Billie-Jo murder triggers teacher checks

10th July 1998 at 01:00
THE QUALIFICATIONS of 7,000 teachers and education officers employed in East Sussex are to be checked in the wake of the Billie-Jo Jenkins murder case.

Former deputy headteacher Sion Jenkins was jailed for life last week for killing his 13-year-old foster daughter. The police investigation found that he had lied about his postgraduate qualifications when applying for his position and then the headship of William Parker comprehensive in Hastings.

The county council has already reviewed the qualifications of all its 2,000 supply teachers, revised application forms and issued "firm guidance" to schools asking all candidates to bring their certificates to interviews.

Matt Dunkley, assistant education director, said it was now discussing with unions how the retrospective checks should be done. "That will be a mammoth exercise and a very sensitive one. We will have to reassure employees that there is no element of witch-hunting and that we are only interested in action where it's been shown they have gained materially from qualifications that they didn't have."

Teaching associations say qualifications checks have largely disappeared. "It's something that in the recent past has just not been properly carried out in many parts of the country. When people come for their first job, most are not asked to produce their degree certificates," said John Sutton, Secondary Heads Association general secretary.

Both SHA and the National Association of Head Teachers believe local authorities should review procedures, but neither are convinced of the case for reviewing staff qualifications.

David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, is writing to remind schools of official guidance that says that education authorities, as the employers, are responsible for checking staff qualifications.

But confusion remains. A spokesman for the London borough of Waltham Forest, which employed Jenkins at McEntee secondary between 1989 and 1992, told The TES that schools were now responsible for such checks.

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