Teachers fight back over abuse allegations

TEACHERS' careers are being ruined by allegations of child abuse which are unfounded in the majority of cases, according to local authorities and teachers' associations, writes Fran Abrams.

New guidelines published yesterday call on headteachers to think twice before they suspend a teacher accused of physical or sexual misconduct by a pupil.

The Council of Local Education Authorities has joined with the six main teaching associations to draw up procedures after a sharp rise in the number of false accusations.

'These allegations may be false, malicious or misplaced, and may be either deliberate or innocent of such intent', the guidelines say.

The second biggest teaching association, the National Association of Schoolmasters/ Union of Women Teachers, says allegations against its members rose from 71 to 158 between 1991 and 1993, while convictions rose from 7 to 9.

The guidelines say schools should first decide if the allegations have any foundation. If they do not, they should consider whether the child could have been abused by someone else, and offer counselling and support.

If a teacher is suspended, he or she should be kept informed of developments during the investigation, and helped to readjust to school if the charges prove groundless.

Every Roman Catholic diocese in Britain will have a priest to deal with child sex abuse after a series of scandals involving clergy, the Church said yesterday.