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

Memorandum submitted by Mick Madden


  As a member of the public and as someone who has raised the injustice of the present system in relation to allegations against staff in schools in other areas, I would ask that you take up this issue with the Select Committee.

Although my own case is slightly more complicated than most, I have worked in schools for 27 years and am aware of some of the many shortfalls in the systems set up to deal with such allegations.

I have outlined below my general comments in relation to the terms of reference of the Children, Schools and Families select committee Inquiry. I have then added a number of specific points to my own case which I hope will be helpful.

1.   Scale and nature of allegations of improper conduct made against school staff

    —  Not really able to comment on scale of problem except that there appears to be many more cases than ever. —  Many of these cases are trivial, unfounded and/or unlikely.

    —  These now also involve a wider range of staff than just teachers as more jobs in schools are taken on by support staff.

    —  We need to be clear what is improper conduct in these cases. Breaking the law, abusing or harming children etc. Needs to be defined clearer with a range of agreed and more appropriate responses.

    —  Severity of allegation needs to be considered on a case by case level.

    —  Trawls for negative information should be outlawed and persons contravening this should be held individually liable.

2.   Should staff subject to allegations remain anonymous?

    —  Definitely, although this is not always possible as many people will be aware of the problems. Human nature is often "there is no smoke without fire" and within communities like schools people talk. —  Investigations go on for an unreasonable period of time.

    —  Staff, pupils and families may need to be aware of what is happening in terms of the process and that "it is a neutral act" to suspend. This is often not made clear and rumours occur.

    —  The accuser and accused need to understand the importance of retaining the confidentiality while matters are being investigated.

3.   Is the guidance adequate or should it be revised in relation to:

3.1  Procedures for Disciplinary panel

    —  Procedures are wrongly based on the presumption of guilt. —  All information is not always available to the accused.

    —  Time limits are far to short in terms of preparation time.

    —  Pre-hearings might be considered as a way of establishing background information and what additional evidence may be needed.

    —  In the case of serious allegations the accused should be able to take a legal representative to the hearing to speak on their behalf as well as a union representative or colleague from work.

    —  Panels should be allowed to make their own genuine decisions without pressure from LA's or others.

3.2  When is suspension appropriate?

    —  Where serious allegations have been made that may lead to legal action. —  Where others are likely to be hurt or injured further.

    —  Where it is alleged there has been systematic misconduct (physical, sexual or emotional).

    —  Where others may be involved and it is important to preserve evidence.

    —  Only in a small number of cases. There should be a clear understanding of why the decision to suspend has been taken and an opportunity to challenge this before any investigation/hearings take place.

    —  All other available options should be pursued first.

    —  There should be a strict time limit and clear updating of information to the suspended person and their representative (at least monthly).

3.3  When is arrest appropriate?

    —  Police should only arrest a staff member when a serious complaint has been made, it is seen to be plausible/possible and has a likelihood of the law being broken and could reasonably lead to prosecution. Evidence should be gathered from complainant and witnesses before any arrest. —  Arrest should not be seen as automatic procedure as appears to be the case.

    —  Good reason should be given for the decision to arrest and this should be approved by a senior officer.

    —  Head teacher should be asked for their view.

3.4  Should records of unfounded allegations be retained?

    —  No, a clear decision should be reached in each allegation as to whether records are to be retained or not. —  If records are to be retained this should be for a specified period and for specified reasons.

    —  Professional associations and CRB could be informed of allegations but this information should not be used against individuals unless a case is proven.

    —  There should be an appeal/review process where records retained can be reconsidered at time intervals.

    —  Only people found to be a risk to children should be considered for inclusion on any lists.

    —  There should be a right of appeal for inclusion on any risk and regular reviews.

    —  Only records likely to be helpful in future prosecutions should be retained.

    —  Cases that do not hold weight or are not proven should be dismissed.

    —  Unfounded allegations should not be used to hound people.


    —  NSPCC commissioned by LA to carry out a wide ranging inquiry following an allegation against the Head Teacher. It is my belief that this was the wrong body to carry out such an inquiry as this was predominantly an issue of management and interpersonal skills. —  A trawl of information was carried out against specific staff (including myself as the Designated Person for Child Safeguarding).

    —  I was not allowed access to the NSPCC report (and still have no access).

    —  I was suspended (neutral act!) several months later on the suspicion of Gross Misconduct.

    —  I was not allowed contact with colleagues, pupils or their families.

    —  Access to information on pupil files was difficult to obtain.

    —  LA did not hold data on referrals etc, so it was difficult to prove what actions I had previously taken in relation to Safeguarding.

    —  A Gross Misconduct hearing was held by the governors but they were instructed to withdraw by the LA as they (as well as the LA were implicated in my defence).

    —  The case against was presented by the LA.

    —  A reconvened hearing took place.

    —  The LA selected a new team of Governors from other schools (different type of school).

    —  The LA presented the case against.

    —  The LA representative advised the panel, questioned witnesses and myself.

    —  The policy obliged the panel to accept the advice of the LA representative or risk being held individually liable for any future claim.

    —  I had to try and prove myself innocent without access to the same range of information or resources as was available to the LA.

    —  My union was less than supportive and were felt to be embroiled with the LA in allowing such an unfair process to run its course.

    —  I was dismissed from my job for procedural and administrative errors.

    —  No restrictions were put on my ability to work with children.

    —  No one had been hurt or injured by my actions or inaction.

    —  No previous complaints had been made or any actions taken against me in 27 years of impeccable service.

    —  I had no formal or informal supervision.

    —  I had taken on several additional roles to assist the school and children (including running the school for 10 days).

    —  I lodged an appeal.

    —  I successfully applied for and gained a more junior role at a local mainstream school.

    —  The LA (HR dept) had assisted the acting head of my previous school to prepare a reference.

    —  I was effectively forced out of this role by the LA putting unfair and undue pressure on the Head Teacher and Governors to reverse their decision to employ me. The Head was threatened with suspension.

    —  I resigned to save any further upset or pressure being exerted.

    —  An appeal was set up and on the day of the appeal I had a letter from the Independent Safeguarding Authority to say the LA had referred my case for consideration as to whether I was safe to work with Children and/or vulnerable adults.

    —  An appeal was held and I asked the panel (management board of the school) to make a judgement once they had heard the case on my ability to work with children and/or vulnerable adults so that they could guide the LA.

    —  My appeal was turned down after lengthy deliberation and strong advice from the LA.

    —  The panel were not allowed by the LA to make any recommendation on my ability to work with children.

    —  The chair of the new Management Board of the school met with the panel members and requested a meeting with senior LA representatives to inform them that in the view of the Board no restrictions should be placed on me working with children or vulnerable adults.

    —  The school that appointed me on a junior role were then made the subject of an inquiry into the process of appointment, child protection and governance.

    —  The school visited by a small team of individuals who interviewed staff, pupils and governors and the verbal feedback was very positive and the school were reassured that everything was in order

    —  Some weeks later the LA again contacted the Head Teacher to say they wanted to revisit and this time tape record the interviews with himself and each of the selection committee involved in my appointment.

    —  The team revisited, interviewed the Head on tape and a number of others were re-interviewed but refused to be taped.

    —  They await the outcome.

  Sorry to be so lengthy in my submission but I am sure you can see why I feel unfairly victimised by what is supposed to be a fair and transparent process seeking to establish the truth.

  Please feel free to use all/or part of this letter in your work with the Select committee.

May 2009

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