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Cost of criminal vetting will triple from July

PLANS to triple the price of criminal record checks have been criticised because they will push up the cost of employing new teachers and hiring supply staff.

The Home Office is expected to announce next month that the current pound;12 fee for checking the backgrounds of new staff should be increased to around pound;36 from July.

Sources within the Criminal Records Bureau confirmed the price rise, saying attempts to gain extra funding from other government sources had failed.

But the plan has infuriated headteachers, local education authorities and teacher supply agencies who say it will affect their budgets.

They also fear a repeat of last summer's crisis when thousands of pupils were sent home because of delays in vetting new staff.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The price rise will be the final straw for the CRB, as far as schools are concerned. It will add costs to schools' budgets at a time when they can scarcely afford it."

Barry Hugill, spokesman for supply agency TimePlan, said that the firm had tried to avoid passing on the cost of the checks to schools last year but could now be forced to increase its rates.

"It's hard to comprehend, after the chaos we saw last year, that schools should be expected to pay for the CRB's incompetence," he said.

The planned price increase has also been criticised by local education authorities and the Local Government Association, which says it cannot understand why there has been no consultation on the change.

The CRB is managed by the Home Office in partnership with Capita, the private contractor. Capita has a 10-year contract to run the bureau worth pound;400 million, which will soon be renegotiated.

The bureau was supposed to pay back its start-up costs and be self-financing by 2007. However, the Home Office's decision in November to delay the launch of the "basic disclosure", which would have allowed all businesses to check employees' convictions, is expected to lose the bureau an estimated pound;10m in revenue over the next three years.

Because of this and other set-backs, prices will need to be increased for existing checks.

At present, teachers must have "standard" checks and people who work with children in sensitive situations must have "enhanced" checks.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed the annual review of the bureau's charges was imminent and Parliament would agree on the changed prices later in the year.

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