Essex school sex abuse claims see 91 disciplinary cases

Young girl hides her face (child abuse generic)
Image caption Of the 146 sex abuse cases reported to Essex County Council in the past five years, 91 (62%) led to disciplinary action

Nearly 100 teachers and staff in Essex schools have been disciplined in connection with sex abuse claims in the past five years, it has emerged.

The figures released by Conservative-controlled Essex County Council cover the years from 2008 to 2013.

They show how out of more than 570 schools there have been nearly 150 allegations of sex abuse in schools.

The council said "all allegations of child abuse" were dealt with according to child protection guidelines.

Released under the Freedom of Information Act, the figures show the majority of sex abuse claims by pupils - 89 in total - were made in secondary schools.

And of all the cases recorded, 91 led to disciplinary action and 29 to dismissals.

But the figures have triggered concerns from some quarters about how such cases are dealt with.

The data released by the council initially suggested only 21 of the 146 cases had been reported to the police.

The council subsequently issued a statement saying there had been an "oversight" in the way the figures had been collated.

The authority said establishing how many of the cases had been flagged up to police would have meant its staff poring over each case file. This, the council said, would not have been possible in the time limits in responding to the information request.

Image copyright BBC/Laurence Cawley
Image caption Det Supt Ewen Wilson said both male and female teachers in Essex had been successfully prosecuted

But, in the same statement, the council went on to say: "All cases of alleged sexual abuse are reported to the police."

'Careers ruined'

Det Supt Ewen Wilson of Essex Police said while he could not guarantee all incidents in schools were reported to police , he could guarantee that all cases reported to police were acted upon.

"We would never, ever not investigate a case of sexual abuse," he said. "Child abuse has no quarter."

He said both female and male teachers had been prosecuted in the past.

Jerry Glazier, who is on the National Union of Teachers' national executive and represents Essex, said given the hundreds of thousands of pupils and students in the county, the number of incidents was "low".

"Of course," he said, "the figure should be zero. Children should be educated in a safe environment.

"However, we are also concerned about malicious allegations and we make it equally clear that our members should be dealt with fairly.

"I have in my years with the union seen significant number of teachers who have had their careers ruined by malicious allegations. We need to get the balance right."

'No ambiguity'

Julie Young, leader of the Labour group on the county council, said she wanted the Essex Safeguarding Board to have an "in-depth look" into "how allegations of sex abuse in schools were being handled", particularly in terms of police referrals.

UKIP group leader Jamie Huntsman said there should be "no ambiguity" from the county council.

Liberal Democrat group leader Mike Mackrory described the situation as "worrying" and urged for the cases to be double checked.

A spokesman for the county council said: "All allegations of child abuse, sexual or otherwise, are investigated in accordance with multi-agency child protection guidelines.

"These will involve the school, social care and the police working together with any relevant others."

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