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Hundreds of teachers accused of having sex with pupils in the last five years

Many allegations are likely to be 'malicious', insist teachers' unions

Nearly 1,000 teachers have been accused of having a sexual relationship with a pupil during the past five years, according to figures released today.

A Freedom of Information request to more than 200 local authorities revealed that a total of 959 had been suspended, disciplined or dismissed as a result of an allegation they had a sexual relationship with a student.

Of the 959 cases, 254 led to a police charge. A total of 42 councils failed to comply with the FoI request, made by BBC Radio One's Newsbeat programme.

Last night a charity which deals with child abuse said it was not surprised by the figures but teachers' union leaders said many of the allegations were likely to be malicious.

One girl, 15-year-old Ella, told the radio programme: "I had a crush on this guy and so I was flattered by the attention."

She said he had kissed her in a classroom and they began to meet outside of school.

"Very quickly it progressed from a kiss to him wanting more," she said.

She added that he forced her to have sex by saying it was how adults proved they loved each other. He is now serving a 12-year prison sentence.

However, Dave, a teacher falsely accused of groping a number of girls, said the school had tried to protect its reputation by suspending him before completing its investigation - with the result his career was damaged and he suffered mental health problems.

"There can be misunderstandings and malicious allegations are made so it is critical investigations are carried out quickly with due process," said Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

Donald Findlater, a child abuse expert with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, agreed false claims could ruin careers but said research from the Department for education showed only two per cent of claims were malicious.