Schools ‘failing to keep records’ on teacher checks

Schools are committed to checking staff for any criminal convictions but most are failing to provide any record of the checks carried out, Ofsted has warned.

In a new report, the education watchdog reveals that all but three of the 58 schools surveyed keep records on whether their staff have undergone Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks, or even had their identity properly confirmed.

More than half (32) also fail to keep evidence that staff had been checked against list 99 of sex offenders before 2002, when the CRB was created, something Ofsted says is “unacceptable”.

The watchdog also expresses “major concern” about the lack of proper evidence that staff dealing with out of school activities are properly vetted, and in the way one third of schools accept supply staff with only the agency’s assurance they have been checked.

“Ofsted will be checking in future whether such good intentions translate into secure action,” said chief inspector of schools Maurice Smith.

“As the chief inspector, and as a parent, I want to walk into any school next term and, if I ask for a list of staff, and secure evidence that their identity, qualifications and criminal records have been checked, the school will be in a position to show me that record.”

Ofsted was commissioned to investigate the vetting procedures in schools after the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) admitted earlier this year it had cleared a number of convicted sex offenders to work in schools.

A “fundamental overhaul” of the entire system was announced at the time, and the safeguarding and vulnerable groups bill currently going through parliament includes a number of new measures.

It would bring together all information on people banned from working with children into one place, and introduce new penalties for employers who hire barred staff, and also allow parents to check whether private tutors or nannies have criminal records.

However, in response to today’s Ofsted report, education secretary Alan Johnson has announced a number of interim measures to reassure parents that their concerns about child safety are being addressed.

These include making it mandatory for local authorities, schools and colleges to carry out CRB checks on all overseas applicants, and making record-keeping of vetting procedures one of the tests schools and colleges must meet in Ofsted inspections.

Today’s report also criticises the government for failing to provide proper guidance on how staff should be checked, and Mr Johnson said he was consulting on new information to make clear what schools were responsible for.

“The government has responsibility to get the system right but any system is only as good as those who are using it,” said children’s minister Beverley Hughes.

“All employers, including schools, have a crucial role – indeed the ultimate responsibility – in ensuring that recruitment procedures and practices are rigorous and thorough.”