Most accusations against teachers in Wales are dropped

Woman with head in hands 103 cases against teachers and teaching assistants were investigated by police and two were convicted

Related Stories

Over half of accusations made against teachers and teaching assistants by pupils in Wales turned out to be false, malicious or unfounded.

Figures for the last five years obtained by BBC Wales found 55% of 312 allegations were later dropped.

Teaching unions say that to try to deal with the problem, more action should be taken against those who make false or malicious claims.

The Welsh government said it is updating its guidance on the issue.

It said it will include advice on what consideration governing bodies should give to taking action against accusers.

But it added that it was important to take children's claims seriously and not deter pupils with genuine complaints from coming forward.

Teacher 'destroyed' by abuse lie

The Children's Commissioner for Wales Keith Towler said he wanted the Welsh government to publish their new guidance "as a matter of urgency".

The figures, obtained by BBC Wales under the Freedom of Information Act, show that between 2006 and 2011, 312 allegations were made against teachers and teaching assistants at Welsh schools.

EXAMPLES OF ALLEGATIONS

  • Child alleged rough handling
  • Hitting child in classroom
  • Inappropriate behaviour with sixth form pupils
  • Parent alleged teacher forced pupil to eat cake
  • Pushing pupil through a door
  • Inappropriate sexual comment
  • Historic sexual abuse
  • Source: Welsh councils

But 174 of those, or 55.7%, were later found to be either false, unfounded or malicious.

A total of 103 cases were investigated by police and two teachers or assistants were convicted of a crime.

Of those facing accusations, 121 were suspended while the allegations were investigated.

The NUT and NASUWT both say the problem could be even bigger than the figures suggest.

Three councils - Swansea, Ceredigion and Caerphilly - were not able to provide figures on the issue and some were only able to provide statistics for the past few years.

Unions insisted more needs to be done to protect teachers from false accusations, while balancing the right of pupils to make genuine complaints.

They also suggested the complaints procedure should be reviewed so that teachers can be treated more fairly. They say they are often treated as guilty until they can prove themselves innocent.

Figures for the last five years, obtained by BBC Wales, found out of 312 allegations just two members of staff were convicted of a crime.

"This is a matter of extreme concern for us and I know it's something that teachers are worried about," said Rex Phillips, Wales organiser for the NASUWT.

"It's every teacher's worst nightmare to have a false allegation made against them. Their reputation is damaged and they often find it hard to go back to work, even though they've been completely exonerated.

"We just want teachers to be treated fairly. Once an allegation is made, a teacher is often suspended immediately without even a bit of consideration given to if it can be true or not.

"There's no 'innocent until proven guilty'."

Police caution

He said he would like to see police using their powers more to deal with pupils who have been proven to have made a false or malicious allegation.

Start Quote

What we need to be doing is fostering a culture of respect between teachers and their pupils instead of pitching them against each other”

End Quote Keith Towler Children's Commissioner for Wales

"We would like a system where pupils can't make false allegations with impunity," he said.

"The police can issue a caution to the individual but I'm only aware of one case where this happened. I think it would send out a message to others that this will not be tolerated."

David Evans, Wales secretary of the NUT, said: "You have to realise that once an allegation is made, the rumour mill starts in schools and even if a teacher is later exonerated, there's the 'no smoke without fire' situation.

"Something needs to be done about it. There should be a complete overhaul of procedures and more should be done against those making false allegations."

Newport Council, where 71% of allegations were unfounded, said it followed guidelines when dealing with claims.

"Newport City Council and our schools take allegations against teachers and teaching assistants seriously and ensure swift action is taken in the interests of all parties concerned," a spokesperson said.

Updating guidance

TYPICAL PROCEDURE FOR DEALING WITH ALLEGATIONS

If an allegation is made and if it involves an issue of child protection (which can range from physical assault to mental or sexual abuse), the school must alert the local authority.

The teacher is usually suspended as soon as an allegation is reported.

A strategy meeting is set up that looks at the nature of the allegation. This involves social services, the police, representatives of the school and possibly of the local authority. The accused or their representatives do not have a right to be there.

The people in the meeting can then refer the matter to the police or back to the school to investigate.

If it goes back to the school, it is obliged to launch an independent investigation. Most schools use an independent company appointed by the Welsh government.

If an allegation goes to the police, they investigate and may pass the case onto the Crown Prosecution Service who will decide if it goes to court.

If a teacher is found guilty, sacked or resigns as a result of the process, they have to appear before the General Teaching Council for Wales.

Source: NASUWT

Children's Commissioner for Wales Keith Towler said: "Classrooms should be safe places for both teachers and pupils.

"What we need to be doing is fostering a culture of respect between teachers and their pupils instead of pitching them against each other.

"I am particularly concerned by the statement about the proposed criminalisation of children found to have made false accusations - this could act as a considerable disincentive for those children who do have an allegation to make.

"We have waited for new guidance from the Welsh government for quite some time and I press them to publish as a matter of urgency."

The Welsh government said it did not want to see teachers being falsely accused, but added: "We must not do anything that might undermine the child's right to be heard or deter children with genuine complaints from coming forward.

"There is provision within the Education Act 2011 that provides anonymity to teachers facing accusations of criminal behaviour against pupils at school.

"The provision, which applies to both England and Wales, is not applicable to the General Teaching Council for Wales investigations, hearings or outcomes.

"We have a range of policies in place that set out clearly how allegations against a teacher should be handled within the school, and a process for independent external investigation where this is required.

"The Welsh government is currently working with stakeholders, including teaching unions, to update its guidance on handling of staff disciplinary cases.

"In the guidance, which sets out a fair and transparent process for the handling of disciplinary cases against teachers, we intend to make provision relating to the handling of malicious or false accusations and what consideration governing bodies should give to taking action against accusers."

ALLEGATIONS MADE AGAINST TEACHERS AND TEACHING ASSISTANTS FROM 2006-2011

Council Teachers and assistants accused Malicious, false or unfounded

Anglesey

8

Figures not available

Blaenau Gwent

24

19

Bridgend

8

0

Caerphilly

Figures not available

Cardiff

42

11

Carmarthenshire

11

5

Ceredigion

Figures not available

Conwy

2 (figures for 2009-10)

2

Denbighshire

16

12

Flintshire

6

Figures not available

Gwynedd

15 (figures for 2009-10)

15

Merthyr Tydfil

23

21

Monmouthshire

7

2

Neath Port Talbot

2 (figures for 2009-11)

1

Newport

35

25

Pembrokeshire

7

Figures not available

Powys

13 (figures for 2009-11)

7

Rhondda Cynon Taff

23

6

Swansea

Figures not available

Torfaen

18 (figures for 2009-11)

18

Vale of Glamorgan

37

26

Wrexham

15

4

Total for Wales

312

174

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Wales stories

RSS

Features