Teachers suffer in no-win, no-fee culture

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The Independent Online

Teachers are facing floods of complaints from parents and pupils as a result of a growing compensation culture in schools, a union leader revealed yesterday.

Teachers are facing floods of complaints from parents and pupils as a result of a growing compensation culture in schools, a union leader revealed yesterday.

Hilary Bills, the new president of the 267,000-strong National Union of Teachers, told her union's annual conference in Gateshead: "The no-win, no-fee culture has encouraged pupils and parents to question teachers' actions in a way hitherto unknown.

"The almost certain suspension of a teacher accused of any wrongdoing sends out the wrong message to those who want to cause mischief.''

Mrs Bills said the balance between the rights of pupils and teachers "were too often tipped in favour of the pupil''.

Figures supplied by a second teachers' union - the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers - show that, out of 1,000 abuse allegations levelled against its members in the past decade, only a handful have resulted in a successful court prosecution.

Mrs Bills, headteacher of Holyhead Primary School in Sandwell, West Midlands, also blamed the rigid national curriculum in schools for increased poor discipline.

She said: "I don't believe it is a coincidence that the level of disruption in schools has risen at the same time as the curriculum has been narrowed and testing has increased.''

Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, has said the percentage of secondary schools where behaviour is good has dropped from 75 per cent to 67 per cent in the past two years.

Meanwhile, the conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of one-day strike action over the use of classroom assistants to take lessons instead of teachers. Delegates claimed it was providing "teaching on the cheap''.

The motion also called for strike ballots in individual schools if heads insisted on allowing classroom assistants to cover for absent teachers.

Delegates warned of further strike action if negotiations over their pensions break down. Ministers have said they want to raise the age of qualifying for a full teacher's pension from 60 to 65.

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