Headlines: February 2nd, 2006

A leading teaching union has criticised the growing number of local authorities that are instructing schools to carry out Criminal Records Bureau checks on their existing staff. The NASUWT says the checks are a waste of money – and cause undue distress to teachers and other staff.The union says more councils are issuing instructions to schools to conduct the checks in spite of clear advice to the contrary from the Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly. Two weeks ago the NASUWT condemned what it called “the unnecessary, gross overreaction which would undermine the steps taken to restore parents’ confidence in schools” after the widespread reporting of cases in which schools had employed teachers who were on the sexual offenders’ register.

Since then, it says, the DfES has sent two letters to Local education Authorities making it clear that checks on current staff are unnecessary. Chris Keates, General Secretary of NASUWT, the largest union representing teachers and headteachers throughout the UK, said, “I cannot begin to quantify the distress such measures could cause to committed and dedicated staff, the burdens this will place on schools and the impact on pupils’ education if there is a delay in appointing teaching staff to vacancies.”

Furthermore, he said the checks would overload the CRB system and the cost to school budgets could run into thousands of pounds, which the union believes is a complete waste of public money.

Mr. Keates added, “At 34 pounds per check on every teacher, member of the support staff ,including catering and cleaning staff, all governors and any volunteers in the school, the sums involved are very significant.”

The union is opposing blanket checks and has offered to support schools that refuse to foot the bill where local authorities persist in asking for the checks.