NSPCC calls for all vetting decisions to be made by child protection experts

Decisions on individuals’ suitability to work with children must be left to people with expert knowledge, child protection campaigners have insisted.

The warning from the NSPCC followed the news that education secretary Ruth Kelly had decided to allow a teacher on the sex offender register to continue teaching and apply for new posts.

The man’s subsequent employment by The Hewett School in Norwich was only thwarted following an urgent local multi-agency meeting after Norfolk police expressed reservations. The school suspended the teacher from duty pending further discussions, and he later resigned.

Natalie Cronin, head of policy at the NSPCC, questioned whether ministers and civil servants had the degree of knowledge necessary to make such decisions. “To judge whether someone will be a risk to children you need knowledge of employment law, criminal law and a detailed knowledge of child protection,” she said.

She warned that children could continue to be placed at risk unless a new vetting scheme to be introduced in 2007 was based on decisions made by people with “sound child protection knowledge and experience”. The introduction of the new scheme follows the Bichard inquiry into the employment of child murderer Ian Huntley as a school caretaker.

The Department for Education and Skills insisted that Kelly’s decision on the teacher had been taken “on the basis of the evidence and within the legal framework”. However, a spokesperson said a review of the case would be undertaken “to see whether it raises any policy issues”.

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