Teachers who were disqualified from working in schools because of an offence committed by a relative, spouse or flatmate will now be able to return to work, it was announced today.
Official guidance issued by the Department for Education had said that primary school staff could face dismissal from their jobs if they shared a home with someone who had committed a serious violent or sexual crime, or who had been banned from working with children.
But new guidance, issued today, has clarified these rules, stating that they only apply to staff working with Reception-aged children or providing childcare outside of school hours.
Staff have always been able to apply for an Ofsted waiver, which will allow them to continue working, despite any convictions held by friends or family. However, under the new guidance, staff will be able to remain in school while waiting for this waiver to come through.
Last month, TES reported that hundreds of school staff members had been suspended under the new rules. One employee was prevented from working, because his son had received a football banning order. Another was suspended because her daughter had been temporarily removed from her care, after running away from home a decade beforehand.
The rules are supposed to apply only to serious crimes, such as murder, rape, manslaughter and indecent assault, as well as grievous and actual bodily harm.
If teachers or support staff live with someone convicted of these offences, they must disclose this fact if asked to do so by their employer. Previously, they would have been suspended while they applied to Ofsted for a waiver, allowing them to return to work.
The new rules state that, while waiting for a waiver to be processed, “a member of staff could be disqualified from working with children of Reception age or under in a school, but could work with children aged 6 and 7, provided that they were not working them in childcare provision, outside of normal school hours".
If a teacher decides not to apply for a waiver, or the waiver application is declined, it would be up to the school to consider whether to redeploy that teacher, “or whether steps should be taken to legitimately terminate their employment".
The rules were brought in for childminders and nurseries in 2009. But, since October last year, the Department for Education has insisted that they should also be applied to staff at primary schools. Schools and local authorities have since been asking staff to declare whether any members of their households have prior convictions or police cautions.
“The rules on disqualification by association, developed to protect children in childminders’ homes, remain disproportionate for a school setting,” said Russell Hobby, general secretary of the headteachers’ union the NAHT.
“Schools already have robust safeguarding procedures, and this childcare legislation offers no additional relevant protection, while significantly increasing the complexity of schools’ recruitment and safeguarding arrangements.
Mr Hobby added that he still wanted to see the regulations changed. “But, in the meantime,” he said, “it’s a step in the right direction.”
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