanted her job back.

  11.  Other members of staff who supported us gradually resigned or were encouraged to leave. The school faced an Ofsted during this chaos without my presence and in the middle of the confusion that was prevalent at the school. I asked to input data and information to help the school but my input was rejected. Without the data on standards and an account of what improvements had been made Ofsted came to many conclusions which were totally inaccurate, and reflected very badly on myself.

  12.  At no point was I given the opportunity to meet my accusers. I had no opportunity to sit down with the governors or the LA and defend my case. I lost my job and my wife lost her job. We were left to face the credit crunch without being able to pay our mortgage. So we faced losing our home. Our saving grace was our faith in God, our love for one another and wonderful support from friends and the church. Many of those who went through the experience at the school and know the truth remain our present friends.

  13.  The irony is that nobody who has investigated the allegations made against me has been able to see the source of these allegations and why they were suddenly raised, when to myself and those of us in the school, including my consultant found it all to obvious.

  14.  I thought that that was the end of it. One year later I was contacted by the Independent Safeguarding Authority which was now to investigate the matter all over again in order for the Secretary of State to make a decision to bar or restrict me from carrying out work to which section 142 applies. I was devastated. I had assumed that as nothing had been proven and I had accepted an agreement to move on that the matter was finished. For the following three months I gathered all of the evidence I could lay my hands on, even though much was not available to me. I gathered testimonies from people who had known and worked with me all of my life. I presented Ofsted reports and other data regarding my character and achievements. A few months later I heard that the evidence had been presented to the Secretary of State and that in this case no further action would be taken. But all of my details will be kept on record. I still did not feel as though I had been proven innocent.

  15.  A few months later, almost two years now since the origin of the allegations, I received a letter from the GTC saying that they wanted to investigate my case. It took them a further three months to discover that there was no hard evidence against me regarding any child protection issues. In addition, all of the original transcripts of interviews by the investigators and been inadvertently destroyed. I asked whether I would have the possibility of bringing a complaint against the original teacher, who is now teaching in another local school, and her assistant who is still back in the original school. I was discouraged from taking such an action.

  16.  And so I and at least two other members of the staff are left without jobs, the school is slowly recovering with new leadership, having lost 25% of its pupils, and yet those who brought the allegations have nothing to answer for. In fact Mrs C. Has a history of this kind of activity having taken action against two principals when in America. She boasted about this in the staffroom when an independent consultant was present.


  1.  Take account of the integrity of the witnesses. When taking evidence from witnesses, adults or children, account must be taken of the integrity of the witnesses.

  2.  It must be recognised that in our modern society it can no longer be assumed that people will tell the truth. It will take great discernment to recognise when people are lying. (Head teachers and teachers are usually very good at this when dealing with disputes between children. A child who has a history of lying does not carry so much weight in an argument against someone who is known for always telling the truth.) Often an accused person with an excellent track record has to stand on equal footing against someone who is known to be an unreliable witness. When a teacher or head teacher has a long and good track record, this should be taken into consideration in the early stages as people rarely have a sudden personality change.

  3.  Governors, consultants and head teachers need to be trained in damage limitation and to find all ways possible to resolve issues and not to escalate them. Fear of recrimination seems to drive some people to protect themselves by raising the problem to the next level. They need to be prepared and trained to follow correct procedures.

  4.  There must be early opportunity to challenge the accuracy of accusations, especially when in my unusual case there were so many of them. How can a person withstand over thirty allegations. People are becoming wise as to which kind of allegations are most effective in damaging the victim. Child protection, a most serious allegation, is a case in point.

  5.  Those who bring serious allegations should not be promised anonymity if the accusations prove to be false. Accountability for all is essential.

  6.  The accused must also be allowed to produce witnesses. It is not fair that witnesses are only allowed on one side.

  7.  Witnesses must also be checked for their integrity and motives.

  8.  The practice of keeping false allegations on the record of teachers must stop. Teachers are entitled to a clean record like everyone else. Innocent until proven guilty.

  9.  Establish the motive. One of the most obvious things about the dozens of allegations that were brought against me was (a) They all came on or within one month of May 23rd when I had to reprimand the teacher in question. (b) The allegations were all supposed to have happened at different points during the previous year. Nobody on the investigation panels seemed to question why this might have been the case and why nobody bothered to raise any questions at the time of the supposed incidents.

  10.  Be aware of people wanting to change their position in order to "cover their backs". In my case I received so many positive comments from the LA, the Diocese, parents, governors and the Church. After I was suspended, however, many influential people began to distance themselves from me and thought it prudent not to be closely associated with my past success. Those new perceptions were then fed into the new management and following Ofsted reports as if they were the truth. And, of course, I or those who stood with me, had no opportunity to challenge any of this.

  11.  Schools in difficult circumstances are particularly vulnerable. Governors, head teachers and consultants should be made aware of this and trained accordingly. Head teachers taking on these kind of schools would benefit by special training from head teachers and consultants who have previous experience.

  12.  If found innocent the accused should be entitled to an apology and a public statement to that effect.

  13.  Compensation should be considered.

  14.  Anonymity for the accused is almost impossible. In my case the rumours were even worse than the false allegations. Anonymity for the accuser is the real issue. It is what makes these incidents more attractive for those who want to bring them; there is nothing to lose.

April 2009

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