Teachers 'guilty by accusation' says NAHT

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The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has claimed that heads and staff wrongly accused of something in schools are found "guilty by accusation" which has a devastating effect on their lives.

According to the group, school staff are at risk of having their lives and careers put in jeopardy even if accusations made against them turn out to be completely unfounded.

In research conducted for the NAHT by journalist Phil Revell, it is claimed that local authorities have no policy of redress for staff who believe their professional reputation has been "dragged through the mud".

Furthermore, the NAHT argues that the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) procedure means that any accusation against a teacher is recorded and will then be reflected in any future employment checks.

Speaking ahead of the association's annual conference in Bournemouth, NAHT general secretary Mick Brookes labelled the current situation an "inversion of justice".

"We have clear evidence that lives are being damaged and careers ruined by a failure by the law to adequately protect people who are innocent of accusations levelled against them," Mr Brookes said.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said clear guidance had been issued on the matter, including the need to maintain confidentiality while cases are under investigation.

"It must be remembered that the number of allegations made each year is very small as a proportion of the children and staff in our schools. But it is vital that they are dealt with properly and fairly," he said.

"Equally, we are very much aware of the devastating effect that being wrongly or unfairly accused can have on an individual, their family and career, and how delay and publicity can exacerbate that."

Dame Mary Macdonald, headteacher of the Riverside Community School in North Shields, said she had experienced firsthand the "catastrophic effect" of being wrongly accused.

"There must be a change in the law to protect my colleagues from the humiliation of being publicly denounced when accusations are made against them," she added.

The NAHT represents more than 28,000 headteachers, including 40 per cent of secondary school heads.

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