Free School head checks scaled back… unbelievable!

** Free school head checks scaled back ** Documents leaked to the BBC show ministers agreed to scrap pre-appointment checks on inexperienced free school heads despite warnings from civil servants.

< http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-24653574 >

Why do we allow this sort of thing to happen? Would companies consider employing managers of any description if they had no previous experience?

And yet the government is endorsing a system of ‘free’ schools where no qualifications are required. Although there are perfectly good teaching staff with no formal teaching qualifications, To base an entire teaching hierarchy on this premise is fraught with potential problems.
As in almost any profession or skill there is no substitute for training and experience. Only with plenty of both can quality be guaranteed.
Unfortunately, perpetual changes within the teaching profession over the past decade or so have made it less and less attractive as a career prospect. Mountains of paperwork, league table pressures and backsliding over pension promises are just a few of the reasons why teaching is not appealing to our talented graduates.
Introducing an easy route in is not the answer. The answer is proper training, proper pay and a clearer, less complicated education system. If we had this, teachers might get the respect they deserve and encourage future talent to lend their skills. Teaching as a career should be in demand, not a last resort.
Headships should be earned through service and experience in the same way that employees in other fields progress through the ranks as their experience and expertise grow.
This is all just more cost cutting in disguise. And as with all cost cutting the victim is quality.

 

 

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Here’s my take on this recent story on the BBC Education website

** Most A-level grade predictions wrong ** An exam body reveals that most A-level grade predictions from schools are incorrect when final results are published

http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-24625972

Grade prediction is actually very difficult to do accurately. It is relatively easy to band a student within a few grades but very difficult to be precise unless they are at the extremes of ability. With the enormous pressure of league tables it is no wonder that there is a tendency for predicting higher grades. Independent Schools, who come off best in this study, often have less to prove. I don’t think we should be too critical – it is an inexact science and there are various factors which can effect the end result, not least examination nerves.

 

 

Flaws in the CRB / DBS enhanced disclosure check process

THE DBS AND ENHANCED DISCLOSURE CHECKS

 

At Kensington & Chelsea Tutors Ltd we have been carrying out Enhanced Disclosure criminal background checks through the Criminal Records Bureau for approaching a decade.

Recently the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has merged with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) to form the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Following the creation of the DBS some of the rules for applying for Enhanced Disclosure checks have changed.

Historically an employer who wished to carry out Disclosures could apply to the CRB to become a Registered Body. Once thoroughly vetted, and after a mountain of paperwork, this status could be achieved. From that day forward the Registered Body was empowered to carry out checks under strict guidelines – this is still the case.

After a form had been completed by both the applicant and the Registered Body it was submitted by post to the CRB. When the relevant checks were completed the CRB issued a copy of the Enhanced Disclosure to both the applicant and the Registered Body – THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE.

NOW ONLY THE APPLICANT receives a copy of the Enhanced Disclosure certificate.

THIS IS ABSOLUTE MADNESS.

The DBS says that Registered Bodies must ask the applicants to bring back their Certificates once completed. This is impractical, wrong and dangerous in so many ways:

  • The length of time the application takes to process is random and unknown depending on the applicant.
  • Applicants’ prospects of employment are delayed because they are forced to wait for the certificate and then take it back to the Registered Body.
  • The onus is on the applicants (NOT THE REGISTERED BODY) to be forthcoming with their certificates.
  • The applicant may live a long distance from the Registered Body’s offices.
  • The applicant has paid £44 (unless a volunteer) for the check and may be quite rightly unwilling to send it in the post.
  • The Registered Body has no guarantee that the certificate is genuine no matter what watermarking etc. the DBS says should be present.
  • The Registered Body should not be put in the position of authenticating certificates provided to them by the INDIVIDUAL BEING CHECKED – IF AN INDIVIDUAL ACTIVELY WANTED TO GAIN ACCESS TO CHILDREN (in our agency’s case) ASKING THEM TO PROVIDE THEIR OWN PAPERWORK IS FRAUGHT WITH THE POSSIBLY OF FORGERY AND IS ULTIMATELY ENDANGERING THE PEOPLE THE DBS IS DESIGNED TO PROTECT

The newly formed DBS has also launched an Update Service where theoretically future warnings or convictions etc. are uploaded onto their database and both applicants and Registered Bodies have the ability to log in and check – on paper a very good idea and one which in principle would make multiple applications by an individual a thing of the past. The DBS implies that the Updating Service removes the need for Registered Bodies to receive copies of the certification.

To quote from the DBS’s information:

‘To coincide with the launch of the Update Service the DBS will no longer automatically issue a copy of your DBS Certificate to the Registered Body who countersigned your DBS application form. Employers and recruiting organisations will need to ask you for sight of your DBS Certificate. This is to give you greater control over your information.’

UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS CURRENTLY A HOWLING FLAW IN THIS PROCESS. An applicant’s subscription to the Updating Service is NOT MANDATORY! In fact there are a set of criteria:

  • The applicant must pay an ANNUAL fee of £13 for the pleasure of being part of this scheme – an enormous disincentive.
  • They need the application form reference number in order to apply before their registration; this is easily forgotten as it was not part of the process previously.
  • If they fail to register before their certificate is issued they have 14 days from THE DATE ON THE CERTIFICATE to apply or they will no longer be eligible. They have to be relied upon to do this.

Given these criteria there is ample scope for applicants not to register.

  • In many cases the applicants won’t care whether their status is updated or not and so why pay?
  • PEOPLE WITH AN INTENTION TO OFFEND WHO MAY HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE IN THE FUTURE WILL CLEARLY NOT APPLY.
  • It may be a one-off application because they are applying for a job. The onus to check is on the new employer, the applicant has no personal obligation.
  • They may assume that future applications will be paid for on their behalf which is often the case; this is the case in the teaching profession. In which case, why bother? AND WHY PAY?

This is what the DBS says about this new system:

‘These checks are to assist employers in making safer recruitment and licensing decisions.’

Well, let’s look at that. Let’s see where that leaves Kensington and Chelsea Tutors; we do up to 30 or 40 checks a month. IT IS WORTH NOTING HERE THAT ALL WE WANT IS THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN. WE WANT A SAFE EFFICIENT WAY OF VETTING APPLICANTS WHOM WE MIGHT GIVE ACCESS TO CHILDREN.

Here are the scenarios we find ourselves up against:

  1. An applicant is interviewed and has no previous Disclosure. We will carry out a check and encourage the applicant to subscribe to the Update Service. We will have to rely on the applicant to show us their certificate and to subscribe. We obviously would not consider an application until we have seen a certificate; this process is much more prolonged as we no longer receive certification. IF the applicant subscribes to the Update Service we can log in and check. If the applicant DOES NOT subscribe to the Update Service the Disclosure becomes a one-off as before and neither we nor any other potential employer has access to updated information. At least before we had physical evidence that we had carried out the check, now we just have photocopies or letters and numbers on a piece of paper.

 

  1. An applicant is interviewed and has a previous Disclosure but has not subscribed to the Updating Service. The first thing is to establish when the Disclosure took place; this is crucial to its credibility. It is an impossibility for any background check to have any forward moving absolute validity; THE APPLICANT MAY HAVE COMMITTED A CRIME THE DAY AFTER THE DATE ON THE CERTIFICATE but prior to the interview. The Updating Service could have solved this problem notwithstanding the omissions outlined above – IT IS NOT COMPULSORY. Unless a check is very recent we normally insist on a fresh one being carried out. We then run into the same problems outlined above; will they sign up? We can’t force them.
  2. An applicant is interviewed and has a previous Disclosure and HAS subscribed to the Updating Service. In this case we can view the original document, go online and check for updates and given that we take it as read that the DBS have done their checks correctly everybody is happy. The future problem is if the applicant fails to continue to pay their annual fee then updates are no longer available. They cannot re-subscribe as many more than 14 days will have elapsed from the date on the original Disclosure. In this case we will have to check them again.

TNE SYSTEM IS OVER-COMPLICATED, OPEN TO POTENTIAL FRAUD AND THEREFORE POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS. IT IS ALSO UNHELPFUL TO THE REGISTERED BODIES WHO ARE JUST TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING.

 

IT WOULD BE SO SIMPLE TO MAKE THIS AN EFFICIENT, SAFER SYSTEM.

  1. NO PAPER FORMS – THESE CONTAIN VIRTUALLY THE ENTIRE GAMET OF AN INDIVIDUAL’S CRUCIAL PERSONAL DETAILS – THEY CAN GET LOST IN THE POST OR STOLEN. IDENTITY THEFT IS A REAL POSSIBILITY. WE ARE IN A DIGITAL AGE. REGISTERED BODIES SHOULD HAVE A SECURE ENCRYPTED LOG-IN WITH A GADGET SIMILAR TO THOSE USED FOR ON LINE BANKING. FORMS CAN BE FILLED IN ON LINE.

 

  1. INDIVIDUALS, UPON THEIR ELECTRONIC FORM REACHING THE DBS, SHOULD BE ISSUED A USER ID.

 

  1. ONCE THE CHECKS HAVE BEEN CARRIED OUT AND THE DISCLOSURE ISSUED BOTH THE REGISTERED BODY AND THE APPLICANT SHOULD BE SEPARATELY ALERTED BY EMAIL. THEY CAN THEN LOG IN AND PERUSE THE RESULTS.

 

  1. EACH APPLICANT SHOULD BE AUTOMATICALLY PUT ON AN UPDATING SERVICE. IF THERE IS A CHANGE IN STATUS BOTH THE REGISTERED BODY AND THE APPLICANT SHOULD BE AUTOMATICALLY INFORMED BY EMAIL THAT A CHANGE HAS OCCURED. EACH CAN THEN LOG IN AND SEE WHAT THAT CHANGE IS.

 

 

  1. IF A REGISTERED BODY WANTS TO VET AN APPLICANT WHO SAYS HE OR SHE HAS HAD A DISCLOSURE CARRIED OUT ALREADY (WHICH WILL BY DEFINITION BE UP-TO-DATE) THE REGISTERED BODY SHOULD CARRY OUT IDENTITY CHECKS AS IS THE CASE WITH FULL APPLICATIONS AT PRESENT. ONCE SATISFIED AND UPON RECEIPT OF THE APPLICANT’S CERTIFICATE NUMBER FROM THE APPLICANT THE REGISTERED BODY CAN LOG IN AND CHECK THAT THE DETAILS MATCH AND THAT THERE ARE NO UPDATES.

 

  1. IN THE CASE OF 5 (ABOVE) THE NEW REGISTERED BODY WILL ALSO RECEIVE UPDATES REGARDING THE APPLICANT DESPITE NOT HAVING ACTUALLY CARRIED OUT THE ORIGINAL DISCLOSURE.

 

  1. THERE SHOULD BE NO CHARGE FOR THE UPDATE SERVICE. REALLY THERE SHOULD BE NO CHARGE FOR THE CHECKS THEMSELVES; IT SHOULD BE A PUBLIC SERVICE HELPING TO KEEP CHILDREN AND VULNERABLE ADULTS SAFE. HOWEVER, IN A WORLD OF AUSTERITY MEASURES BOTH APPLICANTS AND REGISTERED BODIES ARE RESIGNED TO THE COST. THIS SHOULD REMAIN AT £44. IN THE FUTURE IMPROVED DIGITAL METHODS WILL REDUCE COSTS.

Parents too guilty to go private? It’s a simple choice to make!

Here’s my take on a story that appeared on BBC education

Parents too guilty to go private

An elite private schools leader says parents are made to feel it is morally unacceptable to pay for an education.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-24334356

I don’t know why representatives of private schools at their conferences bother to try to cause minor controversy in order to get into the press. Is not every private school in the country over-subscribed? As a parent I know that all you want for your children is the best opportunity possible.

I was state educated, thoroughly enjoyed school, have retained many friends and achieved good qualifications. My positive feelings about my school years leans me towards the state sector because that is my experience, not because of any kind of stance. I have friends who were privately educated, some of whom boarded, who also had a very positive experience and wish to replicate that for their children.
There are obviously people who find private education morally unacceptable; I wonder what their attitude would be after a windfall?
Keeping an open mind and checking your bank statements is probably the way forward.