Shake up to schools’ staff vetting

Education secretary Ruth Kelly has proposed compulsory criminal records checks and a single list barring people working with children overseen by an independent panel.

Kelly announced the proposals in parliament following media exposure of people working with children who had been convicted or cautioned for sexual offences involving children.

She said that the current system had “developed piecemeal over the past 80 years” and needed to be overhauled.

Kelly has brought in a blanket ban on anyone cautioned or convicted of child sex offences working in schools.

She has proposed one list, which will include those convicted and cautioned for offences against children and those who have committed serious sexual offences against adults. She added that by including people cautioned on the list as well “the anomaly between offenders who are convicted and those who admit their guilt and accept a caution” will end.

Decisions about who will be on the list will be taken away from ministers and given to a panel of experts headed by former Barnardo’s chief Roger Singleton. But individuals will have the right to contest their inclusion on the list.

All new school employees will require a criminal records check and teaching agencies will have to ensure all employees on their books have a check.

Some of these proposals have already been outlined in the forthcoming Safeguarding Children Bill while new regulations will be brought in for the other proposals

However, Kelly balanced the proposals by saying that there must be no “witch-hunts against hard working teachers and there must be protection against false or malicious allegations.”

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