Protect abuse-claim teachers, say Tories

December 13, 2004

Teachers accused of abusing pupils should be granted the same level of anonymity, the Tories have said. The Conservatives want immediate legislation to give teachers a statutory guarantee of anonymity at least until a criminal charge is brought against them to help protect against malicious claims.Tim Collins, the shadow education secretary, said most teachers accused of abuse were later cleared but the claims could drive them to suicide.He claimed discipline was plummeting because teachers were hamstrung from imposing control as they knew a single child uttering the word “abuse” could end their career.Mr Collins will call for the changes in a Conservative debate in the Commons today. He will cite the case of one teacher acquitted earlier by Peterborough magistrates after a nine-month suspension.She had been accused of “strangling” one seven-year-old boy and pushing another during a primary school trip. He will also raise the case of Alastair Wilbee, the Isle of Wight headteacher who hanged himself after being accused of a sex offence against a boy pupil.Mr Collins will tell MPs: “If a child chooses to utter the word ‘abuse’, the teacher will face a presumption of guilt not innocence – and may find their professional and personal lives utterly ruined.”Stephen Twigg, the education minister, said the Government wanted to speed up the handling of allegations against teachers, but did not support calls for a statutory right to anonymity.He said: “We believe that what is better is to speed up the process that we have at the moment,”We have analysed about 1,600 cases in the past year. Forty per cent of these cases took more than three months to resolve.”A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: “If a pupil allegation is found to be malicious or deliberately false, we fully support headteachers in taking tough action, including permanent exclusion and criminal sanctions.”

The Telegraph

 

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