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Teachers under stress from false allegations

Union director: Damaging false allegations .

A LEADING teaching union has released figures that suggest teachers, who may already be feeling the strain of an excessive workload, are having to deal with another worrying aspect of their daily routine: False allegations.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) issued the figures that show a staggering 38% of school and college staff say, that at some point, a false allegation has been made against a colleague in their establishment by a pupil. It also showed that 22% of all workers in education, at some point in their career, will themselves have a false allegation made against them.

Staff surveyed by the ATL complained that their schools or colleges had not been supportive enough and only 43% of staff said they were happy with how their establishment had dealt with the false allegation.

Dr Mary Bousted, Director of ATL Cymru, said: “The welfare and safety of children is paramount, but there needs to be a right balance to ensure that teachers, heads and support staff do not suffer unnecessarily when false allegations are made. It is sad but true that sometimes young people make up allegations – they may be angry, under stress, suffering problems at home for instance -and this must be taken into account when investigating allegations. Schools and colleges have a duty to make sure innocent staff receive the support and protection they need so that their careers and lives are not irretrievably damaged by a false allegation. The law needs to be changed to give all education staff the same rights to anonymity until charged – without this, innocent teaching assistants, school librarians and lab technicians as well as assistants, lecturers and managers in further education risk having their lives blighted unnecessarily.”

NUT Cymru Policy Officer, Owen Hathway, said: “Accusations made against teachers have a devastating impact on their lives, both personally and professionally. There is no underestimating the sort of stress such incidents place on practitioners.”

Asked about the issue from the perspective of the accuser, he said: “We must of course ensure that any issues are investigated. The safety and well-being of children is paramount to everything that teachers do in schools and that must always remain the case. However, what is concerning is the increasing number of false accusations that we are dealing with. There is a culture of assuming guilt and the lives of teachers are often devastated because of that.”

A spokesperson for Pembrokeshire County Council gave this response when asked what steps were being taken in the County to protect teachers from false allegations: “Pembrokeshire County Council has robust procedures in place for the management of allegations against adults who work with children in line with the All Wales Child Protection Procedures. Through effective induction, supervision and training, teachers are made aware of safe working practices to safeguard themselves and the children with whom they work. When an allegation is received, staff are fully supported through the allocation of a designated welfare person and, should the need arise, support through the Authority’s Occupational Health Unit.”