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Recruitment: headteachers and governors will participate in training scheme

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Soham advice ignored by 60% of schools

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 5 June, 2009 | By: William Stewart

DCSF moves to make staff-vetting course mandatory after low take-up

More than half of schools have failed to follow government guidance on staff recruitment aimed at preventing a repeat of the Soham murders, The TES has learnt, prompting tough new rules forcing them to comply.

Heads and governors have had more than four years to complete a free training course, showing how to avoid appointing paedophiles and other child abusers to jobs in schools.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families recommended that two people from every school participated. But only 40 per cent of schools have done so, leading the Government to draw up regulations to make the training a legal requirement.

Children’s charity the NSPCC is calling on all heads to take the course. But a heads’ leader has accused the Government of teaching them “how to suck eggs”.

Extra training for heads and governors was recommended in 2004 by the Bichard Inquiry, set up after 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were murdered by Ian Huntley, appointed school caretaker at Soham Village College despite a string of sex offence allegations.

The resulting online course run by the National College for School Leadership has been available since April 2005. It includes training on characteristics of child abusers and their behaviour, how to spot them in interviews and how to create a safer culture for children in schools.

The NCSL said it was designed to be flexible, “accessible from anywhere at anytime”, with an “understanding of the heavy demands on the time of key people in a school”. The four-to-five hour course can be taken from any computer over any number of sessions of any length.

But DCSF research in December showed that in 26 per cent of schools no one had taken the training, and that in another 34 per cent only one person had been on the course.

A DCSF spokeswoman said: “Given the fact that schools have had four years to complete this training and quite a lot still have not done so, we think it should become mandatory.”

The Government is consulting on a regulation that states that from 2010 every school staff interview panel should contain at least one member who has completed the training.

Mick Brookes, National Association of Head Teachers general secretary, said “there are too many people spending money on courses teaching my members how to suck eggs”.

“People may have already looked at the safer recruitment training and thought, ‘We already know and do these things and therefore why do we need this training?’.

“Most schools have very sophisticated recruitment procedures.”

But an NSPCC spokesperson said: “We would like all headteachers to go on this scheme and hope that in future it will include refresher courses.”

The issue of safe recruitment was recently highlighted at Canonbury Primary, where London Mayor Boris Johnson and former schools minister Lord Adonis both send their children.

A majority of governors at the school in Islington, London, resigned in April after claims that teachers appointed to the school had not been properly vetted.

Jay Henderson was sacked as head last month following claims he was caught viewing internet pornography at work.

Yesterday, former Canonbury teacher Robert Stringer was due to appear before magistrates accused of raping and sexually assaulting a young girl.

The allegations relate to a period before he worked at Canonbury.

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Comment (4)

  • I did the NCSL course as part of another course (which was good), it was tagged to my online learning so I clicked through it. It was total rubbish the questions and activities you had were designed by a child. When I answered them they were to supposed to help you winkle out child molesters etc.. but instead they just gave you silly ideas. I think that half the teachers I know would be pointed out as child molesters and have “unhealthy attitudes towards children”. A lot of the questions seem to be written by social workers who don’t actually seem to understand real people. The type who takes your child into care when you give them a smack on the bottom for being naughty. However, if you beat them and pull off their finger nails you “get supported” till the baby dies in an “accident”. Baby P is not the only case that has happened in recent times and is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Again the DCSF is talking out of its backside when it comes to policy and things that actually work.

    What might actually work is paying all schools to have a proper full time personnel officer or a shared officer for smaller schoools who follows the equal opps and legal stuff and also know how to interview. I know how to interview people properly as I was trained when I was a Police officer. Many teachers including head teachers are not trained to do it and Governors are even worse.

    Grow up DCSF and address the real issues!

    Am I wrong?

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    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5 June, 2009


  • I did the 'safer recruitment' online course immediately I was asked to and found it - as Orion suggests - ludicrous. It was designed, it seemed, to make you see anyone failing to answer specific questions in a particular way as a 'danger' to children when in fact, many innocent teachers would simply not know 'what' was being sought as an answer but a clever child molester would! I found the idea that a child molester can be 'weeded out' at interview by being asked questions about what they'd do in particular circumstances demonstrated incredible naivety on the part of the NCSL. Mind you, I still find the concept that there is a vast battalion of paedophiles waiting to get into schools difficult to accept.

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    6 June, 2009


  • Good comments I second!

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    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    7 June, 2009


  • I agree that something must be done to improve the way in which we recruit staff. In particular the recruitment of cleaning staff. Many are being supplied through agencies that are not ensuring their workers have a CRB.
    Cleaners are often in contact with children in schools !

    That said all staff should be vigilant when it comes to child protection to help stop potential abuse. I don't think paedophiles highlight their intentions on an application form or in an interview. I would assume that they would be practiced at lying and therefore interview well. Vigilant staff would certainly be of more use !

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    8 June, 2009


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