The records were held in case the need for scrutiny should arise at a later date, and not for the purpose of quantitative research. However, this research accords with accepted definitions of systematic and cumulative collection of data. Quantitative research is robust in being able to be statistically factual and accurate. It can determine what, who, where, when, how and outcome. It cannot say why a child may have been abused.
The loading of the database was laborious and time-consuming (35 hours). Because of the highly confidential nature of the content of the files, the task was limited to myself and one other.
Information required by the DfES did not record the full date of birth of the member of staff but did require length of service. The files I keep record date of birth and date of incident. In order to record the additional information of the age of the member of staff at the time of the incident, I manually calculated each and loaded it onto the database – a time-consuming and tedious task!
This research is specific and limited. Other factors may have been a significant influence on allegations being made against staff. This study was of information gained retrospectively over a significant passage of time and it was not possible to discover if the school was causing concern at the time of an allegation. Stressors such as poor teaching and learning or rigorous pressure from Ofsted may well lead to an increase in physical abuse.
The validity of this research is demonstrated by its comparison with the national data and its reliability is assured by the size of the group (256). It is based on all of the allegations and not on a sample of them.
Findings Nationally 0.24% of education staff have had allegations made against them. Locally that figure is 0.38%, a tiny proportion of the staff population. This militates against the notion of large numbers of false allegations against staff.
My research and that done nationally show an increase in the number of allegations. This may be due to better reporting and record keeping rather than a decline in safety in schools.
Nationally, the research showed that if you had under two years’ or over 16 years’ service, you are more likely to have an allegation made against you and my research mirrors this trend.
Further local findings (with figures from the national survey given in brackets for comparison) show that:
- 50.3% (62%) of the allegations were for physical abuse or inappropriate handling
- 36.3% (14%) were allegations of a sexual nature
- 9.3% (11%) were for concerns about behaviour and language.
It should be noted that there is a significantly higher figure for allegations of a sexual nature locally.
When the national data is looked at from a gender perspective, we see that 62% of allegations were made against men and 31% against women (7% did not record the gender of the member of staff). Locally, my research records 75.4% of allegations were against men and 24.6% were against women (all local records showed gender).
Nationally, the figures show teachers are the staff group against whom most allegations are made (65%). My local research showed that 71.4% of allegations were against teachers. Further data of note shows that of the 93 allegations of sexual abuse, 59 were male on female and of the 129 allegations of physical abuse, 60 were male on male. Nationally, the IRSC survey did not cover allegations by age. There was a demonstrable effect noted by length of service.
As all of the local files have a date of birth for the purposes of a police check, I felt it was a serious omission from the national data collection.
Scrutiny of the local data by age group reveals the following:
Age % 20-29 11.72% 30-39 20.37% 40-49 38.27% 50-59 23.45%
A clear and significant increase is shown in the 40-49 year old age group.
For proper consideration and comparison of these figures, it is important to know the age profile of the education staff.
Only recent figures were available to me. Caution is needed when looking at the following table, bearing in mind the statistics in my research were collected over a much longer period of time.
Age Staff age profile 20-29 14% 30-39 20% 40-49 29% 50-59 34%
When compared with allegations in the other age groups, there appears to be a significant increase in allegations made against staff who are in the 40-49 years of age bracket (38.27%).
Age groups 20-29, 30-39 and 60-69 have similar allegation-to-age profiles. The age group 50-59 can be seen to have a significant lessening of allegations.
When allegations by age are split by gender, males account for 83.88% of the allegations in the age range 40-49 and females for 16.12%. This compares with 77.77% male to 23.33% female for the whole group by gender.
Further breakdown of the data in the 40-49 age group by gender and type of allegation shows that 51.6% of allegations were for physical abuse, of which 75% were allegations against male staff, and 37% of allegations were for sexual abuse, of which 86% were against male members of staff.
Significant risk factors may exist that have not been covered in my local research. For example, are staff more likely to have an allegation made against them at the beginning or the end of the day? At the beginning or end of the academic year? Are areas of the school more risky? The playground, the classroom or corridor? Importantly, I have not looked at the race of either staff member or child.
The purpose of carrying out this research is to determine some of the circumstances in which allegations of abuse are made against education staff and in doing so firstly protect children and secondly, having uncovered the risk, to advise appropriate support.
My local research mirrored that done nationally with reference to staff with under two years’ and over 16 years’ service. There is enough validation for action to institute extra support for staff in those two categories.
The local quantitative research I have conducted concentrated on the more specific area of the age of the member of staff at the date of incident. There is a clear correlation of increased allegations against staff in the 40-49 year age group. This is significant on its own, but particularly so when viewed in comparison with the 50-59 year age group, where there is a 10% reduction in the incidence of allegations against staff. When split by gender, the significance of this research becomes apparent. These figures represent an increased risk of an allegation of child abuse being made against a male member of staff who is between the ages of 40-49. This particular part of the research is unique and cannot be compared with the national survey.
The theories of the psychologist Erik Erikson provide a possible explanation for the tendency identified in my research. Erikson (1994) suggests that we go through eight different stages in life. Each is marked by a conflict that can in turn give rise to potential strengths. The stage of later adulthood is marked by the conflict between ‘generativity’ and ‘stagnation’ or ‘rejectivity’.
Erikson states that generativity, a concern with establishing and guiding the next generation, includes procreativity, productivity and creativity. These are positive concepts. But this comes into conflict with ‘stagnation’, or ‘rejectivity’. Stagnation is not unusual, even in the most creative, and can overwhelm some who are inactive in generativity. ‘Rejectivity,’ he says, ‘can manifest itself in communal life and can mean an individual in the adult phase experiencing negativity may harm rather than nurture the next generation.’
Rejectivity can express itself both within the family and within communal life as a dismissal and disregard of those we do not wish to care for. Erikson suggests that this can lead to physical or moral cruelty to one’s own children or becoming moralistic or prejudiced against wider society. Teachers, in terms of Erikson’s theory, could be seen as generative. Those who are rejectionist may harm. Erikson was convinced of the mid-life crisis, and midlife is generally seen as age 45 years. This could be seen as a reason for the rise in allegations for people of this age group.
Laws, ethics and insight are the ways in which rejectivity is controlled. In Erikson’s view, care is the ‘virtue’ that can emerge from the conflict between generativity and stagnation if the individual undertakes the moral task of developing a new strength at this stage in life.
A hypothesis for the future
The large amount of variables (fields) within the database potentially can provide an enormous amount of information. For example, where is it more likely for an allegation of sexual abuse to have occurred – classroom, home, trip? In my research I have examined gender to see if any difference is evident. The database information provides for scrutiny of this issue from a race bias. For example, are black children more vulnerable to physical abuse? Time available and the testing of my hypothesis have restricted my scrutiny and use of the data.
I expect that incidents of report allegations will increase – not because of an increase in dangerous staff, but because a telling organisation is a safe one from both a child and a professional adult’s perspective.
Further planned action as a result of this research will include sharing the findings with the teachers and staff unions. The increased vulnerability by age and gender will be the focus of these staff discussions. It will form the basis of discussion for the provision of appropriate support. The DfES IRS coordinator has taken up this finding and future surveys will have a focus of age at the time of the incident.
EH Erikson (1994) , The Life Cycle Completed, Norton