Tougher checks on teachers

9th February 2007 at 00:00
teachers and other education workers face an expanded array of background checks, including verifying their details with the Identity and Passport Service.

England's General Teaching Council has asked ministers for approval to regulate teachers who are employed outside schools - for example, as home tutors or in outward bound centres. It also proposes regulation for all other school workers, such as teaching assistants and further education teachers.

"There is now a wide range of adults involved in teaching and learning in schools," said Alan Meyrick, the GTC's registrar. "The council believes it is important that a framework of registration and regulation in the public interest should be considered for these groups."

New regulations will require 40,000 trainee teachers to register provisionally with the council next year, allowing it to check their backgrounds.

The Criminal Records Bureau is also significantly increasing its controls, checking records with the British Transport Police and forging links with the Identity and Passport Service. It is in discussions about fingerprinting applicants to education posts.

The bureau balanced its books this week with the help of pound;25 million of fees paid by the education sector for checks on more than 700,000 job applicants and volunteers last year.

One in 15 criminal record checks reveals adverse information about the applicants, bureau data shows, but in only a fraction of cases does the employer withdraw the job offer. Of those whose checks revealed criminal records or cautions, 7 per cent were for sexual offences and a further 5 per cent were for other offences against children.

The bureau will administer the Government's new vetting and barring scheme, which from next year will continuously monitor the police and court records of up to 10 million adults who are working with children.

The Independent Barring Panel is expected to increase the number of adults who are officially barred from working in schools following the Soham murders by Ian Huntley, a school caretaker.

Vince Gaskell, the bureau's chief executive, said its new online service, which will be constantly updated, would speed up the process for schools vetting job applicants.

The Manifesto Club, a lobby group opposed to the cost of criminal record checks and their impact on civil liberties, criticised the increased vetting of education workers and volunteers.

"These changes are a sign of the ever expanding bureaucracy and ever higher security controlling adults working with kids," said Josie Appleton, the group's convenor. "When adults have to have their passports scanned in order to teach kids to read, we are losing a sense of proportion."

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "This Government has brought forward changesJtoJensure we have the toughest systemJever for checking all those who work with children."

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