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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 18:53 GMT
Kelly wins backing over changes
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly
There has been a general welcome for Ms Kelly's announcements
Teachers' leaders, heads and parents' representatives have welcomed attempts to tighten controls aimed at stopping sex offenders from working in schools.

They back the rule change which means anyone cautioned, as well as those convicted, will go on List 99 - those banned from working with children.

They welcome the move to put decisions on who is barred in the hands of an independent panel, not politicians.

But they warn that confidence in the system has been seriously undermined.

Dr John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said Ms Kelly's announcement seemed to signal a move towards greater clarity in the system.

He supported the idea of decisions being taken by an independent body instead of politicians and the priority given to the implementation of the Bichard report.
This last fortnight has seriously undermined parental confidence in the way the system has operated
Steve Sinnott, NUT

However, he cautioned: "The Criminal Records Bureau will have to raise its game if schools are going to be required to carry out pre-appointment checks.

"The lessons of September 2002 are still fresh in our minds when there was a huge problem caused by the backlog of CRB checks on staff starting in the autumn term.

Sir Michael Bichard, who chaired the inquiry into the Soham murders, said the proposals fully met recommendations he had made for setting up a simple registration or barring scheme and were a "major step forward".

"Since legislative time is now available, there should be no delay in introducing the necessary Bill and, subsequently, the scheme itself," he said.

However, no system could be totally secure, and difficult decisions would still have to be made, he said.

'Seriously undermined'

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers said it was right that all sex-offenders, whether convicted or cautioned should be barred from working with children.

"No one in the position of regularly having to report to the police because of a sexual offence should simply have restrictions placed on the age groups or the gender of the children they are allowed to teach," he said.

Parents had been shaken by recent events, Mr Sinnott said.

"This last fortnight has seriously undermined parental confidence in the way the system to protect their children from known sexual offenders has operated."

Chris Keates, the general secretary of NASUWT, said teachers and head teachers would be relieved that Ruth Kelly had taken a "measured approach to this highly complex issue".

Overseas teachers

David Butler of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations said it was crucial the changes were brought in quickly.

"The real test will be making sure that the practices and processes that have been promised today are put into place swiftly, that the independent panel she talked about will be established very quickly and that a sensible and fair set of appeals processes will be established quickly."

Mary Marsh, of the NSPCC, welcomed the government's decision to give independent child protection experts the final decision on who should work with children.

"Having one list will make it much harder for people to slip through the net," she added.

But the NSPCC was still concerned over checks on teachers coming from overseas.

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