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Student would have had criminal checks

Latest child sex case may discourage men from training as primary teachers. Karen Thornton reports.

THE 19-year-old student jailed this week for trying to procure a girl for sex on the internet would have faced criminal checks, if he had been training to be a teacher.

Luke Sadowski, sentenced to 18 months for inciting the procurement of a nine-year-old, was arrested before he had enrolled at Canterbury Christ Church College.

The Metropolitan Police believed his intention was to train as a primary teacher.

Sadowski had been offered a place on a one-year science foundation course, which could have led to teacher training.

Mary Galliers, the college's director of external relations, said: "During the foundation year, he would not have been in schools because it is not a teacher-training course. As all institutions do, we would have requested a criminal check on Luke Sadowski if he had been on a teacher training course."

An enhanced disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau would have uncovered the police investigation, resulting from a tip-off from the FBI.

But there are concerns that the case, widely reported as involving a "trainee teacher", may discourage men from applying to becomeprimary teachers.

The Teacher Training Agency is seeking to increase male recruitment by 20 per cent by November 2005, from 200203 levels.

Last September, just over 1,000 men were accepted on to postgraduate primary courses in England. Applications this year have increased by 26 per cent for men, compared to 16 per cent for women.

Mary Thornton, assistant director of learning and teaching at Hertfordshire University, has carried out research showing men fear being labelled perverts for wanting to work with young children.

"It is the kind of scare issue that puts men off teaching, because they don't want to be tarred with the same brush," she said.

Dr Thornton believes the requirement that all trainee teachers are interviewed before taking up places provides an additional check on their suitability.

Sadowski had sought work experience in a school in his home town of Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, which was cancelled after the police intervened.

A local education authority spokeswoman said the countyfollowed government guidelines that work placement students be supervised at all times, and therefore should not require criminal checks.

Detective chief inspector Matthew Sarti, of the Metropolitan Police's paedophile unit, said:"Sadowski intended to study to become a primary school teacher and we can only be grateful that he was caught well in advance of this becoming possible."

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