Half of teacher claims 'unfounded'
Nearly half of allegations made against teachers are malicious, unsubstantiated or unfounded, research suggests.
Almost a fifth of teachers who faced accusations in 2009/10 were suspended while claims were investigated, with many waiting weeks for a conclusion.
The survey, commissioned by the Department for Education, examined the number and nature of allegations of abuse referred to 116 English councils between April 1 2009 and March 31 2010. The findings show that of 12,086 allegations referred, 2,827 (23%) were against school teachers.
This is "substantially higher" than in a similar survey conducted in 2007, the research found, although the figures are not directly comparable.
A further 1,709 allegations of abuse were made against non-teaching staff in schools, the latest survey found.
The majority of allegations were of a physical nature, the survey found (56% in relation to school teachers and 49% for non-teaching staff). Some 17% of physical allegations against teachers and non-teaching staff related to them using authorised physical intervention or restraint on a pupil.
Almost half (47%) of all allegations made against teachers, and two fifths (41%) of those made against non-teaching staff members were found to be unsubstantiated, malicious or unfounded. But 18% of school teachers and 29% of non-teaching staff were suspended while accusations were investigated. And one in eight teachers (12%) and nearly a fifth of those non-teaching members of staff (19%) faced a criminal investigation.
Just 3% of concluded investigations against teachers resulted in a criminal caution or conviction, for non-teaching staff this figure was 5%, the survey found. This is based on information held by councils rather than the police.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said the Government's plans, which are contained in an Education Bill currently going through Parliament, are a "small step in the right direction." But she raised concerns that it is too specific, and does not cover support staff. "It's a small step in the right direction, but it needs to have a wider application and its provisions are very limited," Ms Keates said.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "This research shows why the Coalition Government's plan to give teachers a legal right to anonymity when allegations are made by pupils is so important. We will back teachers as they seek to maintain discipline in schools and raise academic standards."