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| Education
May 1 2018

Careers of people working with children being destroyed by ‘misleading police checks’, teachers warn

“Misleading” criminal record checks are destroying the careers of people who want to work with children, teachers have warned.  

One woman committed suicide after she lost her job for failing to disclose a disorder fine for “snorting like a pig” at an undercover police officer when at university.  And another woman was told she could no longer work as a childminder because her nephew had been convicted of rape, the National Education Union ATL section’s conference heard. Delegates at the conference in Liverpool raised concerns the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) – which checks criminal records of those applying to work with children – is not fit for purpose.  

Josie Whiteley, president of AMiE, the union’s leadership section, said: “The career prospects of individuals are being destroyed by misleading information shared through police intelligence.” Ms Whiteley said she had heard of a young woman who lost her “dream job” of working with children in care after she snorted at an undercover police officer on a night out during her university years.“She decided, perhaps rather foolishly, to snort like at a pig at a man she suspected was an undercover police officer.

He was a police officer and she was told she had committed a public order offence. “They told her if she accepted a penalty notice for disorder and a fine she wouldn’t have to go to court, so she accepted that.”  The woman was allowed to start working with children in care. But when her employer saw the check, they said she had acted dishonestly by not disclosing the penalty notice and she was dismissed.  “She felt her career was in tatters and two weeks later she took her own life,” Ms Whiteley added. 

A motion – which said teachers had been arrested, released without charge and put in a position where their careers were “at risk owing to unfair and or inappropriate information” on their DBS – was passed.It called on the union to lobby the government to overhaul the system and ensure that information about arrests leading to no further action is not eligible information on a DBS check.

Graham Edwards, from Redbridge, said: “The DBS system, as it stands, is not fit for purpose. Children and vulnerable adults do need a DBS system that enables them to be protected, but those who work in education need a DBS system that protects them too.” A statement from the DBS said: “Each year we issue around four million certificates to help employers make safer recruitment decisions. What is included on our certificates is either set out in legislation or provided to us by the police. 

“Any non-conviction information disclosed on a DBS certificate has been subject to a decision by a police force in accordance with a statutory test and with regard to statutory guidance. “It is also important to note that around 94 per cent of certificates are clear and that a DBS check is one of the key pieces of information that form part of any organisation’s recruitment decision and should be considered alongside other information.”