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

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the NSPCC

  As discussed, I am writing regarding the recent evidence session held by the Children, Schools and Families Committee as part of its current inquiry into allegations against schools staff. I understand that the Committee will not be hearing any further oral evidence on this issue and I am therefore writing to clarify the NSPCCs position on these issues following the evidence given by witnesses on Wednesday 17 June. Thank you for providing the NSPCC with the opportunity to do so.


  The NSPCC recognises that allegations made against schools staff can sometimes be unfounded, unsubstantiated or malicious and that they can be very distressing for the person who is accused. However, the nature of allegations made against school staff are often complex and it is too simplistic to describe allegations which are not criminally prosecuted, or unsubstantiated, as "false". The NSPCC recommends that schools should designate allegations as either "unfounded", "unsubstatiated" or "malicious" rather than using the term "false", which suggests that the allegations are of no further concern and should be disregarded, which can also mean that any underlying reason for the allegation being made is not explored.

It is important to recognise that such allegations can be a cry for help or a sign that a child or young person is being abused at home or elsewhere. There should be full exploration of why the child or young person made the allegation, including an assessment of whether they need any extra support.


  The starting point of this issue must be the best interests of the child and ensuring a system that protects children and enables them to come forward if they are being abused.

We were particularly concerned by some comments made by witnesses at the evidence session which stated that children and young people needed to have "a clear understanding of the seriousness of the allegations that they might be making". This comment suggests that children and young people need to be interrogated before proceeding with making an allegation and could send out a message to children and young people that genuine allegations will not be believed.

  It is very difficult for children to bring a successful prosecution against people whom they know well, and relatively few children make allegations about abuse. Allegations of abuse need to be dealt with robustly, quickly and efficiently and children and young people must know who they can turn to if they are being abused and that any allegation will be thoroughly investigated. There should be no presumption at any point that the allegation is malicious. Such a decision should only be arrived at once the issue has been fully explored.


  We would like to refute oral evidence given to the Committee which stated that there is no justification for retaining details on a personnel file of an allegation which is shown to be unfounded, unsubstantiated or malicious. It is of course very important that the retention of records of such allegations must be consistent, reasonable and proportionate for all of the parties involved. However, allegations may be unsubstantiated, not because they are untrue, but because of a lack of evidence, or because allegations have been withdrawn by the person who made them. There were nine separate allegations against Ian Huntley—from sexual assault to rape—and all except one were investigated by Humberside Police between 1995 to 1999. The murder of two young girls in Soham by Ian Huntley demonstrates the importance of retaining allegations which have not been substantiated or are deemed unfounded. The case also highlights it is essential that information is shared properly between agencies and that staff who are responsible for this know how to do it in a timely and appropriate manner.

The NSPCC operates a system whereby any allegation relating to child protection that is made against either employed staff or volunteer independent visitors is kept on record. We release the information to future employers if we have reason to believe that the individual poses a risk to a child or a young person. We recommend that guidance on managing allegations which is due to be published shortly by the DCSF should state that any allegation relating to a child protection concern made against a staff member or volunteer, whether or not it has been found to be malicious, unsubstantiated or unfounded, should be kept whilst that person is still employed by the school where the allegation was made and also referred to a central point in the school's local authority. Sometimes it is only when `soft' intelligence of this kind is retained, and put together with other evidence that may come to light, that the risk an individual poses to children becomes apparent.

  We understand that the Committee's report on allegations against school staff is currently being drafted and that there will not be any further oral evidence sessions. However, if it is helpful we would be very happy to facilitate a meeting with one of our practitioners who has detailed knowledge and experience of handling allegations to ensure that the best interests of children and young people are at the centre of this issue.

June 2009

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