New Report Reveals Increase in Child Abuse in Schools
19th November 2012
A major report – Safe from Harm – released today by West London law firm IBB Solicitors and undertaken by legal research company Jures looks at the effectiveness of the legislation that was introduced to protect children in the wake of the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
The research reveals a 19% increase in allegations of physical and sexual child abuse in schools in the past three academic years (2008 to 2011). In that time dismissals have increased by 66% and suspensions have increased by 41%.
Safe from Harm draws on Freedom of Information (FOI) Act requests which were sent to all local education authorities (LEAs) in England to get an understanding of how many allegations of child abuse have been made in schools and how those allegations have been dealt with in the past three academic years.
Key findings from the FOI requests include:*
- In the past three schools years a total of 9,048 allegations of physical and sexual child abuse have been made against staff with and without Qualified Teaching Status (QTS).
- This has resulted in 1,355 suspensions and 866 dismissals of staff with and without QTS.
- Overall only 10% of these allegations resulted in dismissal and of those suspended, 64% were dismissed.
“In the past 10 years, as a father, school governor and solicitor representing victims of child abuse, I have had cause to wonder whether the steps taken after the tragic events in Soham, have had the kind of beneficial effect that we all hoped for. The information collated from the report supports my concern that there are still too many people gaining access to children, for their own iniquitous behaviour. I am equally concerned that some LEAs were unable to provide us with this data as they do not record these statistics.”
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 was passed by Parliament in the immediate aftermath of the Soham murders. There was a dramatic public and political reaction to the original proposals with the 2006 Act labelled ‘draconian’ by Home Secretary Theresa May. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which received Royal Assent in May this year, represents a scaling back of the scheme. Safe from Harm examines how effective the new Act might be in protecting children from abuse.
The report has been endorsed by Fair Play for Children – an organisation which campaigns for the UN Convention right of the child to play.
National Secretary of Fair Play for Children, Jan Cosgrove said:
“This Report lays out important issues in a balanced manner and we hope it will be used to promote public debate – when 10% of allegations which are reported result in dismissals we have to be concerned. What happens in the other 90% of cases? The likelihood is reprimands, retraining, employment warnings, poor practice, as well as unsubstantiated claims. This is not scaremongering - parents are entitled to know the answers where it's their children who are involved. We have to go beyond the era when questions were not asked and children had no voice."
Commenting on the findings from the report and the FOI requests, Malcolm Underhill concludes:
“There is clearly still a lot of work to be done in ensuring the protection of our children and vulnerable adults and I only hope the publicity surrounding the activities of Jimmy Savile will prompt the Government to do much more work in this area.”
*See pages 20 to 23 of Safe from Harm for other key findings.
For more information:
Claire Scott, Byfield Consultancy, Claire@Byfieldconsultancy.com 020 7092 3982
Alison Stawarz, IBB Solicitors, Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org 08456 381381
Notes for editors
- Where a combined figure has been provided over a 3 year period, we have assumed equal incidence in each year
- A figure <10 has been assumed to be an incidence of 5, <5 an incidence of 2
- Regional child demographics are taken from the ONS population tables published in 2012 relating to mid 2010.
- These percentages have been used to estimate child populations in each LEA and calculate incidences per child population
Freedom of Information requests (FOI requests) were sent to 152 Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in June 2012. We asked these 152 LEAs the following questions detailed below:
- How many allegations of physical or sexual abuse have been made against nursery, primary and secondary school teaching staff in your LEA the past three complete academic years (i.e. 2008/9, 2009/10 and 2010/11)?
- How many of those identified in question one have been suspended and/or dismissed as a result of those allegations?
- How many of those identified in question one have remained employed at the establishment they were working at, at the time of the allegation, or remain employed at other educational establishments within your LEA?
- How many allegations of physical or sexual abuse have been made against employees at nursery, primary and secondary schools, without Qualified Teacher Status in your LEA the past three complete academic years (i.e. 2008/9, 2009/10 and 2010/11)?
- How many of those identified in question four have been suspended and/or dismissed as a result of those allegations?
- How many of those identified in question four have remained employed at the establishment they were working at, at the time, of the allegation, or remain engaged or employed at other educational establishments within your LEA?
Of the 152 LEAs that received our FOI requests, 119 LEAs responded. Those LEAs that did not respond within the required 20 working days specified in the Freedom of Information Act gave various reasons for this. The primary reasons for the refusals to respond included:
- Cost thresholds exceeded (meaning the time spent responding to the FOI request would exceed 18 hours work and therefore the cost threshold. Public authorities are not obliged to comply with requests for information if they estimate that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the ‘appropriate limit’. The Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 set an ‘appropriate limit’ of £450 for public authorities, which equates to 18 hours work at a statutory rate of £25 per hour)
- Data protection (meaning to disclose this information would reveal personal details about identifiable individuals where it would breach the Data Protection Act 1998)
- Information held in the wrong format (meaning the information is held in such a way that it cannot reasonably be collated and provided in response to the request)
About IBB Solicitors
IBB is recognised in the Legal 500 as a South East regional heavyweight.
- The Personal Injury team are specialists in child abuse claims, head injury and spinal injury with a strong expertise in a whole range of personal injury and clinical negligence claims. The team acts for a whole spectrum of clients, those of all ages and backgrounds. Partner Malcolm Underhill is ranked in the top tier as a leader in his field by Chambers and Partners independent legal directory.
- The firm has offices in Uxbridge and Chesham (Bucks). It is a full service law firm handling complex legal work for both businesses and individuals across four main practice areas — Real Estate, Corporate & Commercial, Private Client and Community Legal Services.
- The private client office at Chesham offers a wide range of services to high net worth individuals, their families and businesses, including: family and matrimonial; residential conveyancing; wills, trusts and probate.
Jures is an independent research company dedicated to the legal services market. It combines expertise from a number of different disciplines: journalism; research; PR and communications; as well as publishing in both traditional and new media. The idea behind Jures is to become the leading source of considered, independent-minded and thought-provoking commentary on the law in a way that informs and influences debate within the profession and beyond.