FIVE members of teaching staff have been struck off in Somerset in the last school year after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a student, the News can reveal.

A Freedom of Information request sent to Somerset County Council asked how many staff were suspended, disciplined or dismissed after being accused of having some form of sexual relationship with a student.

Between September, 2008, and July, 2013, more than 70 teachers and school staff had allegations of sexual abuse made against them, resulting in 18 staff being suspended, 19 receiving disciplinary action and 11 being dismissed.

The last school year, between September, 2012, and July, 2013, saw the largest number of allegations made for the past five years at 21 with five people suspended, five facing disciplinary action and another five dismissed.

Since 2001 it has been illegal for an adult in a position of trust, such as staff in schools and colleges, to have sex with a person under 18 for whom they are responsible, despite the age of consent being 16.

All allegations are dealt with by the education authority, Somerset County Council, which said the increase in the number of allegations is likely to be linked to the high-profile Jimmy Savile case.

A spokesman said: “It has raised awareness about the signs of abuse and the importance of reporting concerns.

“In addition, safeguarding training provided to staff and governors in Somerset schools has made all staff more aware of how to manage and report allegations in a timely fashion and in consultation with the local authority.”

The National Union of Teachers said it is contacted by “a handful” of teachers each year, and it is very clear what the professional standards for staff are and how they are expected to be met.

The NUT said there are occasions when misunderstandings and false allegations are made.

A spokesman said: “It’s critical that investigations are carried out quickly to ensure that those falsely accused don’t have their careers or personal lives blighted.

“In only rare cases do the police proceed to prosecution with fewer still resulting in any conviction, but no sexual misconduct or abuse of trust by an education professional can be tolerated, and it’s critical that school systems support this.

“For example, teachers don’t use personal mobiles or emails to contact parents or students.”