Blunkett offers help to teachers falsely accused of abuse

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The Independent Online

The Government has launched a review of child protection legislation to offer new help to teachers falsely accused of abuse by their pupils.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said he was considering offering anonymity to those accused of physical or sexual abuse to stop careers being ruined by the feeling that there may be "no smoke without fire". Hundreds of teachers face allegations of assault and abuse each year, but most are cleared.

Mr Blunkett revealed details of the review after he was questioned by a teacher who broke down as she told how her husband had been the victim of a false claim by a child. Jayne Jones, a teacher from Wrexham, wept as she told the annual conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters-Union of Women Teachers: "Innocent until proven guilty for teachers: that does not apply.

"My family suffered nine months of sheer hell when my husband was the victim of a malicious and false allegations. What is the Government going to do to protect the teachers and their family from the nightmare we went through?"

Mr Blunkett told Mrs Jones: "My heart goes out to your husband and yourself... We live in a situation where regrettably the views that people have often lead to those who are totally innocent finding themselves the victims.

"We want to work with the profession to try to get this right, to provide protection for youngsters, but also protection for those who care for them and who are vulnerable to unwarranted allegations."

Mr Blunkett said the department had set up a working party with union leaders to review the regulations for dealing with teachers who faced accusations, and would discuss "any options that are manageable and feasible", and continued: "It's difficult for teachers in that they are very much on the public platform, but all of us would be sympathetic to not publishing people's names widely if that could be achieved."

The NASUWT dealt with 179 cases of teachers accused of assault by pupils last year. Nigel de Gruchy, the union's general secretary, said they faced months or even years "lingering in hell" on suspension and many never managed fully to clear their names.