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Hundreds of School Staff Suspended in Safeguarding Confusion

Over 300 school staff members have been suspended over confusion with child protection rules across England’s schools. The teachers and support staff who live with someone with a conviction for a violent or sexual crime will face disqualification.

Public sector union, Unison wants the government to confirm and clarify guidance to primary schools that was introduced late last year. The government has stated that schools must use their own judgement and apply it to the rules.

Regulations were brought in for childminders and day nurseries in 2009 but have recently been rolled out to primary schools, these regulations state:

‘At the point that an individual is convicted of, or cautioned for, a criminal offence of a specified type or category, or where they meet other disqualification criteria set out in the regulations, the Act and Regulations disqualify staff from:

  • providing early years childcare or later years childcare to children who have not attained the age of eight; or
  • being directly concerned in the management of that childcare.

In addition to inclusion on the Children’s Barred List, the wider disqualification criteria include:

  • being cautioned for or convicted of certain violent and sexual criminal offences against children and adults;
  • grounds relating to the care of children (including where an order is made in respect of a child under the person’s care);
  • having registration refused or cancelled in relation to childcare or children’s homes or being disqualified from private fostering;’

As a result of these regulations, staff are now being asked to complete disclosure forms and immediately suspended if it is found that a member of their household has in fact committed a disqualifiable offence.

Suspended members of staff can apply to Ofsted for a ‘waiver’ but are still suspended from duties until this is completed.

Unison's head of education Jon Richards said in an interview that “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.”

Unfortunately the way these regulations have been relayed onto schools means they are being misapplied and staff are being suspended for issues that are unrelated. This also creates a bigger problem for Ofsted who may not have the capacity to deal with all these cases.

As an example, one teaching assistant had been suspended due to her husband being convicted of grievous bodily harm 20 years ago, she said:

'It was a stupid mistake as a young person. He paid his debt and it was done. Now I could lose my job of 13 years and my reputation.

"I'm being punished even though I have never committed a crime. I'm a sitting duck. It's just so unfair."

The regulations are creating confusion amongst schools as they are unsure who is covered. The government have advised that the regulations cover anyone providing education or childcare for under 5’s but local authorities have interpreted this to mean all primary staff.

A Department for Educations spokesperson sais ‘Nothing is more important than keeping children safe and schools should ensure this is a paramount in everything they do.’

What do you think about these changes? Do you think they are in any way beneficial to childcare?

 

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