Race to complete criminal checks on teachers before school year starts

The Criminal Records Bureau said this week that it would rush
through checks on all 22,000 teachers on its register in less than
a fortnight, in time for the start of the new school year.

The move follows last week’s U-turn on the type of checks schools
must carry out before employing staff, following the murder of
10-year-olds Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells.

College caretaker Ian Huntley has been charged with the girls’
murder and his girlfriend Maxine Carr, a teaching assistant at the
girls’ school, has been charged with attempting to pervert the
course of justice. Huntley has been sectioned under the Mental
Health Act 1983 and held in Rampton psychiatric hospital.

Until this week, the Department for Education and Skills had
advised schools employing new staff to revert to List 99 checks,
which record the criminal offences and unprofessional behaviour of
teachers, until the backlog of enhanced CRB checks had been cleared
(News, page 11, 8 August). Now they have stated that no one will
work in a school before they have been fully vetted by the CRB.

The Home Office called in an extra 100 staff over the bank holiday
weekend to carry out the checks.

The CRB’s prioritisation of teachers, meanwhile, has provoked fears
of further delays in checks on health and social care sector staff.
A web-poll conducted by Community Care in July found that
the work of 88 per cent of respondents had already been adversely
affected by CRB delays (News, page 9, 18 July).

Frank Ursell, chief executive of the Registered Nursing Home
Association, said that prioritising education was “bound” to have a
knock-on effect for care staff.

His straw poll found that the average care home needed to check
about three employees every two months, resulting in up to 40,000
checks a month.

Ursell added that the Department of Health’s interim guidance,
which allows people still awaiting checks to be employed providing
they are always supervised, was “unworkable”.

Meanwhile, teacher recruitment agency TimePlan has written to home
secretary David Blunkett expressing concerns about the vetting of
teachers and proposing a “passport” system for everyone working
with children.

Based on existing schemes in the Commonwealth and in the US, the
passports would include an individual’s photo and possibly
fingerprints, and would have to be renewed annually. Prospective
employers would be able to check an individual’s record on the
internet, using an official government-maintained database.

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