Heads show concern over 'shambles' of staff checks

PUBLISHED: 11:42 19 January 2006 | UPDATED: 17:11 11 May 2010

A HEADTEACHER has described the set up for checking on staff as a shambles". And another said he was upset and appalled" over Education Secretary Ruth Kelly handling of the issue over the Sex Offenders' Register. The comments came when The Crow spoke to

A HEADTEACHER has described the set up for checking on staff as a "shambles". And another said he was "upset and appalled" over Education Secretary Ruth Kelly handling of the issue over the Sex Offenders' Register. The comments came when The Crow spoke to headteachers this week after it had been revealed that in other parts of the country staff had been employed in schools who were on the register. Sue Kennedy, headteacher at Royston's Greneway School, said: "I think headteachers are furious about this. The Government needs to get it sorted out. They are going to have to act very quickly. "We had every confidence in the clearance procedures we were given. It's a shambles, an absolute shambles." The current vetting system requires those who work in schools with the young or vulnerable to be checked against the so-called List 99: a register which bans sex offenders from working with children. But a check can take months. Dr Michael Firth, headteacher of The Meridian School, Royston, said: "We had faith in the system for as long as it's been running and I'm a little surprised in the same way everybody else is. "I still believe the system works well, but there's some tightening up required. This has been a wake-up call." The current legislation was modified in 2002 after the Soham murders and an inquiry carried out by Sir Michael Bichard, whose recommendations to the Government have not all be implemented. Roysia Middle School headteacher Peter Fielden said: "I assumed the new system from 2002 was an improvement, but clearly there are flaws in the system that have put the children at risk and I don't like it. "I'm upset and appalled that staff and children and parents can all be put in this situation." "We were led to believe that if somebody did have a criminal record, or had been arrested, or looked into for these sorts of things, they would come up on the list and would be deemed unsuitable." MP Oliver Heald, said: "When I think of all the concern there was in this area, particularly following the Soham murders, it seems extraordinary that the Government still haven't sorted this out. "We need a proper inquiry. "It may be that some of the offences aren't to do with children, but I'm certain that if somebody has been down-loading child pornography, we don't want them teaching in a school. "That Soham case is so dreadful and everybody knew there was a problem and we were all assured that it wouldn't be able to happen again." Mr Heald, the MP for North East Herts, said there should be an inquiry run by a judge or education expert. "We want it properly looked into and assurance that this won't happen again," he said. "We want somebody independent in charge, we don't want this behind closed doors. We do not want a whitewash." All the schools that The Crow talked to stressed that any person employed is checked to the most comprehensive standard possible.

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