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Researching barriers to cultural change for those in loco parentis

Piper, Heather and Sikes, Pat (2010) Researching barriers to cultural change for those in loco parentis. ISSN 1360-7804

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Abstract

Drawing on recent research on professional fears around touching children, and also on the consequences for those professionals who find themselves the subject of a false allegation of abuse, this paper considers some of the barriers to changing the ‘parenting’ culture of those in loco parentis. It consists of three linked sections. The first sets the scene by describing briefly the research relating to ‘touch’ and to ‘false allegation’ as well as outlining the particular ethical and methodological approach of the latter. This leads into the central section of the paper which comprises a first person account of the experiences of a male teacher who was wrongly accused and convicted of touching young children inappropriately in the classroom, serving a prison sentence before being found not guilty. In spite of this verdict his career is ruined and he will not be able to teach or work with children/vulnerable adults in the future. The final section reflects on the implications of this and other accounts, and offers tentative suggestions as to how accusations could be dealt with in a more appropriate way. The challenge is to identify principles and practices which are in keeping with our joint responsibility in relation to human rights (ie those of both children and professionals), and which also contribute towards encouraging the changes required in the ‘parenting’ culture of those in loco parentis.

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