Arrested teacher duped supply agency

23rd February 2007 at 00:00
Darren Smith owned up to a string of criminal convictions when he applied to teach in Yorkshire - but not that he had once been arrested for suspected gross indecency with a child.

When his headteacher at Holy Trinity CofE senior school in Halifax was tipped off by local police, he suspended Mr Smith.

But a few months later, still suspended on full pay with a disciplinary hearing looming, the technology teacher persuaded a supply teaching agency to get him jobs at six Leeds schools.

The six schools paid him pound;2,000 for 19 days' work, unaware he was suspended on full pay from another school only 10 miles away.

He was able to work around children despite a government promise to tighten vetting of school staff in the wake of the 2002 Soham murders committed by Ian Huntley, a school caretaker.

Last week, England's General Teaching Council found Mr Smith guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and suspended him from teaching for a year.

In 1993, long before Mr Smith trained as a teacher, Bedfordshire police had arrested him on suspicion of gross indecency with a child. But they did not proceed with any charges.

When he applied for jobs at Calder high school in 2002, and then Featherstone high school and Holy Trinity in 2003, Criminal Records Bureau checks disclosed only theft, forgery and motoring convictions. His checks should have been "enhanced" to include information beyond convictions and cautions that police thought relevant. Most of Mr Smith's convictions dated back to 1997 when, he claimed, he had been an "impressionable young man".

In January 2004 West Yorkshire police alerted Calderdale local authority and Holy Trinity senior school to the indecency arrest. The head swiftly suspended him. The local authority said it wrote immediately to the education department's misconduct unit, which maintains List 99 - the confidential roll of people who are barred from working in schools.

The school's governors scheduled a disciplinary hearing for May 2004, but Mr Smith said he was too ill to turn up. In fact, he was working as a supply teacher.

Capita Education Resourcing, the supply agency, had hired Mr Smith on April 30, 2004, and found him work at six different Leeds schools over the next month and a half.

Capita was adamant it had followed correct procedures, including checks against the Criminal Records Bureau and List 99, and gaining two references.

It is unclear who supplied references but it was not Mr Smith's previous employers. Holy Trinity was in the middle of disciplinary action against him, while Calder high school told The TES it had declined Capita's request.

Paul Triner, the new headteacher at Holy Trinity, said his school had followed all the correct procedures, but the Home Office vetting system at the time was simply "not robust enough".

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