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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 13:13 GMT
Kelly's teacher vetting blueprint
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education reporter

Playground
"Vetting and barring" plans will be announced later this week
Tougher rules for barring sex offenders from schools could mean checking against a centralised list of eight million people working with children.

It will give employers in England and Wales instant, online information on individuals barred from working with children - including private tutors.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly is to announce her plans on Thursday.

The moves have been brought forward by the political row over the discovery of sex offenders working in schools.

'List 99'

The Department for Education and Skills says plans for toughening the vetting and barring system were already in progress - including proposals for a "central barring unit".

VETTING AND BARRING PLANS
Single list for people working with children
This list could check against 8m names
"Central barring unit" will assess cases, not ministers
Teachers will apply for a "vetting and barring disclosure"
Barred list continuously updated
Barred list based on 'criminal history' as well as employers referral
Barred list online, instant access
Private tutors, nannies included
Health professionals included
Appeals through Care Standards Tribunal

These plans, which will attempt to reassure parents and defuse political criticism, will be presented to the House of Commons this week.

It could provide the blueprint for the Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults Bill promised in the Queen's Speech.

The education secretary will also reveal how many teachers on the sex offenders register have been allowed by education ministers to continue teaching, over the past three decades.

Ms Kelly has been placed under intense political pressure to remove loopholes in the current system, which have allowed individuals on the sex offenders register to remain in the classroom.

'Inconsistencies'

Plans to remove "inconsistencies" in the vetting process were initially set out last spring as a response to the Bichard Inquiry report - and are expected to provide the basis for the new regulations.

These include the setting up of a single, integrated list of people barred from working with children, incorporating those on the existing List 99, the sex offenders register and the health service's Protection of Children Act list.

This would include those individuals put on List 99 because of suspicions and referrals from schools, as well as those on the list because of convictions.

There could still be a separate, but "aligned" list, for those working with vulnerable adults.

According to the government's proposals, set out in the Bichard response, employers would be able to check against a list of up to eight million people, including a range of staff in education, health and social services.

This list of those not suitable to work with children could be constantly updated to include subsequent convictions.

Employers' offence

This is aimed at answering concerns that at present, criminal record checks are a one-off "snapshot" and are not able to reflect offences committed later - which do not show up unless someone has to apply for another check.

More controversially, this could also include proposals to make it an offence to employ "an unsuitable individual" in a job from which they are barred.

An online, broader-based system would also provide checks on private tutors and nannies, who can currently operate outside the restrictions on employment in school.

Under the proposals, it is suggested that anyone working with children would have to apply for a "vetting and barring disclosure".

Information about applicants would be considered by a "central barring unit" - which would make the risk assessment on behalf of ministers, removing political involvement in the process.

If there was additional information about a teacher, such as a conviction, this would be added to an updated "vetting and barring disclosure", and employers would be advised.

The government has estimated that introducing such a scheme could begin next year, with completion in 2008.



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