Vetting crisis delays new term

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The Independent Online

Many schools are expected to close this week because a backlog in a new system of police checks has left thousands of teachers without approval for working with young people.

Many schools are expected to close this week because a backlog in a new system of police checks has left thousands of teachers without approval for working with young people.

At the start of the weekend, 9,600 applications were still outstanding at the Criminal Records Bureau. Home Office officials said they expected 2,600 of the 9,600 to be "fast-tracked" by Wednesday for the start of term in many schools. But the remaining 7,000 applications – those containing errors – will take a further three or four days to be re-checked and are therefore unlikely to be finished in time for the start of term.

The Department for Education and Skills has told local education authorities that teachers should not be allowed to start working with children if checks have not been completed.

The guidance was issued to allay public concern over school safety after the murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells in Soham, Cambridgeshire.

Last night, a headteachers' leader warned that many heads would delay the start of the new term rather than allow a piecemeal introduction to the school year with some classes taught and others lacking a teacher.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "They have to go back and re-check because it could be one way of gaining entry to a school by giving false information. I think we're facing a lot of closures in schools this week. Most local education authorities are following the DfES advice that if people aren't cleared you don't allow them to teach."

¿ An urgent investigation was under way yesterday into the marking of A-level psychology papers at Knights Templar School in Baldock, Hertfordshire, set by the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA exam board. Pupils have had their coursework returned as "unclassified'' while gaining top marks in written papers.

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