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Ex-cons bid to work in Devon and Cornwall schools

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 25, 2012

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Hundreds of criminals with histories of serious offending have applied to become teachers in Devon and Cornwall during the last three years.

Figures uncovered by the Western Morning News today show convicted child abusers, violent thugs and drug dealers have all sought to take jobs in the region's schools since January 2009. In one case, a convicted prostitute also attempted to get a job working with children.

In total, applicants with a total of 1,335 convictions were vetted during regulatory checks by the Criminal Records Bureau.

Andy Woolley, South West regional spokesman for the National Union of Teachers, said: "I am not surprised by the number of people with convictions trying to get into our schools – but it just shows the system is working. The list of offences is very serious, so it must be reassuring to parents and staff to know that these people are failing to work alongside them and teach their children."

According to the statistics, prospective teachers with 592 convictions between them applied for posts in Devon and Cornwall in 2009. These included 76 convictions for driving while under the influence of alcohol, 45 for shoplifting and 32 for criminal damage.

The following year, 446 convictions were picked up by the CRB. Again, the majority were for drink-driving (68), theft (26), and shoplifting (21).

Checks also picked up applicants with convictions for indecently assaulting a girl, and indecent exposure. There were four convictions for possession of class A drugs, as well as one for "prostitute loitering" – being a sex worker.

Last year, 312 offences were detected. A total of 52 were for drink-driving, 22 were for theft, and 22 were for making a false statement or representation to obtain benefit or payment.

One criminal was vetted for wounding – among the most serious violent offences – while three convictions were for racial abuse and harassment.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, also reveal dozens of convictions for drugs possession, fraud and non-alcohol-related motoring offences.

Mr Woolley said the NUT had "no problem with CRB checks" because they "obviously work effectively". But he said he was concerned that some unproven allegations against current and prospective teachers would remain "on file", dissuading them from applying for new posts.

"Where we have a problem is CRB checks for teachers which show an allegation against them, which has shown to have no conclusive proof," he said. "It might be just a child with a grievance against a teacher, yet that mark can stay with them, even though they are innocent.

"What we'd like is a better system which would carefully identify those with a conviction or with a serious concern about a serious offence.

"We do not want to stop great people from becoming great teachers and making a difference. At the same time, we want the CRB check to show that every possible step is being taken to ensure those who present a risk to children are not getting into our schools."

A CRB spokesperson said the checks had helped to stop more than 150,000 unsuitable people from working or volunteering with children or vulnerable people nationally since their introduction.

He added: "Good recruitment practices, such as thorough reference checking, are a key responsibility for all employers, especially those working with children and vulnerable groups. Criminal records checks are just one of a range of tools to help employers make the right recruitment decisions."

It an offence to knowingly employ a person barred by the Independent Safeguarding Authority, as well as for a barred person to work or even apply to work with the vulnerable group from which they have been barred.

Asked to comment on the year-on-year decline in the number of checks testing positive for a conviction in Devon and Cornwall, the spokesman said: "It could be down to a number of reasons, such as fewer people applying for posts. There is nothing to suggest a failure by CRB staff to detect convictions."

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  • shagrats  |  June 27 2012, 1:05PM

    Personally I blame the lapdancing clubs in Newquay.

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  • realityzone  |  June 26 2012, 5:45PM

    I don't have children of school age now, but if I had, I somehow feel that I would be very uneasy about this and that many others will be as well.

    |   -2
  • 34Eric  |  June 26 2012, 12:37PM

    Surely a spent conviction for shoplifting many years before should not stop someone from doing a job they have trained for and are qualified to do?

    |   8
  • cheekyman_jr  |  June 25 2012, 4:07PM

    Surely these people have done their time, been rehibilitated and then released back into the community? Surely these people aren't being released when there's a risk they would reoffend? Surely that would suggest the prison system/judiciary is failing?

    |   -4
  • maddogwoman  |  June 25 2012, 3:09PM

    @Stork I'll agree with you on that one. They might just be able to keep the childrens attention in class, with stories. This could be included in the lesson, and prevent disruptive behaviour. If lessons are fun, children will learn.

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  • karenpk  |  June 25 2012, 12:04PM

    Unfortunately the system is hugely flawed when it comes to schools. When the system was introduced in 2002/3 the all powerful teaching unions objected to existing staff being subject to CRB's so it only applied to new appointments after that date. Therefore someone who has been in same post for 9 years + could have a record as long as anything, could have been cautioned/prosecuted since and if they have managed to keep it quiet (e.g. drugs offences during school holidays in another part of country etc. ...) they have still not been CRB'd. In care homes etc. all staff were subject CRB's and all staff are required to apply for new checks every 3 years.

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  • Stork  |  June 25 2012, 11:11AM

    I can't say how good these applicants would be at teaching, but I'm sure they would have some interesting stories to tell the children !

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  • pandddawso  |  June 25 2012, 10:41AM

    A sign of the times. The shortage of quality teaching staff in UK schools has been a shameful indictment of our society for many years. Why do we have this shortage? Because, although teachers are every bit as important to a healthy society as doctors and lawyers, they are paid a fraction of their money. They just never seem to have had a ride on the gravy train. Also a damning indictment is that 'the wrong sort of people' now think they may be in with a chance of 'getting a job' in the teaching profession. I don't think anyone with a tendency to avoid hard work could ever shoulder the kind of burden that teachers consider normal. The only good thing is, the CRB system seems to be working. I suppose.

    |   11