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Teachers face bill for checks

TEACHERS could face charges of up to pound;25 every time they move school under changes to the system for carrying out criminal records checks, the Government confirmed this week.

Governors and school volunteers will also have to pay the charges, which will accompany the establishment of a new criminal records bureau, to start work next July.

The Home Office is setting up the bureau to act as a centralised register of all those banned from working with children.

Every job applicant in Britain could be asked by their employer to undergo a check. For teachers, the system would replace the checks which are currently carried out by local authorities in liaison with the police.

The charges would come on top of the expected pound;20 fee all teachers will have to pay to become members of the General Teaching Council from next October.

Teachers moving jobs will be checked from September, 2001.

A Department for Education and Employment spokeswoman said: "The charge will be made to individuals, but there is nothing to stop a school or a local authority reimbursing staff."

However, the spokeswoman admitted that the bureau would be "self-financing" - meaning that schools and local authorities would not be given any extra funds t meet the cost.

The full details are still being hammered out. Education Secretary David Blunkett is understood to be considering how to protect teachers from having to make the payments.

The department would not confirm exactly how much the fee would be.

But Eamonn O'Kane, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "This is unacceptable. It is the employer who should have the responsibility for checking there is no impediment to the teaching of children.

"This is hardly likely to encourage more teacher recruitment.

"Bearing in mind the fees that teachers are already going to have to pay for the GTC, they are going to be less than impressed about this latest imposition."

But Mike Walker of the teachers' employers' organisation said: "There are new costs associated with the Criminal Records Bureau. If the Government does not provide funds for this in authorities' settlements, we cannot just conjure the money out of thin air."

Mr Walker described the advent of the bureau as a "step forward". Local authorities in London had recently been told by the Metropolitan Police that checks could take up to 10 weeks. The new system would be far faster.

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