Teaching union spokesman attacks Gove’s “licence for paedophiles”

It’s no surprise that Michael Gove’s call for parents to help out in strike-hit schools has caused a fair amount of controversy, but I didn’t expect a union spokesman to wheel out the old paedophile scare line:

[Gove] suggested parents enlist to help out stricken schools and give children something constructive to do, adding that it would save working parents a fortune. But union leaders in Dorset slammed the proposal, claiming it lacked common sense and would cause a “safeguarding nightmare”. Phil Jacques, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) secretary for Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset, claimed implementing the plan would be a “licence for paedophiles”.

“Teachers and other adults working in schools have to have a Criminal Records Bureau check, to avoid the risk,” he said. “That’s something that takes time. I’m sure any risk would be very low, but do we want to take that risk?” [Bournemouth Echo]



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  • With this attitude, I’m surprised the unions haven’t tried to shut down Guides, Scouts, Youth clubs, football and dance clubs. Goodness knows what they think of Sunday Schools. It’s pretty upsetting to think that teachers think so poorly of parents.

  • Anne Waters 29th Jun '11 - 9:50pm

    @ Maria M

    Anyone working regulary with children has to be CRB checked so people within the groups you mention already have been! Parents want teachers to be CRB checked so it works both ways.

  • There will be a large number of parents with current CRB checks (albeit probably not enhanced disclosure ones)

  • It seems our party leaders want their safety to be protected by forcing their fellow conference attendees to be CRB checked but think the nation’s children, who have no choice but to attend school, shouldn’t be protected. Disgraceful double standards!

  • I would think there are more than enough CRB checked parents to run a school for a day.

  • These days, woe betide any institution that doesn’t take safe guarding seriously. It’s incredibly important issue and a legitimate concern to be raised. The paedophilia comment is an incredibly unhelpful comment to add what could have been a fair point. It is scaremongering at its worst and part of me genuinely wonders how a union leader would be so boneheaded as to make it. For instance a far more realistic concern might be straight forward safety.

    @Maria M
    I’m sure there are enough parents who also possess and up-to-date CRB check to allow at least some schools to remain open in some form. The problem is one of organisation, people still need to be cleared beforehand, to have CRBs verified beyond a quick glance at a certificate on the day and this hasn’t taken place. These are the rules as they are, you can’t simply bend them for convenience today without setting awkward precedents for the future which in turn could end to horrible things no one wants to see.

  • If some schools would have had enough parents with a recent CRB check to keep the school open that just shows how the last Labour government went over the top in responding to tabloid paranoia. If they’d been given the chance they would have insisted on a CRB check before someone could open a sweet shop.

  • Our children have been taught by people who think that ‘safeguarding’ is a word in the English language. CRB checks are just irrelevant bureaucracy next to the need to get these people out of education.

  • Malcolm Todd 29th Jun '11 - 11:13pm

    “Safeguarding” is a word in the English language, Chris. The language wasn’t pickled and sealed when they printed the final volume of OED.

  • David Parkes 29th Jun '11 - 11:14pm

    I think the ATL has just lost the support of parents.

  • @David Parkes

    Had this comment been made a week ago and subjected to a full media cycle before the strike then perhaps. It’s too late now, by the time it circulates, the media will have moved on.

  • There has always been some debate about the relevance of CRB checks. I do some youth work so have an enhanced check in place. I’m not sure that it is fair to say that they are “irrelevant bureaucracy” but they certainly need to be looked at again as they have always had the look of rushed legislation about them….

    A more relevant issue I would see is that Heads would need to assess whether someone has the physical, mental and emotional capability to take charge of pupils. The government defined a standard in 1999 (DFEE 4/99 for those who really want to cure insomnia!). This is supplemented by other guidance notably in the document “Able to Teach”. This guidance is clearly aimed at those wishing to enter the teaching profession or those applying for a teaching post but much of it is relevant to anyone working in a position with authority over pupils. It certainly suggests that there are health issues related to care of pupils that need to be considered.

    I would say that the school protecting themselves (sadly in terms of litigation) and their pupils from someone, however well intentioned, that is not physically, mentally or emotionally capable of looking after groups of pupils is worthy of consideration. Of course if the “helpers” are always accompanied by a trained teacher / TA then the issue is slightly different in that the Head only needs to ensure that the individual is not at risk of adversely affecting their own health. Cynically I would suggest that even willing helpers can watch day time TV and see the personal injury adverts…..

    No problems are insurmountable, but I would suggest that some groundwork is done ahead of the next strike (because as a realist I feel this will go on some time) to enable Heads to have a pool of suitable volunteers on hand.

    I would hope that both sides draw breath after Thursday, the Government need to cut back on the rhetoric and the unions need to see the negotiations through (or at least give them a bit more time) to see if some compromise is possible.

  • Sorry forgot to put on my last that obviously the ATL comment was scaremongering that should be rightly derided..

    A bit like Ministers telling unions that the law affecting strikes will be reviewed if they go on strike.

    Neither comment needed making and neither will help move towards a resolution one bit.

  • There’s no way people who have not had a full disclosure CRB check could be allowed to be looking after kids in a school. You are wrong – paedophiles would be rubbing their hands in glee at the chance to get in there and ‘befriend’ some kids and win their trust. There are probably insurance issues as well. I’m shocked you can be so complaisant – maybe you don’t realise the extent of paedophilia and the way people engaging in it will jump at the opportunity to slip through the net. The parents would not be allowed to be left alone with the kids so they really wouldn’t be much use, nor do they know the schemes of work or how to teach a particular subject at the right age level or how to manage a class. They wouldn’t know the school rules or procedures especially relating to safety issues. It doesn’t take much common sense to realise it’s not feasible.

  • I think that having two or three parents in the room would be quite sufficient to ensure that the children are not abused by any “paedo parents”. And let’s be honest, how many of us have ever asked to see CRB certificates before we let our kids go to their friends houses to play? Of course parents would not know the schemes of work, but particularly in schools – like my daughters – where only some staff are off, the remainder of staff (plus head, deputy etc) and some staff could have kept all the children in school. Teachers could direct, and parent assistants could assist. You could certainly “double up” classes on that basis if you have half your staff present.

    And before anyone asks whether I know what it is like to teach 6 year olds, yes, because I went in and took a lesson once. I had other teachers and TAs present, but some classes can work well with 60 kids. And yes, I would have volunteered – I have to take the day off anyway.

  • The logical extension of these sorts of “paedo parents” comments is that every parent should be CRB checked at pregnancy!

    There have always been bad, abusive and murderous parents and sadly there always will be, and no amount of bits of paper will ever cure that problem.

    Victoria Climbie was left with relatives by a parent. Shouldnt the parent have a better idea of the relatives fitness to care for her than Social Services? Should Social Services automatically have assumed that Baby Ps mother would help in killing him?. Equally, we have had children abused while in care, abused by Priests, teachers etc

    Sadly, there are evil people in the world, but assuming we are all evil till proven otherwise is a sad way to think of the world.

  • Miriam Said 30th Jun '11 - 2:05am

    If you are one of those parents that does go in and teaches a class voluntarily during the strikes, then if any of the children in your care gets even slightly injured, guess who the parents are going to accuse of child abuse, then accuse you of negligence, then accuse you of assault, then accuse you of not being able to look after your own child properly. The list goes on and that’s just with infant and primary school aged children.

    Imagine the fun the high school children will have with you…They are much, much more evil and inventive than those under 12 years old…..They will accuse you of inappropriate touching, inappropriate language in class, and if your child happens to be in the high school you are voluntarily teaching during the strikes, then your child will be subjected to the most horrific bullying thereafter.

    So all of those parents that don’t like teachers or don’t give a fig about their reputation afterwards, or their childs life afterwards, or are demonising teachers for striking…go right ahead and volunteer and see what happens….

    In the high school scenario, I predict that it won’t have a happy outcome at all.

    In the infant or junior school outcome…could go either way, but how well do you get on with the other parents….if they don’t like you now, some of them will have it in for you.

    I’m not a teacher….I’ve taught 1 class in junior school and 1 class in high school and I wasn’t CRB checked for either, nor was I prepared for the fall out of either experience, even though I was supervised closely on both occasions.

    My advice…don’t do it or go there…..and have a better respect for teachers who have to deal with it day in and day out…..

    If you do volunteer to teach on strike days….make certain you have the money to pay for a very good lawyer if you do go ahead….God forbid anything did happen to a child whilst in your care…..or a teenager makes an accusation…..

  • The point is that the school has a legal obligation to ensure the welfare of its pupils. This includes ensuring that the adults supervising them are not placing the pupils at risk. Hence CRB checks. You can argue that these have gone too far, but checking that adults who look after children in schools do not have criminal convictions for sex offences seems entirely sensible to me.

  • Martin Land 30th Jun '11 - 7:55am

    I volunteered to help at my local secondary school and was told that they didn’t need help as they were closing anyway.

    By the way, I work for the Lib Dems, but I’m also a qualified teacher and have a current full enhanced CRB certificate.

  • Malcolm Todd 30th Jun '11 - 8:54am

    I should think from most schools’/heads’ point of view, it’s a lot less hassle just to shut the school for a day than to try to coordinate and manage a motley assortment of well-meaning but largely unknown parent helpers. Different if this develops into a series of strikes, for sure; but losing one day of school isn’t a disaster.

  • Even if parents are CRB checked, they are going to lack the experience and training to handle a classroom of kids. Furthermore, and more importantly, they will not be aware of school disciplinary procedures and the correct boundaries between staff and pupils. It is a recipe for disaster and it would be irresponsible and unprofessional for a head teacher to allow non-qualified members of the public into their classrooms.

    The comment about paedophilia is fairly stupid, but it is in response to Gove’s even more offensive comments about parents being allowed to come in to schools to look after children. It underscores the complete contempt the government has for the teaching profession in that they clearly think teaching is something that people can do without any training.

  • Peter Chivall 30th Jun '11 - 11:22am

    Nobody, it seems, is bothered whether the children would be learning anything worthwhile while the teachers are taking strike action. All you lot are interested in is a free childcare service while you carry on earning money. Interestingly, even Gove doesn’t mention lost education – perhaps he knows what the teachers’ professional associations will say about the lost school day on 29th April.
    Two things are interesting about the person from Bournemouth who made the remark: first, he is quite probably a volunteer, since teachers’ associations tend only to have full-time staff at regional and national level. Second; this is almost certainly the first time he or his ATL colleagues have ever withdrawn their services, since this is the first time the ATL have had a national strike for over 100years. (They used to be the – separate – Schoolmasters and Schoolmistresses Associations – almost all graduate secondary teachers and formerly heavily represented in grammar schools and the independent sector.)
    That the ATL, including its members in the independent sector, should have voted 83% for strike action (admittedly on a turnout less than 40%) must tell you something about the justice of their case over the pension changes the Government want to impose. Your contributors should note that the Government is required to audit the sustainability of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme every three years. In 2008, after the last hike in employee contributions and extension of the required length of service, the scheme was independently declared sustainable. Because the TPS is ‘unfunded’, payments in are, in the short term, income to HM Treasury. Payments out are effectively, expenditure from HM Treasury. However, the Public Accounts Committee has recently reported that the TPS is in balance and is ‘sustainable’ in both the short and long term.
    The Government does underwrite teachers’ pensions to the extent of it’s 80% contribution to local government expenditure. So if employers’ contributions are 15% of salary, then it is effectively paying 12% compared to the teachers’ 9%. By demanding an extra 3+% from teachers now, it is effectively demanding a £1000pa pay cut from the average teacher. It would be more honest of Danny Alexander and the rest of the orange/blue striped brigade if they said so outright.
    As for changing the scheme to average salary based and delaying retirement to 66, the Tories and their ‘orange book’ supporters simply want to ‘level down’ teachers’ pensions to the disgraceful charade which passes for most private sector provision. I would suggest a simple answer to that problem: company directors and senior managers should, by law, have to offer the same terms and conditions of pensions (in % terms) to their employees as they themselves receive.
    -and yes, I am a retired teacher. I was ‘invalided out’ on a reduced pension 11 years ago. If I’d had to go on to 66 I would probably have killed myself.

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