By Alan Gurbutt
In October 2014, the Department for Education published supplementary advice to schools on what are called the “childcare disqualification requirements”.
The aspect that received the most attention was the “disqualification by association” part. In November 2014 the Independent reported “Teachers to be barred for living with offenders under new rules.” And in January 2015, the BBC reported “Schools suspend staff in child protection confusion”.
Three hundred school staff, living with someone with a reprimand, caution or conviction for a violent or sexual offence, now face disqualification by association.
These regulations have been around since 2009 in registered childcare provision, but the DfE has made it clear that they now apply to primary schools where there are children under 8 years old. They apply in addition to what schools are already doing in relation to the enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service and checks against Barred Lists.
Commenting on the impact of this news, Christopher Stacey, Director of Unlock, the charity for ex-offenders, said: “We are very concerned about these regulations. There is very little logic to why they should apply to primary schools.”
“They were intended to apply to people working in roles like home-based childminders, where partners may come into contact with children, but forcing these onto primary schools, on top of existing measures that they have towards safeguarding, makes no sense. It is an expensive, bureaucratic system that will do very little to protect children.”
Unions are also speaking out and we urge the Government to reconsider their advice to primary schools. Unison’s head of education Jon Richards told BBC Radio 5 live a growing numbers of cases included teaching assistants and lunchtime supervisors: “Many members of staff are being suspended for issues completely unrelated to child safety.”
“Staff who have been in post for a long time and have demonstrated that they do not pose a risk are being suspended and left in limbo.”
Suspended staff can apply for a waiver from Ofsted but are barred from their jobs while they wait. This fact sheet explains how to apply for a disqualification waiver.
We all want our children to be safe, but these new rules are based entirely on a person’s willingness to comply with self-disclosure and an assumption that we know the criminal history of people we live with.
The Government says schools must “use their judgement” in applying the rules.