THE Education Minister will have a very light legislative load in the next few months, following the publication of the Scottish Executive's programme on Wednesday.
There will be just two measures for Jack McConnell to pilot through Parliament. The Protection of Children Bill will make it a criminal offence for those on an "index of unsuitable adults" to work with children or even apply to work with them.
And a tidying-up amendment to last year's education Act will make it possible for parents of childen who are aged four years and six months or over when they start school to make a placing request. School board legislation will also be amended so the post of assistant head can be abolished following the teachers' settlement.
The children's Bill is likely to be introduced early next year. It will make it compulsory for state-regulated organisations, including schools and after-school clubs, to check the index of unsuitable adults if they want to employ someone to work with children.
To satisfy civil liberties interests, individuals affected will be able to state their case before being put on the index. Names on the list will be reviewed every 10 years (five years for those aged 18 and under).
Mr McConnell said: "The index will help to close the loophole which allows some unsuitable adults to pose a risk to children through the respect gained in a work environment.
"This may be connected to sexual matters, but it may also include neglect, carelessness or abuse through bad temper. I want it to be a safeguard and also a deterrent."