About a year ago I received a police caution for theft (I borrowed a couple of CDs from work and copied them; I was found out when returning them). After all that has been reported about the issue of police checks and criminal records I wonder if I would be wasting my time applying for teacher training courses. I have always wanted to become a primary teacher and have a good degree and plenty of working experience.

AThe Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) has been on the statute book for around a quarter of a century now. Under the act some crimes need not be disclosed to employers after a certain period of time.

The Government is currently reviewing the act, and some convictions may become "spent" sooner than in the past. But none of this matters to teachers, as occupations that require employees to work with children or vulnerable adults can be subject to an exception order, which denies those working in such areas the protection offered by the ROA. As a result employers are entitled to know about all potential employees' previous convictions, spent and unspent, and take them into account when assessing an individual's suitability for work.

Anyone wanting to train or work as a teacher must ensure all relevant criminal acts are disclosed to potential employers or those running training courses. As a caution follows an admission that you have committed a criminal act, it must be disclosed if you apply for a training course and would have to be disclosed every time you applied for a teaching post throughout your career. Although your caution would not necessarily prevent you gaining a place on a course, it might not help. You should probably consult the course provider before making any formal application to find out about any policy about such applications.

There are no hard and fast rules about how offences such as yours are dealt with.

John Howson is visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University and managing director of Education Data Surveys. Do you have a career question for him? Email:

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