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Sex Offenders in Schools

John Simkin

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It seems we have another moral panic regarding education. Ruth Kelly should indeed resign but not over this issue.


Education Secretary Ruth Kelly is to rush through laws to tighten up restrictions on sex offenders working in schools in England.

The move follows the revelation ministers backed the appointment of a PE teacher even though he had a police caution for accessing child porn.

Ms Kelly has already ordered a review into what she says are a "small number" of similar cases.

Tory David Willetts said Ms Kelly had done nothing to reassure parents.

'Full responsibility'

The education secretary told the Commons new laws proposed after the Soham murders will now be debated by MPs next month.

She said the government had "tightened significantly" List 99, the education department's blacklist, in recent years, making it more difficult for individuals of concern to get jobs in schools.

But it was still impossible under current laws for ministers to automatically bar someone from working in schools who has accepted a caution for sex offences.

Ms Kelly said under new laws she wanted cautions and convictions to be "treated identically".

We want to try to move rapidly to a situation where, if you are on the sex offenders register, you shouldn't work with children

She also vowed to "confirm the precise number" and whereabouts of offenders working in schools and to investigate "whether their behaviour has been of concern to the authorities".

She said she would make a statement to MPs on the results of her investigation "as soon as possible".

She said she took "full responsibility" for all of the decisions made in her department.

"Child protection is our first priority in this government. It's also important that there's full public confidence in the system," she told MPs.

Mr Willetts, for the Conservatives, said that the case of the PE teacher, Paul Reeve, had "seriously undermined" public confidence.

Mr Willetts demanded to know how many people on the sex offenders register had been cleared by ministers to work in schools - and who had made the decision to clear Mr Reeve.

He added: "The confidence of millions of parents in her judgement and of the department she runs is fast ebbing away. Nothing she has said today has restored that confidence."

Lib Dem education spokesman Ed Davey said Ms Kelly had two weeks "to answer the questions she failed to answer" in the Commons and "satisfy Parliament and parents that she is on top of the situation".

"The current system and lists are not fit for purpose. Parents will want to be confident that any review will be broad enough and tough enough to sort this mess out," he said.

Speaking earlier, the prime minister's official spokesman said Tony Blair retained full confidence in Ms Kelly and said that her job was not at risk.

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Speaking earlier, the prime minister's official spokesman said Tony Blair retained full confidence in Ms Kelly and said that her job was not at risk.

I suspect that this issue is being used by Blair's machine to dislodge Ruth Kelly (who let's face it looks and sounds more like a particularly objectionable prefect in a secondary modern school than she does a government minister).

They will need a stronger and more able character in position to push through their awful education proposals.

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Whilst it is conceivable that the orginal 'judgement' to allow the person to teach in a school was based on a correct assumption that no offence would occur, it was a deeply misguided judgement to allow that possibility to influence the decision.

Nobody worth their salt would consider it an appropriate political act. Naivety at its best or arrogance at its worst? ( I know what my money is on!)

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