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

Memorandum submitted by Nigel Morris—Head teacher


  I am the Head teacher in a secondary boys BESD Special school. Our students have complex difficulties and these are often shared by their families as well. We have a high proportion of students who arrive at this school with a history of making allegations against staff; a large percentage who have been abused or there is suspicion of abuse. A large percentage who resort readily to violence and need physical intervention to protect the safety of others. In short, it is the kind of environment where there is a high risk of false allegations. This has to be balanced by ensuring robust procedures to identify those who do behave unprofessionally.

Procedures for the disciplinary hearing are good. Problems arise because of the timescale for reaching this point. In one case it was some 18 months and in a current, more straightforward case, six months. Both cases were unfounded. There should be a clearly defined timescale which should be adhered to unless there is good and documented reason not to.

There should be a preliminary assessment following any allegation against staff and the strategy meeting should have the authority to make professional judgements as well as factual ones.

  It appears the Police procedure allows no room for officers to make a judgement about the validity of the allegation. In one case a member of staff allegedly assaulted a student in the presence of other students. None of the students including the alleged victim made any reference to this at the time and neither did their parents (This does not happen when a student is assaulted in front of witnesses) and didn't do until two weeks later the parent of the alleged victim complained to the Police and an investigation followed. The case was dropped after three months and an internal investigation led to no further action. There was a huge amount of evidence at the initial strategy meeting to indicate that this was a malicious allegation. All present agreed that if the allegation had not gone to the Police the strategy meeting would have concluded that no further action was needed but because the allegation was made directly to the Police the member of staff was subject to a lengthy suspension.

  It appears that where the Police have a minor allegation against a member of staff that they treat this as low priority and against a murder enquiry this is obvious. The Police are not required to consider the impact of suspension on a member of staff, their family, colleagues and the school community. There should be a dedicated group of officers who deal with allegations and this should be within a fixed, short timescale.

  Suspension remains appropriate where an investigation is taking place, however, working away from staff and children should be the norm to allow an initial assessment to take place.

  The professional judgement of those with experience of the individuals concerned should be given a weighting.

  Where an allegation is false there should be no reference to the case on a person's file. The Disciplinary Panel should have the authority to make a recorded decision on this.

  Where an allegation is false the student and any supporters of the allegation should be removed from the school.

April 2009

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