PTA 'nightmare'

15th April 2005 at 01:00
The Scottish Parent Teacher Council has welcomed new Executive guidance on police checks for volunteers, but warned it would create a "nightmare" for PTAs.

If parent associations wanted to avoid carrying out enhanced disclosure checks on members appointed to childcare positions, they would have to restrict their activities to family events where association members had no child supervisory roles, the council said.

Judith Gillespie, development manager of the SPTC, said that it was now clear that PTAs could not carry out blanket enhanced checks on all members as such checks had, legally, to be specific to people in childcare roles such as organising a walking bus or supervising an after-school club.

Under the new Protection of Children Act, a basic check can be carried out on anyone. But such a level of scrutiny would not involve a check that a person was not on a UK list of people deemed unsuitable to work with children.

Mrs Gillespie warned that any local authorities who insisted that all parent volunteers, whether or not they are in a supervisory childcare position, undergo a standard or enhanced check (the levels above the basic check which do involve a check against the UK list) would be acting illegally.

The SPTC has consistently complained that some councils have adopted a blanket policy of insisting upon disclosure checks for all parent volunteers.

A spokeswoman for the Executive confirmed that any education authority which insisted on standard or enhanced checks on volunteers who were not applying for childcare roles would be breaching the agreed code.

"We have issued the guidance which helps people decide what is a childcare position and these are the people who need to be disclosure checked," she said.

Mrs Gillespie said the new guidance revealed a number of other problems for PTAs:

* a PTA member checked to help out with a walking bus would have to be checked again if they wanted to go on the rota for running the school disco, because they were two different posts;

* organising checks might well make some parents even more reluctant than they already were to take on office-bearers' duties;

* if a PTA checked someone who should not be checked they would be breaking the law covering the rehabilitation of offenders, so it was impossible for them to have a policy of blanket checks for all;

* while PTAs can have their checks done free of charge as voluntary organisations, they would have to register with the Central Registered Body in Scotland first; this would be time-consuming because they would be required to provide their constitution and documents on childcare policy.

Volunteers who cannot or should not be checked, according to the SPTC, include anyone already in a childcare position, someone helping out on an ad hoc basis, and PTA members not supervising children.

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