Press release

Teachers most vulnerable to false accusations according to new research

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Findings from research into allegations against school teachers.

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Government legislating to protect teachers

Nearly half of serious allegations against school teachers turn out to be unsubstantiated, malicious or unfounded, according to new research published today (17 October 2011).

The findings also show that school teachers are more likely to face allegations than other staff in schools and further education colleges.

This comes as the government is looking to give teachers a legal right to anonymity from allegations made by pupils until the point they are charged with a criminal offence. The new power is in the Education Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.

The interim findings from a survey of 116 local authorities in England show that in 2009 to 2010, of the 12,086 allegations of abuse referred to local authorities:

  • almost one in four allegations against staff were made against school teachers (2827)
  • nearly half of the allegations (1234) made against school teachers were then found to be unsubstantiated, malicious or unfounded
  • almost a fifth of school teachers (459) were suspended whilst the allegation was being investigated
  • only around half of investigations (2264) against school teachers and non-teaching staff were dealt with within a month - the government guidance says 80 per cent of cases should be concluded by this time

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

Every allegation of abuse must be taken seriously, but some children think they can make a false allegation without any thought to the consequences for the teacher concerned.

When these allegations are later found to be malicious or unfounded, the damage is already done. It can have a devastating impact and ruin a teacher’s career and private life.

This research shows why the coalition government’s plan to give teachers a legal right to anonymity when allegations are made by pupils is so important. We will back teachers as they seek to maintain discipline in schools and raise academic standards.

The government has already revised guidance to local authorities and schools to speed up the investigation process when a teacher or a member of staff is accused by a pupil of an offence. This will help ensure all allegations are swiftly dealt with.

New advice published in July 2011 makes it clear that:

  • heads can temporarily or permanently exclude pupils who make malicious allegations. In extreme circumstances, they can involve the police if there are grounds for believing a criminal offence has been committed
  • schools should not automatically suspend teachers accused of using force unreasonably where other alternatives exist
  • the vast majority (80 per cent) of cases should be resolved within a month, 90 per cent within three months and all but the most exceptional within a year
  • malicious, unsubstantiated or unfounded allegations should not be included in employment references, and malicious allegations stripped from teacher personnel records

The legal protection from false allegations comes as part of the government’s drive to improve school discipline and shift the balance of power in the classroom back to teachers. Research shows that two thirds of teachers say bad behaviour is driving professionals out of the classroom.

Other measures in the Education Bill to give teachers the confidence to exercise authority and ensure good behaviour in the classroom include:

  • extending teachers’ powers to search pupils for any items that have, or could be, used to cause harm or break the law, and for items banned by school rules
  • stopping appeals panels sending excluded children back to the school from which they were excluded
  • removing the requirement on schools to give parents 24 hours notice of detention

Notes to editors

The interim findings of the research into allegations against teachers and non-teaching staff can be downloaded from the publications section of our website.

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Published 17 October 2011