To forgive, divine?;Opinion

12th February 1999 at 00:00
Teachers must not be seen in a place of public entertainment ... and must dress with due decorum at all times." The lists of do's and don'ts that tightly-buttoned-up school managers inflicted on teachers a century ago seem ridiculously prescriptive now.

The authors of these lists would be aghast to learn that in 1999 many English headteachers are prepared to consider employing a teacher who has a drugs conviction or has committed a minor assault or theft (see Research Focus, page 23). But who is right: the guardians of rectitude (circa 1899), or the liberal tendency of 1999? Should teachers be men and women of the utmost probity, or should reformed sinners be welcomed into the staffroom?

A forgiving nature is an essential human quality, but schools can never let their guard drop too far. Juvenile offences can sometimes be overlooked. However, bitter experience has taught the education service not to be too trusting. The extended system of police checks on all adults who work with children is a positive development, but it is a great shame - and potentially a tragedy - that it will not come into effect until 2001.

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