July 4, 2008

Concern That School Staff Still Await Police Checks

By Martin Shipton

EVIDENCE has emerged that some people are still working in Welsh schools without having been cleared by a police check.

In one county, Monmouthshire, it has been confirmed that "many" staff have not been subjected to a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check before being allowed to start work.

A letter sent by Andrew Keep, corporate director of lifelong learning and leisure at Monmouthshire County Council to Labour councillor Armand Watts, states: "As of today, only six of our primary schools have existing staff where there is not a CRB check in place, or in a small number of cases applied for. In these cases the total number of staff not checked is eight, with no more than two in any school. In all cases, forms are expected from the schools on the individuals concerned imminently.

The letter continues: "Within the secondary schools, the task of ensuring that all staff are checked has been more time consuming and difficult. Many staff have been taken on for part time, temporary positions such as exam invigilator and subsequently left. They have remained on our database and shown up as not having a CRB check. We are currently still checking against such staff and currently are looking at just over 20 such instances spread throughout the four comprehensive schools."

Mr Watts said: "I think it is quite unacceptable that we are still in a position where people are allowed to work in schools without having CRB checks. It is amazing to me that this remains the case."

The Sohammurders, where two young girls were murdered by school caretaker Ian Huntley, prompted calls for more rigorous checking of those employed in schools.

Since 2002, newly-qualified teachers and those returning from a career break have had to undergo criminal background checks. The checks are carried out by the CRB.

More than two years ago the Welsh school inspection service Estyncalled for all school staff and governors to have enhanced criminal record checks.

Inspectors carrying out spot-checks at 28 schools across Wales in 2006 found there was inconsistency in checks on teachers from overseas, inadequate arrangements to protect pupils who receive some or all of their education off the school site, inconsistency in record-keeping of staff checks and checks on non-teaching staff was also hit and miss.

Less than half the schools surveyed confirmed they vet all adults who may have access to children such as a minibus drivers, grounds staff or caretakers.

There are currently more than 27,000 teachers in nursery, primary and secondary schools in Wales.

Every member of staff, including kitchen staff, support staff and others who have regular contact with children, are meant to be checked under CRB guidelines before being granted unsupervised access to children.

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