failing the bichard test

The Home Office’s latest progress report on the implementation of the Bichard Inquiry recommendations suggests headway is being made in most areas. However, one key issue where schools appear to be lagging behind is in tightening recruitment procedures.

When Sir Michael Bichard published his landmark report two years ago, he called for improved training in staff selection and recruitment. A web-based training package was launched 17 months ago to address this, but the take-up has been disappointing. You might ask whether a training course is necessary to impress upon people the importance of taking up references for new staff who will be working with children. But judging by what happened in Soham – where even the most basic of precautions were not followed – it apparently is.

By all accounts Soham College – which employed Ian Huntley as a caretaker without fully checking either his references or his career history – is one of the better educational establishments. So imagine how lax the procedures may be at poorly run schools.

Despite continuing delays at the Criminal Records Bureau, the government is pressing on with plans for a tighter vetting and barring scheme for everyone working with children which is to be paid for through increased CRB disclosure fees. But there is little point in focusing energy on tightening procedures at this stage while allowing staff in schools to continue to recruit without adequate training in how to attract the right kind of people.

If social workers were found to have put children at risk by ignoring procedures – and then failed to take up the opportunity of training to try to ensure lapses did not happen again – there would no doubt be hell to pay. Schools that drag their feet over implementing Bichard’s recommendations need to be told it is not good enough.

If voluntary arrangements do not lead to improved take-up of the Safer Recruitment online programme a tougher line will have to be taken and further training made compulsory.
Schools – and the CRB – need to get their act together. Otherwise it’s only a matter of time before we have another Soham on our hands. 

See School heads and governors ignore Bichard recruitment training advice

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