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GUEST COLUMNIST: Teachers shouldn’t allow themselves to be tempted, says Co Coun Philip Owen

 

Several months before they even disappeared, concerns had been raised by the school about the relationship between Sussex schoolgirl Megan Stammers and her maths teacher Jeremy Forrest.

But what guidance is given by Nottinghamshire County Council to teachers to protect pupils and ensure that their relationships with teachers are always proper?

Coun Philip Owen, Nottinghamshire County Council’s committee chairman for children and young people’s services writes for Chad to explain the council’s policy.

Schools are responsible for the safety and well-being of all children in their care. And every adult working in a school is responsible and accountable for their own behaviour.

All teachers receive basic training in safeguarding and the welfare of children as part of their initial training. What we at Nottinghamshire County Council do is provide additional training for headteachers and those nominated in schools to take care of students.

If schools do suspect that a relationship is developing or improper conduct has taken place, then we also give advice and guidance. All schools know that they should be contacting us where an incident has taken place that their designated officer from the local authority needs to know about.

But what’s key is that all schools and teachers know there are proper boundaries between themselves and all pupils irrespective of their age and gender.

Good advice is that teachers shouldn’t do anything that could lead any reasonable person to doubt their motives. If they keep to this, then their behaviour won’t give rise to any suspicions.

Teachers shouldn’t flirt, misconduct themselves or allow themselves to be tempted to do anything that is illegal and ruinous to their career.

It’s important to keep professional distance and know your boundaries. And teachers should understand that young people are vulnerable and that they’re in a position of trust and responsibility that should never be abused.

All children under 18 are protected in law and no teacher should ever take advantage.

If a teacher observes anything in school which gives them cause for doubt, they should always report it to their line manager. And if the school feels that a situation is untoward, they’re under a duty to contact us, no matter what kind of school or academy they are. We have a designated officer who will give close advice and support on exactly what they should do.

The nature of this advice will obviously depend on the circumstances – it might be helping the school with its investigations or guidance about involving Children’s Social Care or the police.

Situations such as Megan’s do occur, but I believe that in reality they’re rare which is probably what’s fuelled the media fascination with the Sussex case.

There may be attraction from time to time, but without exception, teachers need to behave professionally and never allow themselves to be tempted.

 

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