Ms Rottweiler gets frisky with man who sees all

25th February 2011 at 00:00

Before the Government goes ahead with its decision to relax rules on Criminal Records Bureau checks, I would urge it to take note of the following cautionary tale.

After a long negotiation over the intercom with our first line of defence (aka Ms Rottweiler), the car park barrier is raised and the stranger pulls into our primary school. It is bitterly cold, so he leaves the engine running while he examines the contents of a buff envelope. He frowns happily - a skill unique to his profession.

Then he steps out of his car and allows his keen gaze to wander across a bleak and uninhabited playground. A brisk north-easterly drives two crisp packets and a solitary polystyrene chip tray across it. He notes that this area has been fenced off with hazard warning tape.

The playground is newly surrounded by a 6m-high metal fence. He tests the mesh, designed to make it impossible to climb (even for Jordan Bagshawe, whose escapology skills rank alongside those of Harry Houdini). Further investigation reveals security cameras placed at strategic points to ensure that, within the vicinity of the school grounds, there is no hiding place.

A brief reconnoitre of the wildlife area - which in summer is home to butterflies, bees and Year 3 boys playing guerrilla warfare - reveals it has been reduced to stubble. The dangers posed by bramble scratches, stings and surprise attacks by small children, have been removed at a stroke - or rather several strokes of a large scythe.

The sandpit has been locked away to stop stray cats using it as a toilet; the water tray has been emptied to prevent leptospirosis; the playhouse is boarded up, awaiting inspection by several departments including buildings, maintenance and public health.

The stranger seems satisfied with external security and safeguarding arrangements, although he is contemplating the possible addition of razor wire, searchlights and armed guards atop an observation post.

Our school has been motivated to improve its safeguarding procedures for three very good reasons. In ascending order of importance these are: schools should make every effort to ensure the safety of children; schools should make every effort to avoid being sued by parents on a no-win, no-fee basis; and schools should make every effort to avoid being in special measures.

Since Ofsted decided it might get nasty about enforcing safeguarding procedures, the teaching profession has entered crisis mode. Several staff meetings have been given over to feelings of fear and inadequacy, while the school leadership, caught like a rabbit in headlights, is unable to decide where to target resources. Should we micro-teach the handful of borderline children who might just achieve level 4 or should we fit body scanners in the hall?

Meanwhile, outside the school office: "Hands against the wall and feet apart," growls Ms Rottweiler. "Ofsted or not, no stranger comes in here until I've frisked them!"

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher in Sheffield.

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