Teachers allowed in without checks

SCHOOLS in Suffolk are continuing to allow teachers to start working with children before they have been vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), new figures have revealed.

The Home Office agency is responsible for flagging up the criminal convictions of anyone applying for jobs with children or vulnerable adults.

But an East Anglian Daily Times investigation has found that 47 schools and colleges in Suffolk have chosen not to wait for the results of the checks before letting staff into the classroom.

The Department for Education said teachers were subjected to rigorous pre-employment scrutiny and checked against a database of child sex offenders, but could start before the CRB process had been completed.

However, Chris Cloke, the NSPCC’s head of children protection, claimed no teacher should begin work until being fully vetted. He said: “CRB and other recruitment checks are an important part of child protection procedures and no-one should teach before being thoroughly checked.

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“However, these checks are just one part of safe recruitment. It is equally vital that references are taken up and anyone looking after children remains vigilant and acts on their concerns.”

Figures released after a Freedom of Information Act request show that 61 teachers started working at the beginning of the September term despite the CRB process being incomplete.

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But the total is a sharp drop on last September which, as revealed in the EADT earlier this year, saw 211 staff in the same situation.

Back then, the county council claimed staff shortages meant headteachers couldn’t afford to keep their teachers out of the classroom.

In turn, one union leader pointed the finger at delays in the CRB process, which can take up to six weeks – far longer than the 28-day target.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said headteachers were responsible for ensuring all background checks were carried out.

She said: “Headteachers can allow new staff to start working once they have confirmation that they are not on the list of those barred from working with children [known as the Independent Safeguarding Authority Children’s Barred List] and they have carried out other recruitment checks, including satisfactory references from previous employers.

“It is a legal requirement for all new staff to the education sector to get an enhanced CRB disclosure.

“The guidance also insists that there is appropriate supervision for individuals who start work prior to receiving the result of a CRB disclosure.”

A CRB spokesman said: “A CRB check is just one tool used by recruiters to determine the suitability of job applicants.

“The CRB provides information to employers so that they can make more informed recruitment decisions based on suitability for the job.

“The CRB is currently processing over 88% of enhanced CRB checks within 28 days, against a target of 90%.

“The CRB works closely with police forces to ensure that each enhanced CRB check is processed as quickly as possible, however some checks will take longer to complete than others, depending on the complexity of the individual case.”

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