Careers advice from Theodora Griff

11th January 2013 at 00:00

Getting past the past

My career aim for this year is to go from second in command to head of department. I'm worried because 10 years ago, as an undergraduate, I carried out a stupid prank and got a police caution. Is this going to affect my future?

Silly student pranks ... I wish there were some way of wiping the slate clean of youthful indiscretions after a while.

Most schools have a policy on the employment of ex-offenders; this is good news, as it means that you will not be automatically disqualified. A typical policy asks the head to take into account the nature and seriousness of the offence, whether it was a one-off or a pattern of offending behaviour, and the circumstances surrounding the offence as well as the explanation offered.

So as a head I would ask several questions. Does this candidate constitute a risk to pupils or staff? Is this offence likely to recur? Is it contrary to the maintenance of good order and discipline in the school? If discovered, would it bring the school into disrepute, or cause concerns among pupils, staff or parents?

I suggest you pre-empt this by devising a brief but clear statement of the facts that answers these questions and thus reassures the head.

Many application forms ask if you have ever been convicted of a criminal act and add that, since employment in schools is not covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, all convictions and cautions must be disclosed. So you must tell them. The usual way is to include with your application a sealed envelope to the head marked "confidential".

Failing to disclose even a minor misdemeanour would often be considered more serious than the offence itself, and could cause a job offer to be withdrawn.

You cannot now wipe that slate clean, but at least you can mitigate the impact on your career. Start drafting that brief statement and explanation now.

Meet Theodora Griff online on the TES Jobseekers forum or in person at a TES Careers Advice Service seminar or individual consultation. bit.lyuWhqN2.

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