THE schoolmasters have taken their place in history as the first professional organisation to support the backlash against children's evidence of abuse by adults.
The schoolmasters' association NAS/UWT is in the tradition of butch trade unionism, and its myopic self-interest is typical of the type of sectionalism that gave trade unionism a bad name. It is still locked in that closed culture which forfeited public support for militancy by failing to connect workers with consumers and clients. Preoccupied with their own authority, rather than advocacy for children, the schoolmasters do not see their interests as united with those of children.
In these inhospitable times for trade unions, the schoolmasters' notion of children's malice would have attracted little sympathy had it not synchronised with the great crusade against children. Childline, which receives 10,000 calls from children every week, had 300 children talking about abuse by teachers last year. Its director, Valerie Howarth, says they tend not to name names - so much for malice - and "usually they want advice on how it can be stopped without it becoming known, because they fear they won't be believed - and usually they're not."
Parents in West Yorkshire were chilled by last week's news. They've lived with the effects of the schoolmasters' approach. Two years ago girls at a secondary school told their mothers about a male teacher staring at girls in the showers, making them take off their underwear before PE lessons and touching their breasts and bottoms.
Contrary to official guidelines, the schools service tried to contain and control the investigation, though eight girls eventually made statements to the police. The teacher's time was up, it seemed. There had been allegations against him before. Indeed - again contrary to guidelines - in 1990 he had signed an agreement with the head, apparently promising not to venture into the showers. A previous headteacher had also warned him.
Generations of headteachers had kept his secret and protected his reputation. Generations of pupils had not been afforded the same protection. Former pupils, now grown-ups, corroborated the girls' stories. One said: "As an adult I would have slapped him, but I never told anybody at the time, I was too scared."
One woman whose grown-up daughter had similar experiences reckoned: "Most people round here remember something about it, you didn't really think about it then, though you knew it wasn't right. …