Allegations of Abuse Against Teachers

July 27th, 2011 by Clive Sheldon QC

The Department of Education has issued statutory guidance for ‘Dealing with Allegations of Abuse against Teachers and Other Staff’ (see Local authorities and governing bodies must have regard to this guidance when dealing with allegations of abuse.

The key points of the guidance are that:

(1) allegations should be resolved quickly;

(2) suspension of staff should not be the ‘default option’ once an allegation is made; suspension should only take place where there is ‘no reasonable alternative’;

(3) malicious allegations should be removed from personnel records, and unsubstantiated, unfounded or malicious allegations should not be referred to in employment references;

(4) pupils making malicious allegations may be sanctioned under the school’s behaviour policies;

(5) all institutions should have procedures for dealing with allegations.

The Guidance reminds governing bodies and local authorities that they have ‘a duty of care to their employees’ and so should ‘ensure they provide effective support for anyone facing an allegation’.

Governing bodies should refer allegations of harm or possible harm  to children; criminal offences against or related to a child; or behaviour towards children which indicate that the staff member would pose a risk of harm if working regularly or closely with children, to the local authority designated officer (LADO). The LADO can then decide whether police or social services should be contacted. Reference to the LADO should be made before speaking to the accused person. The accused should, however, be informed of the allegation as soon as possible after the LADO has been consulted, unless a strategy discussion is needed or police/social services involvement is required, in which case notification may be delayed.

The Guidance makes specific reference to Resignations and the use of ‘Compromise Agreements’ when the accused tenders his or her resignation or ceases to provide services. The Guidance states that tendering a resignation ‘must not prevent an allegation being followed up in accordance with the procedures’, but the accused should (even though they may have left employment) be given a full opportunity to answer the allegation and make representations about it. 

The Guidance emphatically states that ‘compromise agreements’, by which a person agrees to resign if disciplinary action is not pursued, and it is agreed that a form of words is to be used for future references, ‘must not be used in these cases’.

All in all, the Guidance seems to provide a sensible set of arrangements and procedures: protective of the rights and interests of both the accuser and the accused.

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