Registration scheme suspended

2nd July 2010 at 01:00
Heads' unions join demands for overhaul as home secretary brands vetting checks `disproportionate'

Heads' leaders in England have called for a major review of safeguarding rules in schools, following the surprise suspension of the controversial vetting and barring scheme south of the border.

In one of its early acts, the Westminster Government has "halted" the registration system so it can be scaled back to "proportionate, common sense levels", English Home Secretary Theresa May said.

She said the scheme, due to start on July 26, is "disproportionate and overly burdensome, and that it unduly infringes on civil liberties".

It is understood that the suspension of the scheme will run for three months, and the scaling back will mean that school volunteers will not have to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

Heads' unions have long criticised the bureaucracy and cost associated with vetting and barring. The ISA checks would have cost pound;36 per person, but some authorities were planning to charge a pound;44 administration fee. Estimated costs would have totalled pound;30,000 for every school.

Earlier this year, the seven associations representing teachers in England and Wales warned that the new vetting and barring scheme could spell the end of many extra-curricular activities and trips and leave heads drowning in paperwork.

Mrs May said while the safety of children and vulnerable adults was of paramount importance, "it is vital we take a measured approach".

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said safeguarding was a "dog's dinner" because of the amount of multiple checks required.

Malcolm Trobe, policy director of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "We all want appropriate safeguarding procedures, but vetting and barring was going overboard. We need to reconsider."

But Anne Orton, safeguarding divisional manager with Ofsted, urged caution: "I would have serious reservations if volunteers were not included. Schools are safe but, if those checks are not in place, unsafe people might gravitate towards them. We need a realistic and proportionate approach. There also need to be whistleblowing procedures."

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