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

Memorandum submitted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)

    —  ATL is a union that has a membership of 160,000. —  The membership is made up of teachers, lecturers and support staff.

    —  Members work in the four to 19 age group in the private, maintained and independent sectors.

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

  2. ATL members report that allegations of improper conduct cover a wide spectrum including allegations of verbal or physical abuse.

  3. In a recent survey conducted by ATL 50.2% of respondents said that they knew of a colleague who had a false allegation made against them.

  4. Anonymity of staff subject to allegations.

  5. It is ATL's view that anonymity should be preserved up to the point of criminal charge. Whilst investigations are being conducted in situations where an individual has been suspended then anonymity underscores the principle that suspension is a neutral act. It is recognised that anonymity within a school setting is difficult but employers should not make contact with or respond to the media in such a way that anonymity is breached.

  6. Should guidance be revised?

  7. The Guidance used by head teachers, school governors, local authority and police can currently be found in the Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education Guidance of January 2007. That Guidance needs to be revised generally to take account of the provisions of the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

  8. Specific paragraphs in the Guidance in `Chapter 5 Dealing with Allegations of Abuse Against Teachers and Other Staff' need to be revised in light of its application in practice.

  9. Para 5.2—A monitoring procedure needs to be established to ensure compliance and to comply with the provisions of the ISA.

  10. Para 5.3—The paragraph needs updating to take account of the revised lists with the introduction of the ISA.

  11. Para 5.6—Should include a requirement that the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) be obliged to keep individual informed of progress of review meetings. Cross reference with Para 5.12.

  12. Para 5.7—Schools should be explicitly required, save in exceptional circumstances, to maintain confidentiality up until the point at which an individual is charged.

  13. Para 5.10—Provision must be made for an individual to correct any inaccuracies regarding an allegation contained in their personnel file. There should be guidance to ensure a uniform way of schools applying such a provision.

  14. There needs to be a revision of the way in which the Criminal Records Bureau records enhanced disclosure. Currently each local police force records what they consider relevant to the post an individual applies for. There is no uniformity in the type or manner in which a local police force records details of an allegation. To ensure uniformity guidance should be provided for local police forces on the information to be included in an enhanced disclosure form. Templates could be drawn up that show specific outcomes. Templates could ensure a consistency of record keeping, irrespective of geographic location.

  15. Para 5.11—The experience of ATL members is that an inordinate amount of time can lapse between either the allegation being made and referral to police and between the end of a police investigation and the conclusion of an internal school investigation.

  16. Monitoring should take place to ensure that the suggested time scales in the Guidance are being complied with.

  17. Para 5.12—The experience of ATL members is that the Designated Officer does not keep individuals informed of progress of developments. The Guidance needs to be revised to include an obligation on the Designated Officer to keep the individual informed of the progress of their case.

  18. Para 5.14—ATL members report that it is not rare for employers to refer matters to the police and/or social services. In a recent ATL survey out of those who were referred to the police 82.1% resulted in no further action after the initial police interview. The decision to refer to the police is a school based one

  19. Para 5.17—ATL's members have expressed concern about the impact on them of having to deal with defending a false allegation made against them. It would assist if the Guidance gave examples of false allegations and drew up a flowchart of the steps an employer should take when faced with any type of allegation. The steps will differ depending on whether the allegation is demonstrably false or unfounded or not.

  20. Para 5.25—A monitoring process needs to be established to ensure that the local authority designated officer is regularly reviewing cases and monitoring progress. An individual who is the subject of an allegation should be included in the list of people/organisations that the LADO should liaise with.

  21. Para 5.34—The Guidance should require that a clear record be made in the personnel file of the individual who is the subject of the false allegation, that the allegation was false and of the action taken against the individual who made the false allegation, and if no action, why not.

  22. Para 5.41-5.43—The experience of ATL members is that the timescales are not being complied with. The Guidance needs to ensure that there is an adequate system of monitoring compliance.

  23. Para 5.49—Guidance needs to be revised to take account of the ISA.

May 2009

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Prepared 16 July 2009