Conservatives back fines for parents who falsely accuse teachers

Plans to fine parents who make false accusations against teachers have been welcomed by the Conservatives.

Headteachers have called for the financial sanctions in the hope that they will deter frivolous allegations of poor conduct. Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said a minority of parents were “intent on siding with delinquent children to aggressively challenge and accuse” teachers.

The Tory schools spokesman Michael Gove, who will be Education Secretary if the Conservatives form the next government, indicated support for the idea. An aide of Mr Gove’s said yesterday that fining parents “seems like a good idea”.

Mr Gove added that students should also “face the consequences of their own bad behaviour” if they made false allegations.

Around 4,000 allegations are made against teachers a year with only one in 20 being found to be true.

The union has called for teachers to be allowed to remain anonymous while accusations are investigated – a move already taken up by Mr Gove – and it has been holding discussions with the Local Government Ombudsman, who already has the power to fine schools and local authorities for breaches of admissions policies, about introducing a new system of fines.

Speaking at his union’s annual conference in Liverpool, Mr Brookes told headteachers: “We have asked the new Ombusdman to consider a system of fines for those who accuse our colleagues unjustly.

“All of those who invent or elaborate for malicious, pecuniary or vindictive purposes should be liable to be fined and not a letter of their accusation should enter a teacher’s record.

“It is time to end this injustice.”

Mr Brookes cited the case of a father – “six foot six and built like a brickhouse door” – who burst into a school to intimidate a female member of staff over the way she had treated his child.

The headteacher had him escorted from the premises whereupon he made an accusation that the teacher had assaulted his child. “Police were called in, social services were involved and questions were asked as to whether the teacher should be suspended,” Mr Brookes said.

“The outcome was that there was no case to answer because there were plenty of other staff and children who were witnesses to what had happened.

“What was caused, though, was anxiety to the teacher and a deep Criminal Records Bureau check on her would have revealed that an allegation had been made.”

This could have scuppered her chances of getting another job on the “no smoke without fire” basis, he said.

“It also tied up the headteacher of that particular school for days gathering the evidence,” Mr Brookes added.

“If the complaint had been made against a police officer, the parent could have been charged with wasting police time. Why can’t you have an offence of wasting education time?”

Mr Brookes also cited a case from his former school, Sherwood in Nottingham, where it had attempted to sweep away the snow after a heavy fall in an attempt to keep it open for the day.

“There were still other bits of ice and a child fell and grazed themselves,” he said.

“I then heard from the local authority and a solictor that they were trying to sue us for negligence.

“It was resolved with no case to answer. In reality, she was just trying to screw some money out of the authority.

“I felt so outraged. It would have been nice to have this power as a backstop.”

Mr Brookes stressed: “We don’t want to deter parents who have genuine complaints from pursuing those complaints but we do need to deter the serial complainers.”

However, the Schools Secretary Ed Balls said he would prefer to rely on existing libel and slander laws to address the situation rather than introduce a new offence.

Meanwhile, the three party education spokesmen took part in a live debate at the conference with Mr Gove promising a review of school inspections if he takes office on Friday. Headteachers had warned they could follow their boycott of national curriculum tests with a boycott of inspections by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, because of the inaccuracy of judgements and the stress they caused.

David Laws, for the Liberal Democrats, won applause for pledging to bring an end to “too much political meddling” in schools.

Mr Balls, who was received by the heads in silence because of his insistence on testing 11-year-olds this term despite opposition, complained that it was not an “honest debate” because Mr Gove would not address the issue of where the Conservatives would cut spending.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Pre School Practitioner

£6 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, they are loo...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development & Relationship Manager

£45000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development & Relati...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant - Startup

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Personal Assistant is require...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific