Kelly to elaborate on sex offender measures as schools row continues

The education secretary is due to give a statement to the House of Commons this week revealing how many sex offenders have been allowed to work in England’s schools.

Ruth Kelly, who has come under increasing pressure, is also expected to announce more details of the vetting and barring scheme recommended by the Bichard Inquiry  to be introduced under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill.

This will merge the list of people barred from working in schools, List 99, with the Protection of Children Act list, which covers people considered unsuitable to work with children.

Kelly is also conducting a review of the “small number of cases” where people on the sex offenders register and who work in schools have not been placed on List 99. It is also believed that she may remove the decision to bar somebody from working with children from the education secretary.

Three cases where sex offenders have been allowed to work in schools have so far come to light. 

It has also emerged that it is not mandatory for some staff coming into contact with children to undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks. These include people who drive school transport and those who provide child care for over-eights off the school site.

Phillip Noyes, public policy director at the NSPCC, said these categories may come under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill.

The issue has caused concern across the UK. Scotland’s first minister Jack McConnell told the Scottish parliament that the relationship between Scotland’s sex offenders register and its Disqualified from Working with Children List needed “further attention”.

Jane Davidson, education minister in the Welsh assembly, has written to Kelly asking her if any sex offenders are working in schools in Wales.

And Northern Ireland’s Department for Education has announced that it will “revisit” its guidance on offences that automatically ban people from working with children to ensure it is “sufficiently robust” and takes account of any findings of the English review.

Norfolk Council and Norfolk police both wrote separately to the government at the end of December to raise concerns about a sex offender in their area who was appointed as a teacher but was not on List 99.

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