Tuesday, 10 August 2010

NASUWT - Déjà Vu

Another year on and here is another response by Chris Keates to recent press coverage of allegations against teachers.

Like a broken record, her words are those uttered last year, the year before and every year since the dawn of time - well, some 20 years !

Nothing has ever changed and nothing ever will without the aggressive determination of individuals to introduce radical reform and overhaul of existing systems.

NASUWT calls to stop teachers’ lives being devastated by false and unfounded allegations
Tuesday, 10, Aug 2010 10:27

Responding to BBC figures on the number of allegations made against teachers by parents and pupils in the last year, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“All allegations made by children and young people must be taken seriously and properly investigated.”
‘Properly investigated’ is the crucial key - at the moment, the only professional, trained and accountable body is the police. The LEA and school have a responsibility to the child and parents - they are obliged to err on the side of caution and can not be expected or trusted to undertake an impartial and fair investigation - worse, they can behave improperly, safe in the knowledge that their actions are not subject to scrutiny by any third party.

“These figures confirm the evidence from the NASUWT’s data which demonstrates that teachers are particularly vulnerable to allegations but that in the overwhelming majority of cases these allegations are false or unfounded.”
Another failing is that no one is prepared to address a teacher’s vulnerability. A teacher needs support; other than their union, they are reliant solely on their head teacher. The use of video cameras in the classroom has become a necessary consideration and I would suggest that all teachers be equipped with personal worn surveillance devices. To do nothing to protect the teacher is a crime in itself.

The sad reality is that such evidential data is based on the abject misery of so many people’s lives that have been destroyed. Isn’t just one person’s suffering and experience sufficient in itself ?

“More work needs to be done in tackling this issue which continues to devastate teachers' personal lives and professional careers.”
In order for ‘more work to be done’ it is necessary to make a start. Nothing has been done to alleviate this problem - Chris Keates is proud to say that she’s committed 20 years of work to the problem - exactly what has she achieved ? Nothing ! Not even basic training to keep teachers safe - no advisory documentation only a continuance of the same hollow and empty words !

“Teachers subject to allegations are often presumed guilty unless they can prove their innocence. Innocent teachers often find they will never be exonerated and are permanently and unfairly stigmatised.”
This is a classic piece of NASUWT phraseology that conveys no detail. ‘Presumed guilty’ – by whom ? In my case, it was the LEA and school that not only presumed my guilt, they predetermined my guilt prior to any investigation. Any conflicting evidence gathered during the investigative period was ignored by them. They then proceeded at any cost, including fabricating evidence and lying, to prove my guilt.

The other stark reality is that, by default, you will feel guilty – try experiencing being arrested and someone, like the NASUWT, telling you that it’s a necessary formality and that no one is presuming your guilt !

As for being exonerated – how ? A press statement expressing profuse apologies ? There is no recovery for a teacher who was wrongly accused. In the end, a teacher can not escape “there’s no smoke without fire” mentality and many will resign quietly, their career and life in tatters through no fault. They will never be able to trust other teachers, authority and their fear of recrimination by parents and children will be ever present.

“Our evidence shows that once the nature of the allegation and the identity of a teacher are known, a witch-hunt will ensue, damaging irreparably the teacher’s health, family relationships and professional reputation.”

“Introducing a legal provision to provide anonymity for school staff up to the point of conviction would safeguard the health and welfare of individuals against whom allegations are made and enable these staff to return back to school life with some professional and personal dignity.”

“A major outstanding problem that blights teachers’ careers is the wide variation in the recording and reporting by the police of so-called ‘soft’ information connected with an allegation and its investigation. More needs to be done to ensure consistent and appropriate practice by the police in the recording and disclosure of information to employers and other bodies.”

“The system is stacked against innocent teachers who are unable to prove their innocence or obtain the exoneration they deserve.”

“Allegations kept on file even when there is no case against the individual means that these teachers remain under a veil of suspicion throughout the entirety of their working lives.”

“Over the last decade, a raft of measures has been introduced to enable teachers to maintain order and discipline in the classroom. However, this is meaningless if a teacher’s professional integrity can be fatally undermined as a result of a false allegation made against them.”

(The NASUWT has maintained a national database of allegations against teachers since 1991. Details of the statistics are available on request.)

I close this blog entry with a personal plea to journalists and television producers. A new government is now in power, uttering the same statements and promises to improve education and the powers of teachers. But the very same problems continue unaddressed, unresolved and unabated.

It’s easy to publish cold statistics and to illustrate the destruction of an individual teacher’s career and entire life in a typical ‘poor teacher’ sob story. Isn’t it time that this whole mess was critically and publicly analyzed in depth ? Isn’t it time to better the education for our children through improving working conditions for some 450,000 teachers ?

I wish my case and my story investigated - it’s a story worth hearing and it is like the film - ‘Enemy of the State’ !

Help me to make a difference - help me to bring the injustice of my story to the attention of the public. I’ve done the ‘poor teacher’ story - help me to fight back - to win a campaign that will help all teachers - something that Chris Keates has failed to achieve in 20 years of work and effort !