Leading article: A question of responsibility

Share

After the Soham murders, it was generally assumed that anyone with a conviction for any form of sex offence involving children would henceforth be banned from working with minors. It was surprising, therefore, to learn that the Department for Education helped to secure a job for Paul Reeve, a physical education teacher cautioned for accessing banned images of children on the internet and placed on the police's sex offenders register. Ordinarily, Mr Reeve would have been added to the Department for Education's list of those banned from working with children, the so-called "List 99", but it was decided that the risks of allowing him to teach were acceptable.

Mr Reeve was eventually forced to resign when Norfolk police made their concerns known to the school. But that has not been the end of the matter. People are now, understandably, demanding to know why the Department for Education supported this man's application. There are also questions about how many other sex offenders have been helped in this way. According to the Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, the issue is "complex". But is it really? It seems quite simple: surely no one on the sex offenders register should be permitted to work with children. And surely it is possible to enforce this.

At the heart of the problem is the fact that there is no standard database of sex offenders. Separate lists are held by different public bodies. For instance, it turns out that those on the police's sex offenders register are not automatically placed on the Education Department blacklist. This needs to change; Ms Kelly yesterday indicated that it would. In a statement to Parliament, she announced legislation to standardise the vetting system, along with a review of past cases where sex offenders might have been approved to work in schools.

The responsibility of ministers to make the final decision on clearing individual teachers to work in schools - the source of this scandal - should also surely be scrapped. The role of central government is to set down policy and strategy, then leave it up to local communities to implement.

As for Ms Kelly, she has certainly been a somewhat unfortunate Education Secretary, and there are questions over her suitablity for the post. She began her tenure 12 months ago with an embarrassing U-turn over the Tomlinson report, since when things have got steadily worse. She is now embroiled in a bitter row over school reform. If she is to resign, it should be related to her handling of her brief. Calls for her to resign over a faulty school vetting system that was in place long before she arrived in office are misplaced.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker
 

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements