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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 17:07 GMT
Q&A: Teachers and sex offences
The Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has announced tighter procedures for ensuring sex offenders are not allowed to work in schools in England and Wales.

The changes follow an outcry over revelations that some sex offenders had been cleared to continue teaching.

Her Commons statement came after she ordered an investigation into how many sex offenders had been cleared to work in schools.

What are the biggest changes announced by Ruth Kelly?

People who have accepted a police caution for a sex offence will now be automatically barred from working in schools, as well as those who have been convicted by the courts. They will go on a list of people deemed unsuitable to work with children, known as List 99, and will automatically be barred from working in with children.

Decisions on who should be barred will be passed from ministers to an independent panel, chaired by the former head of the children's charity, Barnardos.

There will be a single register of people who are barred, to replace several lists schools have to take account of.

How many blacklists are there?

There are currently seven separate sources of information on sex offenders, the two most relevant being:

  • The sex offenders register, which is maintained by police and features the details of anyone convicted of or cautioned for a sexual offence.
  • List 99, the education department's own official blacklist of people banned from working with children. It covers not only sexual offences but also crimes of dishonesty and violence and unsuitability on health grounds.

What prompted the changes?

An outcry over the case of Paul Reeve, a PE teacher cleared by government ministers to work in a school, despite a police caution for accessing child pornography.

The Department for Education had given him the benefit of the doubt and not placed him on List 99 - the list of people banned from working with children for various reasons.

Subsequent cases revealed that even being on List 99 was not an absolute block to teaching. Some individuals were allowed to work in particular limited circumstances, such as only with older pupils or not with boys, although regulations were changed in 2000.

So will being on the list for sex offences against children mean an automatic bar from working with them?

Yes.

How many other sex offenders are working in English schools?

In her emergency statement in the Commons on Thursday, Ms Kelly gave the results of an investigation into this and other related questions.

A total of 88 sex offenders have not been banned from working in schools.

She said that since 1997, ministers had personally decided not to bar 10 individuals on the sex offenders register from working in schools. None of those were working in schools now and none was a cause for concern, she said.

Also since 1997, the government had cleared another 46 people whose offences were committed before the sex offenders register was set up, to work in schools.

Ms Kelly said there was no evidence that 32 of those 46 were working in schools.

But she went on: "In 13 cases preliminary checks have shown no reason for concern but our information is as yet not complete.

"In one case an individual is working in education but has been assessed by police as of no cause for concern."

A separate police review identified another 32 individuals in England and Wales on the sex offenders register who may need to be included on the government's List 99.

It was understood that these 32 cases had never been referred to the Department for Education for inclusion.

What will happen to the various banning lists?

The information from them will be pulled together so that the new panel to be set up to control who is barred from schools under List 99 can be the central point of information. The sex offenders register will stay and will be examined before the panel makes a decision.

Does that mean schools will no longer have to make their own checks?

No, it will be compulsory for all schools, teacher supply agencies and other employers in the education sector to perform what are known as enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks on all newly-appointed teachers and school workers.

But isn't it the case that staff can start work at a school once they have been cleared by List 99?

Yes, provided the CRB checking process is underway, new staff can work under supervision. The case which prompted the outcry fell into this category. This is not changed by the government's announcement.

What other potential loopholes exist?

Ruth Kelly conceded in the Commons, when questioned by the Liberal Democrats, that more checks on teachers from overseas needed to be carried out.

What about private tutors?

Under the changes, "all employers, including domestic employers such as parents contracting private tutors, will be able to make secure, instant online checks of an applicant's status," the government says.




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