All sex offenders will be barred from working in schools, the education secretary, Ruth Kelly announced yesterday as she sought to end a career-threatening row by unveiling a tougher than expected set of streamlined regulations.
Earlier in the month it was revealed that Kelly had approved the appointment of a registered sex offender as a PE teacher. It is understood that she believed the evidence against the man was inconclusive. However, police are understood to have followed stringent Home Office guidelines when deciding to place the man on a sex offenders register and privately express deep reservations that their risk assessment was overruled. The new legislation to be introduced next month includes an automatic ban from working with children for anyone convicted or cautioned of a child sex offence or serious offence against adults. Teachers' unions welcomed the measures but warned that their ultimate success would depend on the ability of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to handle the huge volume of extra checks. Dr Mary Bousted , general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: “The measures announced today by Ruth Kelly sound like a sensible package that balance the need to protect children while retaining proper safeguards for the individuals who may be affected by them. However, it will be important to ensure that the CRB has the capacity to cope with a greatly increased demand on its resources – otherwise we will be looking at a new set of problems for head teachers.” The NASUWT also cautiously welcomed the government’s view that CRB checks for new employees should be mandatory. "However, the Government needs to consider whether it is prudent to allow the practice to continue where schools have the option of new staff taking up their post pre-check, providing that they are supervised at all times. Apart from the practicalities and expense of this, in my view it is not a risk worth taking. NASUWT will continue to advise its headteacher members to wait for the result of the check.” said Chris Keates, General Secretary of NASUWT.