959 teachers accused of having sex with pupils in the last five years
Nearly 1,000 teachers have been accused of having a sexual relationship with a pupil during the past five years, reports the Independent.
New figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request to over 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.
Teaching unions said that any teacher that abuses their position should face the full consequences but also said they had concerns about the impact of false claims.
Christine Blower, the general secretary of the NUT, said: "There can be misunderstandings and malicious allegations are made, so it is critical that investigations are carried out quickly with due process."
The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Dr Mary Bousted, says too often school leaders can panic when a claim of sexual abuse is made.
"Suspension is meant to be a neutral act, but that is not how it is perceived by other staff at the school, and indeed by the pupils," she said.
"We've had cases where teachers have been suspended, when a quick investigation would have found that the teacher was not in school on the day of the alleged abuse."
The general secretary of the NASUWT, Chris Keates, says she shares the concerns of the other teaching unions.
She said: "Whilst every allegation must be investigated and action taken where there is found to be a case to answer, it is entirely wrong and irresponsible to present statistics, as commentators do all too often, that imply that abuse by school staff is widespread."
Donald Findlater, a child abuse expert with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, agreed false claims could ruin careers - however research from the Department for education showed only two per cent of claims were malicious.
A total of 137 councils returned figures providing the number of cases they were aware of in state schools between 2008 and 2013.
A further 42 councils said they did not hold the statistics or could not hand them over because of costs or data protection laws.
Many of the authorities that did not have the figures said it was because schools in their area had outsourced HR provisions to private firms.
Councils also have no control over academies, which nowadays make up around 50% of all secondary schools.
Since 2001 it has been illegal for an adult in a position of trust, such as staff in schools and colleges, to have sex with an under-18 they are responsible for, even though the age of consent is 16.
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