Thursday, 16 July 2009

MPs to be banned from schools?

As a supplementary to today's Indy story about authors visiting schools, these new rules will also apply to politicians, I'm told. From September any MP visiting a school in his or her constituency will need a CRB check. No problem with that, you might think, but to get a check carried out you need a sponsoring organisation, which would usually be your employer. I've just bumped into a Labour MP who tells me that the House of Commons authorities are refusing to act as sponsor. This resurrects the whole problem of who exactly is your employer as an MP? The House of Commons authorities? The people who voted for you? The Prime Minister/ leader of your party?

Try renting a flat as an MP and being asked for an employer's reference, which was the situation I was in when I was first elected. I can't remember how I resolved that condundrum in the end. I certainly didn't manage to persuade Tony Blair to write one!

I've already had a CRB check, which was required when I went out to India with two fifteen year olds from a Bristol school. The trip and the CRB check was arranged by WorldVision as part of the Global Campaign for Education. Not sure if it's still in force though, as it was spring 2008. The MP tells me he's on the case, but we need to get it sorted before September, which is always the best time for MPs to visit schools as they're back and we're back at work but not in Parliament. (This will of course be disputed by those who are convinced we're all about to disappear on a 12 week cruise around the Caribbean.)

OK - yet another postscript. I now have it on very good authority that MPs will not be required to have CRB or ISA clearance before visiting schools. Nor will authors unless they are regular visitors. This statement is now on the DCSF website:

16 July 2009
In response to various stories about authors having to be vetted before being allowed to go into schools to read to children, the DCSF has issued the following statement: “These checks have been misunderstood. Authors, MPs or anyone else will not have to register with the Vetting and Barring Scheme if they work with children once or infrequently. People working in schools will only be required to register if they work with children on a regular basis. “These rules do not apply to visitors to a school, but only to people working in schools on a regular basis. The rules apply even if the person working is supervised by a teacher at all times, as they are being placed in a unique position of trust where they can easily become deeply liked and trusted by pupils. We therefore need to be sure that this trust is well placed, in case pupils bump into them out of school where a teacher is not present. “While we fully accept that the vast majority of workers or volunteers would never abuse their position of trust, parents would not want adults working regularly with young children, even on a voluntary basis, without any sort of background check at all. That would be irresponsible. This applies as much to famous authors as it does to cleaners, admin staff or fire-fighters giving safety talks. We are very grateful to authors who give up their time to read to children, young people really benefit from it.”

So, it seems that MPs won't need checks on the basis that there is no danger of them becoming 'deeply liked and trusted' by the pupils!


BristleKRS said...

Thank heavens that all the problems with CRB checks - like inexpert opinion, unsubstantiated rumour and hearsay being enough to condemn innocent people, without so much as the right to challenge such 'intelligence' - are being ironed out now that ISA checks are superceding them... Oh, wait, they're not - they're just doubling up the bureaucracy and the cost per check!

Still, a nice little earner for those running the schemes. Shame that neither CRB nor ISA checks are likely to actually prevent the abuse of children and other vulnerable people.

Man in the Street said...

What a load of rubbish. Labour have ramped up the climate of fear exponentially.

I can't disagree with anything Philip Pullman said to The Times.

"Why should I have to pay £64 to a government agency to give me a little certificate to say that I am not a paedophile?"

"It's the principle, it's the assumption that anyone who comes into contact with children for any reason whatsoever is up to no good and likely to be a rapist or a murderer and has to be checked out in advance to show that they're not."

"I object to it firstly on personal grounds, because I'm not any of those things, and secondly as a matter of principle: it seems to me to encourage the view that the natural relationship of one human being to another is predatory; it encourage children, for example, to believe that no adult will ever approach them other than to prey on them or do them harm."

Hear hear!

How pathetic of New Labour. If you can't put a tick in a box somewhere you lot panic.

anarchyintheuk said...

I can't see any genuine need for an MP to go to a school.

An MP in a school is there only for a photo shoot.

While at school, children should be protected from Political manipulation. If children wish to be involved in party political debate, that should be an outside school activity and nothing to do with an MP having a group of herded children exposed to politican manipulation.

Why don't MPs spend more time talking to people who may actually vote and listen to the issues they raise, rather than pretending that the views of a 16 year old are going to do anything except make for a local newspaper photo opportunity.

Colin said...

I *think* that you need to get a new CRB check for each setting that you will work in / visit.

John Buckingham said...

Just so's you know for future reference, your 2008 CRB would've been fine: the problem with CRBs is that they have no expiry date! Obviously, this means they are 'correct' only at the time of issue, but charities generally accept them for a limited period, e.g. 3 years, as a means of risk management - but obviously that person could've done anything during those 3 years. I believe a new system is in the offing which will feed new information directly in to organisations, which seems a hell of a lot more sensible.