Costly checks unearth serious criminal records in recruits

20th July 2007 at 01:00
General Teaching Council vindicated as figures show tough protective stance is having effect.

Costly compulsory checks over a year revealed that 60 newly qualified teachers who applied for posts in Welsh schools had committed criminal offences, three of which were so serious they were barred from taking up posts.

The General Teaching Council for Wales released the figures this week, showing that the new criminal bureau checks (CRB), introduced in May 2006, were detecting unsuitable teachers going into the profession.

At the same time two experienced teachers were struck off the teaching register for serious professional misconduct.

Primary teacher Benjamin Warner was taken off the register for five years after a disciplinary hearing found him guilty of pinning a five-year-old pupil against a wall and other incidences of bullying misconduct.

In another high-profile case, experienced maths teacher Helen Wyn Bowen was banned from teaching for four years after admitting doctoring GCSE coursework to make a good impression and help pupils.

The council would not release details of offences found after CRB checks, or how criminally motivated they were.

But a source close to the GTCW said it was confirmation that the new suitability checks, which have been criticised, had done their job properly in ensuring pupil safety across Wales.

Ten disciplinary hearings had been held as a result of the suitability checks. In all, 2,700 checks were carried out.

"There hasn't been a surge in hearings, just a number that have come about due to the introduction of the CRB checks over the past year," said an official spokesperson

It had been feared that the new checks, brought in as a "knee-jerk" response to stories exposing registered sex offenders working in English schools, would lead to delays in NQTs taking up posts.

When the legislation was announced, the cost of the checks was estimated to be around pound;60,000 pound;36 per teacher per year. The GTCW's counterparts in Scotland and England were not given a similar responsibility for the CRB checks.

Council member Tim Cox had said at the time: "I am not convinced that the bureau is going to be able to manage this it could turn into a nightmare."

* As TES Cymru went to press, the GTCW said it had not received a complaint in response to the controversial decision made by the governing body at Cwmdare primary school in Cynon Valley earlier this month to keep the job of headteacher Paul Davies open, despite a serious criminal conviction. Mr Davies was jailed for 15 months in May after a high-speed car crash that left Kelvin Palmer, 49, in a wheelchair. Mr Davies, 51, had pleaded not guilty but was later convicted by a jury.


Maths teacher Helen Wyn Bowen has been banned from teaching for four years this week.

The GTCW disciplinary hearing heard how she improved her pupils' GCSE coursework to make a good impression on her new school.

The panel found her guilty of unacceptable professional conduct after accepting she had corrected mistakes in coursework while employed as a teacher at Ysgol Preseli in Crymych, Pembrokeshire.

She is also said to have written lines in pencil for her pupils to go over in pen. Miss Bowen said she did it for the benefit of her pupils.


Primary teacher Benjamin Warner, 36, was struck off the teaching register last week for bullying his own pupils - including pinning a five-yearold boy against a wall by the throat.

A General Teaching Council for Wales hearing heard how he shouted in the boy's face in front of his class of five and six-year-old children.

Mr Warner, who taught at Sandy Lane infants school in Caldicot, also shut three children in a store cupboard, knocked another off a chair and dragged a boy by his jumper across the school hall.

Mr Warner said in a letter that he felt he lacked support to help him deal with six disruptive children in the class. But headteacher Susan Richards told the disciplinary hearing: "Gemma, our teaching assistant, was shaking and crying and saying, 'He's throttling him, he's got a pupil by the throat'. We were appalled."

The throttling happened after the boy jumped on to his teacher's back and put his arm around his neck in a classroom prank.

Mr Warner was suspended before being formally sacked for gross misconduct. He cannot apply for the teaching register again for five years.

Professional conduct and competence committee chairwoman, Mrs Jacqui Turnbull, said: "Mr Warner's conduct was fundamentally incompatible with being a registered teacher. His conduct seriously affected the well-being of pupils - both deliberately and through incompetence."

Mr Warner, of Lydney in Gloucestershire, was found guilty of 11 out of 12 charges of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence.

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