Charity warns 93,000 at risk

27th January 2006 at 00:00
Child protection reforms welcomed but loopholes remain, report Michael Shaw and William Stewart

Loopholes remain in the system for child protection in schools in spite of the Government's drive to prevent sex offenders coming into contact with pupils.

Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, last week announced measures to tighten up vetting checks, including introducing permanent bans for everyone cautioned for sex offences (see box right).

The changes were welcomed by teachers' unions. However, significant loopholes remain. These include the risks to 93,000 under-16s who are based in secondary schools but who do some courses in further education colleges.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said these pupils had been overlooked.

FE colleges and all schools, state and independent, are supposed to have systems in place to protect their pupils. It is now mandatory for FE colleges to carry out Criminal Records Bureau checks on any staff who come into contact with children. But there are no checks on the thousands of other adults in colleges - the students who are aged over 18.

Teachers contacted The TES to report several other loopholes, including cases where supply agencies had asked for faxed copies of CRB checks, which could be easily forged. An agency warned that supply staff could appear to have a clean CRB disclosure if inquiries were ongoing.

Geoff Brown, director of Dream Education, said that if agencies applied for checks in those circumstances they would be sent a CRB disclosure and a separate letter about the investigation. The teacher would also receive a copy of the clean CRB disclosure.

Mr Brown said: "The whole system is still fraught with holes."

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said further changes might be needed, but that the vetting system was more secure than ever and that schools "have a responsibility to make sure they use it properly".

The Home Office was forced to admit this week that improvements in staff vetting were needed after a man, who had been a suspected child sex offender, was jailed for indecently assaulting an 11-year-old while doing community service at a primary school.

Ian Missing, from Chelmsford Essex, had been gardening at the school last October as part of his punishment for attacking an adult. But he had earlier been accused of a sex attack on a child and of downloading child pornography. He was jailed for 79 days for the assault on the 11-year-old.

* michael.shaw@tes.co.uk

FE Focus 1Raj Persaud, friday magazine, 21

What next?

* Everyone cautioned or convicted for child sex crimes will be banned from schools.

* A single vetting list will replace the four lists relating to sex offenders working with children.

* Criminal Records Bureau checks will be mandatory for all new school employees.

* Ofsted will carry out a review of vetting procedures and visit a selection of schools to see how well they work.

* Experts to take over barring decisions from ministers.

* Improved training for DfES officials involved in vetting.

The number of people ...

On the sex offenders' register 24,572

On List 99, barring them from schools 4,045

Not on List 99, even though they were or deserved to be on the sex offenders' register 56

Who should have been referred to DfES for List 99 consideration, but were not 32

Referred for List 99 consideration last year 2,554

Placed on List 99 last year 513

Let off List 99 and working in education, but not teaching 1

Let off List 99 and considered a risk by police 0

The Sun estimates to be paedophiles teaching in schools 150

Teaching in England and Wales 431,000

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