False claims are destroying careers

SOME pupils in Suffolk are destroying their teachers' careers by falsely accusing them of serious offences, according to unions.The malicious allegations include claims of sexual harassment, assault and bullying and are happening in both primary and secondary schools, they say.

SOME pupils in Suffolk are destroying their teachers' careers by falsely accusing them of serious offences, according to unions.

The malicious allegations include claims of sexual harassment, assault and bullying and are happening in both primary and secondary schools, they say.

Now the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are calling for tougher penalties and a change to the current system.

Keith Anderson, Suffolk federation secretary for NASUWT, said while it was important youngsters felt comfortable in reporting inappropriate behaviour, there had to be a balance.


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He said: “There have been several incidents, even in Suffolk, where teachers have been accused of offences and subsequently found to be completely innocent. The trauma it has on the accused is devastating and it can destroy careers.

“Not only are teachers hauled in front of the headteacher and escorted off the premises but there is then the subsequent investigation and police interview and all the while rumours are circulating between members of staff and between the students.

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“At the end of all that, even if an individual is found to be innocent, there is the whole 'no smoke without fire' attitude.

“While we don't want to dissuade students from making allegations it is important that they know any claim has to be genuine otherwise they will be severely punished.”

Mr Anderson said the NASUWT, which starts its annual national conference today in Belfast, would now be calling for all students who make false accusations to be permanently expelled from their school.

He said: “Obviously nobody wants to see any child abused but at the same time we have got to counter balance that with the fact that students can make malicious allegations for all sorts of reasons.”

Martin Goold, Suffolk secretary of the NUT, which started its national conference in Harrogate last week, said the current system did very little to protect teachers.

He said: “The overall feeling is definitely one of guilty until proven innocent and there is an automatic assumption the teacher is at fault.

“Even if completely innocent the accusation is still kept on the record and our concern is that this can still count against an individual and can not only have a detrimental effect on their career in terms of pay and future prospects, but also their health.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said pupil allegations were investigated thoroughly and robustly in a measured and fair way.

He said: “Fortunately, in Suffolk, cases in which the allegations have been proven to be totally false are extremely rare. “To suggest that a blanket policy of permanent exclusion should be applied to any pupil found to be responsible for making a false allegation however, requires very careful examination.

“Such a policy might deter pupils from reporting genuine allegations for fear that, if they are not believed, they may find themselves permanently excluded.”

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