School checks 'could add to staff crisis'

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The Independent Online

The new system for checking that schools do not hire teachers who pose a risk to children could make the staff shortage worse, say headteachers and supply agencies.

They fear the new Criminal Records Bureau will keep them waiting for at least a month to learn whether a potential teacher has passed the check. The delay could remove up to 2,000 teachers a week from schools, according to the largest supply agency, Select Education. It fears the system could take up to six weeks to approve a supply teacher, compared with the current period of less than a week.

From this week, requests to the Department for Education and Skills for the roll of blacklisted teachers will be referred to the bureau, which will also hold police records. But employers – schools, local authorities and agencies – will not be able to see the bureau's records until mid-April at the earliest, which could cause recruitment problems. The launch of the system has been put back until 11 March because of the difficulty of compiling information from every police force in England and Wales on a single database.

However, once in operation, the system will provide a "one-stop shop" for schools for the variety of checks they are required to make.

The department receives more than 100 complaints about teachers from employers or police every month. Teachers are blacklisted if judged to be: a risk or an "unacceptable example" to children; unprofessional in their work; or a fraud risk. The department said the bureau would respond faster than the current system. It will aim to complete 90 per cent of the toughest checks – for teachers in closest contact with children – within three weeks.

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