Fishing head's job on the line

2nd May 2008 at 01:00
He awaits decision on fitness to run school after angling licence expired. Pitfalls of CRB system exposed as it expands to cover diplomas
He awaits decision on fitness to run school after angling licence expired. Pitfalls of CRB system exposed as it expands to cover diplomas

The relaxing burble of a river, coffee from a flask and the satisfying sensation of catching a really big one. What could beat an afternoon of fishing after an active week as an urban primary headteacher?

That is what Bob Yeomans thought as he set off with his rod to his favourite spot on the River Dove in Derbyshire last summer.

Little did he know that his innocent weekend outing would result in an experience he has described as "child protection gone mad" - and which has still not been resolved.

As he fished, Mr Yeomans was spotted by a water bailiff, who pointed out that his rod licence had expired. Horrified at the oversight, he came clean, pleaded guilty and later paid a pound;50 fine and pound;70 costs.

Nearly a year later, the offence popped up on an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.

"The chair of governors was notified that there could be an issue with a CRB check in the school and rang to tell me," said Mr Yeomans, head of St John's CofE Primary School in Walsall, West Midlands.

"I said, 'Is it a member of staff?' and he said, 'No, it's you.' I was shocked. He had to visit me, and in effect, he was being asked if I was fit to work with children for forgetting to renew my rod licence."

The chair then submitted a form to the local authority panel that decides whether a member of staff can continue teaching. The school is still waiting for clearance to retain Mr Yeomans as head, although he has not been suspended.

"It's a bit of a joke in the school now," he said. "But if you think of the amount of time that was wasted filling in forms and on the phone, you'd have thought someone would have had some common sense at an earlier stage. It was just child protection gone mad. It was clear the offence was irrelevant."

Mr Yeomans is by no means the first teacher to be left red-faced by such a check. One teacher, who was reported to police by a neighbour for walking around his house naked, later found the incident recorded on his enhanced check, even though no criminal proceedings were brought.

A Home Office spokesman said there was no way for situations such as Bob Yeomans' to be avoided.

"If you have an enhanced CRB check, everything will appear and it is then up to the employer," he said. "It's better and safer for any contact the person has had with the police to be mentioned. Otherwise, where do we know to draw the line?"

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is today calling for more clarity on the checking of employers who offer work placements for diplomas.

The work-related qualifications will mean many more pupils carrying out long-term work experience, which the association fears may lead to an explosion of adult employees needing expensive checks.

Government guidance does not require everyone who comes into contact with a child on long-term work experience to have checks, but it is recommended if they are the child's main supervisor.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the NAHT, said: "There isn't a good track record of industry providing good places for apprenticeships. Industry needs to be assured that the CRB bureaucracy will not be visited upon them, or they will be reluctant to take part."

But Sue Kirkham, education policy specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said the existing system, which largely relies on vetting of the overall suitability of a work placement, would be adequate for the diploma era.

NAHT conference, pages 8 and 9.

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