Call for safeguarding review in wake of halt on vetting and barring
Heads' leaders have called for a major review of safeguarding rules in schools following the surprise suspension of the controversial vetting and barring scheme earlier this week.
The registration system has been "halted" so the new Government can scale it "back to proportionate, common sense levels", home secretary Theresa May said on Tuesday.
Mrs May said the scheme, due to start on July 26, is "disproportionate and overly burdensome, and that it unduly infringes on civil liberties".
The TES understands that the suspension of the scheme will run for three months. It is expected that the Government's scaling back will mean that school volunteers will not have to register with the ISA.
Heads' unions ASCL and the NAHT have long criticised the bureaucracy and cost associated with vetting and barring, run by the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).
The ISA checks would have cost pound;36 per person, but some local authorities were planning to charge a pound;44 administration fee. It has been estimated the costs would have totalled pound;30,000 for every school.
Earlier this year the seven associations representing teachers in England and Wales warned that the new vetting and barring scheme could spell the end of many extra-curricular activities and trips and leave heads drowning in paperwork.
"The safety of children and vulnerable adults is of paramount importance to the new Government. However, it is also vital that we take a measured approach in these matters. We've listened to the criticisms and will respond with a scheme that has been fundamentally remodeled," Mrs May said.
Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said safeguarding was currently a "dog's dinner".
"We welcome this review. There is currently a complete mess because of the amount of multiple checks needed. We've heard of one school gardener who has to get a CRB (criminal records bureau) check in every single place he works, it's ludicrous," he said. "We must address this bureaucracy."
Malcolm Trobe, policy director of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "We all want to see appropriate safeguarding procedures, but vetting and barring was a case of it going overboard. We now need to sit back and reconsider.
"The new system should not be so bureaucratic and costly - with vetting and barring we faced having to spend a lot of time and money for not much gain. It should also hang together with the CRB system."
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WHERE NEXT FOR SAFEGUARDING?
Keith Dennis, legal specialist, ASCL
You are never going to get a system which is 100 per cent secure, and anyone aiming for that would have to introduce rules which meant every person coming in to school was checked.
We shouldn't have a sledgehammer to crack a nut, especially when that sledgehammer is left lying around for anyone to use dangerously. Vetting and barring was rushed. Its successor should be something which treats people with awareness and sensitivity.
Dai Durbridge, education lawyer, Browne Jacobson
While the review is a major step, one must question whether it goes far enough.
There is little doubt that the registration requirements impacted upon too many people, but the management of the information held by the ISA and its role in barring individuals also requires review.
Julie Mortimer, education adviser, NSPCC
All the criticism of the bureaucracy involved with safeguarding means we have lost sight of the reason why it is in place. To maximise a school's procedures teachers need to do more than just checks - because as we have seen in many cases they don't prevent tragedies happening. The most effective thing to do is for teachers to work as much as possible with other agencies.
Anne Orton, safe guarding divisional manager, Ofsted
I would have serious reservations if volunteers were not included in the new registration system. Schools are very safe places, but if those checks are not in place unsafe people might gravitate towards them. We need a realistic and proportionate approach towards safety, and awareness of all levels if something is odd. There also needs to be whistleblowing procedures.
`Great' news at last
Great news, coming on the heels of the scrapping of the GTCE, reappraisal of health and safety legislation and a serious approach to our deficit and debts. At last we have something resembling a sensible government.
"When not being a lowly supply teacher, I organise an adventure training activity and ISA implementation would have made my job even harder with their wishy washy definitions of "regulated activity".
"A totally stupid decision to stop the introduction of the ISA. We need to scrap the CRB system and get the ISA up and running as soon as possible.
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