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Teachers get a rough deal



Shadow education secretary Tim Collins called for immediate legislation to give teachers a statutory guarantee of anonymity at least until a formal criminal charge is brought against them.He said that the vast majority of teachers accused of abuse were subsequently cleared but the claims could drive them to suicide, while discipline was plummeting because teachers were hamstrung from imposing control.The Government responded by saying it was trying to speed up the handling of allegations against teachers, but rejected the Tory call for special anonymity for them.Mr Collins, who is MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, in Cumbria, said: “Teachers are harassed, insulted, and attacked every day in our schools. One is assaulted every seven minutes.”Yet the scales of justice are weighted terribly against them.”If a teacher tries to restrain a violent and disruptive pupil or break up a fight, he may face suspension or even the end of his career.”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.”The vast majority of teachers accused of abuse are subsequently cleared – but the strain and stress involved, which often includes being spat at in the street and having homes and cars attacked, means that the incidence of suicide among teachers facing this vile accusation is alarmingly high.”It is hardly surprising in these circumstances that discipline in our schools is declining just as rapidly as stress levels among teachers reaches record highs.”How can anyone impose order in our classrooms if they know that any single child uttering one single word could finish their careers?”What is needed is immediate legislation to give teachers a statutory guarantee that their anonymity will be preserved, at least until the point when a formal criminal charge is brought in a court of law.”Mr Collins referred to a teacher acquitted earlier this month 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 also raised the case of Isle of Wight headteacher Alastair Wilbee, who hanged himself after being accused of a sex offence against a boy pupil.The coroner in that case also called for people accused of sex offences to be granted anonymity. He said the allegation caused the distress that led the 47-year-old to take his own life.Education Minister Stephen Twigg said that the Government was seeking to speed up the handling of allegations against teachers, but did not support Tory calls for a statutory right to anonymity. He said: “We believe delay is the key issue.”We don’t support legislation to provide a statutory guarantee (of anonymity). 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 and 40pc of these cases took more than three months to resolve.”We think that is totally unacceptable and we are working with the teaching unions and others to get a much more efficient system that is in the best interests of those who face unfounded allegations.”A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: “A comprehensive range of measures introduced to tackle bad behaviour and disaffection in the classroom has led to a 25pc drop in exclusions since 1997.”The crucial issue is for all allegations to be dealt with quickly, fairly and consistently to better protect teachers from false allegations and maintain effective protection for children.”We have worked closely with the teaching profession on new proposals for a streamlined, national investigation process, including target timescales and improved liaison between police and the CPS.”Of course, if a pupil allegation is found to be malicious or deliberately false, we fully support headteachers in taking tough action, including

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