HC Deb 09 June 2004 vol 422 c376

7.2 pm

Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby) (Lab)

I present my petition on behalf of 30,000 teachers who are members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

The petition of members and supporters of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers' campaign regarding false allegations against teachers. Declares that teachers are vulnerable to allegations of physical, verbal and sexual abuse of pupils. Owing to the wide publicity given to these cases, pupils are aware that such allegations can cost teachers their jobs. Regrettably, some pupils have no compunction in seeking to falsely and maliciously accuse a teacher they dislike or to threaten such an allegation. In recent years there have been 1,782 police investigations into allegations of criminal abuse made against NASUWT members. In a staggering 1,686 of these no grounds have been discovered for prosecution. The majority of the allegations are false, unfounded, exaggerated or malicious. There appears to be a widely held public view that an allegation in itself is proof of guilt. Cases under investigation are often leaked to the press leading to local and sometimes national media coverage. Once publicity has occurred, even after the teacher has been cleared, dismissal or inability to return to work is frequently the outcome. The publicity also adversely affects not only the teacher but also their families. They face unimaginable levels of stress and anxiety. Their children face problems in their own school and their partners in the workplace and community. NASUWT members have committed or attempted suicide because of the allegations and/or press coverage. The media frenzy which identifies a teacher rarely gives the same prominence to the teacher's exoneration. The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons should introduce legislation to secure the right of anonymity of teachers accused of sexual abuse up to the decision in a court. This would provide a measure of protection to a vulnerable profession and go some way to ensure that the lives and careers of innocent teachers are not ruined. And the petitioners remain, etc.

To lie upon the Table.