Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers have agreed to consider changing regulations that have led to school staff being banned from the classroom because of offences committed by relatives, spouses and flatmates.
Letters to the NUT teaching union and the NAHT headteachers’ union, from schools minister David Laws and education secretary Nicky Morgan respectively, say that both ministers are willing to consider changing the regulations. However, because pre-election purdah begins at the end of this month, they would only be able to do so in the next Parliament.
“I understand the reasons why you would wish to see fundamental reform,” Mr Laws wrote in his letter to NUT general secretary Christine Blower.
In her letter to NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby, Ms Morgan said she had asked officials to advise ministers at the start of the next Parliament about “whether the present disqualification regime is fit for purpose”.
The move has raised hopes among the unions that the laws behind “disqualification by association” for teachers will be repealed.
Under these rules, which were developed to protect children in childminders’ homes but have been applied to school teachers, hundreds of staff have been suspended after reporting offences committed by people they shared a home with.
They include an employee who was prevented from working because his son had received a football banning order and one who was suspended because her daughter had been temporarily removed from her care, after running away from home a decade beforehand.
The ministers’ letters are the Department for Education’s latest attempt to ease the situation. In February the department issued guidance that said the rules would only apply to staff working with Reception-aged children or providing childcare outside of school hours, and that teachers could remain in school while waiting for Ofsted to issue a waiver that would allow them to keep their jobs.
The rules were brought in for childminders and nurseries in 2009. But, since October last year, the Department for Education has insisted that they should also be applied to staff at primary schools.
The rules are supposed to apply only to serious crimes such as murder, rape, manslaughter and indecent assault, as well as grievous and actual bodily harm.
“We still want to see the regulations changed but in the meantime, we welcome the way that the DfE has been willing to engage with us to improve the guidance and now to look at changing the law,” Mr Hobby said.
Ms Blower said teachers would be “relieved” that the government was “willing” to change the legislation, adding that it had caused “dismay and disruption” in schools.
“Teachers already undergo rigorous checks and should not face further questioning intruding into the past of their household members,” she said.
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Safeguarding delays putting children at risk – 20 January, 2015
“Children have a story, just not the means to tell it” – 23 January, 2015