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Climbdown over full criminal checks

THE Government was this week forced to put its new system of criminal records checks for temporary teachers on hold, following repeated complaints from recruitment agencies.

Some of the country's largest supply firms have warned of hundreds of teachers needlessly being kept out of schools by delays at the new Criminal Records Bureau.

The CRB, which opened on March 11, was meant to ensure that no new teacher could enter a school without a full police check. The process is supposed to take 15 working days, but agencies complain of hold-ups of up to two months.

This week, following an emergency meeting between Education Secretary Estelle Morris and Home Secretary David Blunkett, the Government responded by agreeing to a temporary change in the system.

The CRB will now carry out quick checks on whether a teacher is on List 99, the register of those convicted or suspected of child abuse, before letting them teach. Fuller police vetting will be carried out once the teacher is teaching.

The move comes after Select Education, which has had only 750 of 2,300 teachers cleared, claimed some staff faced not being able to work in September.

A DFES spokeswoman said: "We refuse to compromise on child safety and want to make sure that the appointment of teachers can be done in a fast, efficient matter."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The CRB system is an absolute disaster. Now the Government is going back to an unsatisfactory situation because there's been a monumental cock-up."

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