Keeping teachers out is criminal

THE continuing saga of the Criminal Records Bureau's failure to deliver its promise of providing a speedy and efficient service is creating havoc for all involved in teacher recruitment.

As one of the UK's largest teacher supply agencies, we are applying for thousands of enhanced disclosures - police record checks, child protection register checks and List 99 of barred teachers - and delays in their return hampered our ability to supply the well-qualified staff that schools needed over the summer term.

The concept of the bureau is excellent, providing an assurance of safety for schools and parents, but in reality, teachers are frustrated by the delays and aggravated by being asked to complete yet another form.

We estimate that there are currently 5,000 supply teachers in the UK waiting to receive their enhanced disclosures. Many teachers register with more than one agency, so they are filling out multiple forms. In theory, they could use the disclosure obtained by one agency for work with another, but in practice, as they have not yet received their disclosures, each agency sends its own request.

Each year, nearly 30,000 final-year trainees complete their training. Yet research from the University of Liverpool reports that, of these, over 30 per cent do not enter the classroom immediately on qualification. This percentage could increase in September if delays in checks continue.

For those wanting to work on supply, we cannot, as the Home Office suggests, "provisionally appoint and then take on formally". After all, a 10-week delay in processing applications means 10 weeks' loss of earnings for the teacher. In many cases this may mean that they take another job and are lost to the profession.

It is also no answer for them to be under the supervision of another qualified and checked teacher. Supply teachers are needed to cover for absence of permanent staff. To require another teacher to be present will simply add to the tasks of an already overburdened school.

We need solutions and we need them quickly if the autumn term is not to be dominated by headlines of school closures.

Fiona Eldridge Chairman, Teaching Personnel Personnel House 99 Bridge Road East Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

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