Criminal records checks for school staff under review

The government has been urged to reform the process of checking criminal records for school staff after it emerged that Ruth Kelly, education secretary, approved the appointment of a sex offender as a PE teacher.

The man, who has not been named, had just started work at a comprehensive school in Norwich when police found out and protested, prompting his suspension and resignation.

He had been arrested for accessing paedophile websites but was never convicted. However, the man was put on the Sex Offenders Register after a caution.

When he applied for a job at Hewett School, he disclosed his status as a sex offender but denied the allegations. However, to receive a caution, he must have admitted an offence in front of a senior police officer.

The fact that Kelly approved the appointment knowing his history has astonished teachers’ unions, children’s charities and social workers.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the case highlighted the need to change further the education employment system. “This case demonstrates a need to make sure all parties work together with agencies on a regional and national level,” he told the Times.

The NSPCC said: “We are concerned the decision to bar someone from working with children rests with the secretary of state, not child protection experts.”

The Department for Education and Skills said it was reviewing its policy and that it would close any loopholes if required.

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