What does the term ‘abuse’ mean?

According to the DfE guidance, an allegation of abuse generally means that the member of staff has allegedly: -

  • behaved in a way that has harmed, or may have harmed, a child or young person
  • possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child or young person
  • behaved towards a child or young person in a way that indicates that they are is unsuitable to work with them.

What should I do if an allegation is made against me?

You should report the matter to your headteacher/principal and provide a full written account of the incident. Let your headteacher/principal know if there were any witnesses, either in the classroom or the corridor, who may have seen and/or heard what happened. You should also contact either your local National Education Union representative or the Union’s advice line for advice on your position.

All schools and colleges should have clear written procedures in place for dealing with allegations of abuse. A copy of these is likely to be in a staff handbook. The procedures should identify the person to whom reports ought to be made in the absence of the headteacher/principal, which is likely to be the Designated Safeguarding Lead. The Chair of governors will be the responsible person if the allegation involves the headteacher/principal.

What sort of investigations could I be subjected to?

Serious allegations would lead to investigations by both your employer and the police. Additionally, some cases may require immediate investigation by children’s (social) services.

Internal investigations may, depending on the conclusions of the headteacher/principal, recommend a move to disciplinary procedures. If so, NEU members have the right to be accompanied by either a trade union representative or work colleague to any related meetings with management. We will always seek to postpone any internal disciplinary until, at the very least, after the police have completed their investigations.

Depending on the seriousness of a case, the outcome of an investigation into an allegation may have to be notified to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) with a view to a decision being made on whether an individual can continue to work with children.

For teachers, where they work will dictate to whom they may be reported.

In England the Teachers Regulation Agency (TRA) has the power to recommend that the Secretary the Secretary of State prohibits a teacher from teaching either for set number of years or indefinitely.

In Wales cases of teacher misconduct are heard by the Education Workforce Council who can issue a reprimand, a Conditional Registration Order, a Suspension Order or a Prohibition Order.

The General Teaching Council (Scotland) can issue a reprimand, a Conditional Registration Order or remove the teacher from the register.

The General Teaching Council (Northern Ireland) can remove a teacher from the register.

Can I have union representative at meetings?

If an investigatory meeting is held, this will not by itself result in any disciplinary action and there is no statutory right for an employee to be accompanied to such a meeting. However, it is considered good practice to allow an employee to be accompanied and many employers’ procedures will allow and indeed encourage representation at this stage. Certainly, National Education Union members are advised to request that they be accompanied by a union representative.

If the investigation results in a disciplinary hearing, employees have a statutory right to be represented.

What are the time limits in investigating allegations?

The DfE guidance states that a quick resolution should be the priority with unnecessary delays avoided. That said, in some cases follow-on enquiries may be needed, e.g. with the police and/or social services, before deciding how the case should proceed.

Can I be suspended?

In some cases, such as where it is considered that there is a risk of harm to a child/young person, a school or college may consider suspending the staff member until the case is resolved. However, the DfE guidance states that staff suspension should not be the default option, an individual should only be suspended if there is no reasonable alternative option.

Can I keep in touch with colleagues while on suspension?

The DfE guidance states that social contact with colleagues and friends must not be prevented unless there is evidence to suggest that such contact is likely to be prejudicial to the gathering and presentation of evidence

What action can be taken against pupils who make malicious allegations?

The school or college should consider appropriate action in line with its behaviour policies. This could include temporary or permanent exclusion and even a referral to the police if the school believes a criminal offence may have been committed.

What support can I expect from the school or college?

Employers have a duty of care to their employees. Accordingly, they should provide effective support for anyone facing an allegation, including a named contact to keep them informed of progress with the case.

Where it is decided the individual, who has been suspended can return to work – either because the allegation has been proved unfounded or after a disciplinary hearing – the school/college should consider how best to facilitate this. This could include a phased return to work and/or provision of a mentor to provide assistance and support in the short term.

There must also be consideration as to how to manage the individual’s contact with the pupil/student who has made the allegation, if they are still attending the school or college.

Will the allegation be recorded on my file?

The DfE guidance states that allegations found to be false or malicious should be removed from personnel records.

Allegations and anonymity - NEU position statement

The NEU believes all staff in education should receive the same level of protection.