Teachers’ union calls for powers against malicious pupils

The teacher’s union NASUWT has called for greater powers against pupils who make malicious allegations against their teachers, despite the government confirming comprehensive new powers for teachers today.

The union has called for pupils who falsely claim abuse to be excluded from school with no right of appeal and wants parents to be liable for the costs of any investigation which may have occurred.

Despite changes to legislation made by former education secretary Ruth Kelly, unions claim teachers still remain vulnerable to allegations of abuse from their pupils. Many have to continue teaching the child who made the accusation after the investigation has cleared them, and pupils may face no punishment for making unfounded accusations.

Current guidelines guarantee staff confidentiality during the course of the investigation, and previous standards that insisted staff are suspended during the course of the investigation have been removed. The government has also promised to speed up the investigation procedure.

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) is considering NASUWT’s requests, but it is on record as saying that there are substantial disciplinary measures already available to schools, and that they had to balance such concerns with their commitment to protecting children from abuse.

The demands come as the DfES published guidelines concerning new legal powers available to teachers.

A department spokesperson said that the “guidance is about using tough new powers which include confiscating phones and MP3 players, giving weekend detentions and punishing pupils for poor behaviour travelling to and from school.”

But the government was ridiculed last night for plans to reward good pupil behaviour with gifts and for suggesting to teachers that they should praise pupils five times more than they criticise them.

The spokesperson insisted that the guidance contains only “common sense advice that pupils respond well to praise and incentives when they behave well or show a marked improvement in behaviour.”

“Clearly we would not advocate giving expensive gifts for small improvements in behaviour and obviously not to pupils who have behaved badly, on the contrary we fully back teachers in taking swift and firm action against trouble makers,” he continued.

The new rules allow teachers to restrain, detain and confiscate items from disruptive pupils. From September the Education and Inspections Act will introduce parenting contracts which will draw parents into the disciplinary process, calling on them to try to prevent exclusion, and then to undertake educational instruction themselves once it occurs.

Alan Johnson, the education secretary, has insisted that teachers now have a greater range of preventative powers at their disposal than ever before: “Strong discipline is crucial, but it needs to work in conjunction with responsible parenting and effective teaching on moral issues, which is why we have implemented new parenting contracts”.

“Together, these measures will improve behaviour inside and outside the school gates,” he added.

The Conservative shadow minister for schools, Nick Gibb, came out in support of the government guidelines:

“There are too many schools where poor behaviour is undermining teachers’ efforts to raise standards and which is driving teachers out of the profession. This guidance, together with new powers in the Education and Inspections Act, are welcome tools which we hope will help to develop a calm and ordered environment in our schools.”