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Last Updated: Monday, 16 January 2006, 18:16 GMT
Teacher denies being paedophile
William Gibson

A man at the centre of the row over sex offenders being allowed to teach in schools has denied being a paedophile.

William Gibson, 59, was cleared by the Education Secretary Ruth Kelly to teach despite his conviction for indecently assaulting a 15-year-old girl in 1980.

Mr Gibson, who had an affair with the girl, told the Bournemouth Echo: "I am not a risk to children."

He was suspended by the school after his past came to light. Ms Kelly is under mounting pressure on the issue.

The Department for Education is considering more changes to teacher recruitment in England and Wales after revelations that sex offenders were approved to teach.

It has already been agreed that future decisions will rest with professional experts, rather than politicians.

Feeling the heat

Ms Kelly has ordered a review into the employment of sex offenders over the last 30 years and will report back to MPs on Thursday.

Tony Blair's official spokesman said it was better to "take a bit of heat" now and be able to give comprehensive answers later in the week.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly
Ruth Kelly ordered a review after revelations came to light

"It is important that we reassure the country that individual cases are being looked at and the process of how decisions are made is also being looked at," said the spokesman.

He acknowledged parents' fears about teachers but said such concerns had to be addressed calmly.

Downing Street says the prime minister continues to have confidence in Ms Kelly and she will stay in her job to push through school reforms.

The Conservatives want an independent inquiry.

Shadow education secretary David Willetts said it was "shocking" the government could not or would not yet say how many people on the sex offenders' register had been cleared to teach.

He wants Ms Kelly to return to the Commons before Thursday to correct a "misleading" statement about the rules she inadvertently gave last week.

'Suitable to work'

The Gibson case has added to the pressure on Ms Kelly since it emerged last week that one of her junior ministers had cleared a PE teacher to work in schools, despite a police caution for downloading child pornography.

Mr Gibson, convicted in 1980, was then employed by Portchester School in Bournemouth last September as a supply teacher despite having been removed from three other schools.

The agency that employed him - Step Teachers - said he was "suitable to work in schools" and that a supporting letter from one of Ms Kelly's officials had been "powerful".

In a statement, the firm's solicitor said it had at all times complied with the government's vetting procedure when recruiting teaching staff.

It also carried out an enhanced disclosure check with the Criminal Records Bureau which had brought to their attention "issues as to his [Mr Gibson's] suitability".

"These were investigated fully with such processes as an interview with Mr Gibson when he was asked to explain his position," the statement said.

I am absolutely disgusted and very, very worried
Claire Smith
Councillor in charge of education in Bournemouth

It said Mr Gibson had also supplied the agency with a letter from the office of the education secretary confirming its knowledge of his history.

The letter also confirmed "the fact that an independent doctor had been consulted, as had the department's senior medical adviser, who had come to the conclusion that Mr Gibson presented no risk to children", the statement said.

"Accordingly the secretary of state decided there would be no bar or restriction to his employment.

"It was only after taking account of all these matters that Step Teachers put Mr Gibson forward for the position at Portchester Boys School ."

'I never abused'

Mr Gibson was fined 60 in 1980 for an indecency offence involving the girl, who was a pupil at the north east England school where he worked.

The relationship was discovered when he sent flowers to her home.

Mr Gibson told his local newspaper: "I am not a paedophile...

"I know what I did was wrong back in 1980 and I regret my actions but it's not as black and white as everyone thinks.

"I hope people will come to the conclusion that I have never abused anyone."

After the court case, Mr Gibson resigned from the school and took other jobs but was jailed in 2000 for two years for fraud.

When he finished his sentence, he moved to Dorset and returned to teaching.

The councillor in charge of education at Bournemouth Council, Claire Smith, said the local authority should have been told about Gibson's past.

"I am absolutely disgusted and very, very worried," she added.

"If we had been told everything we could have made a reasoned choice. I am very angry we did not have that choice."

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