Child safety just a few pence

IT WOULD cost just 20p a head for Suffolk people to have peace of mind on school safety.

IT WOULD cost just 20p a head for Suffolk people to have peace of mind on school safety.

There are about 5,000 governors in schools across the county. And with a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check costing £24 the total bill would come in at £120,000.

The county's population is just under 700,000 - leaving a price per head roughly the same as a packet of sweets.

The Evening Star exposed the bizarre situation that school governors are not subject to any legal checks – meaning anyone who is a danger to children could be welcomed into school by becoming a governor.

Teachers, headteachers, classroom assistants, dinner ladies and caretakers are all checked by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) before being given work at schools.

But, bafflingly, school governors are not.

Most Read

A spokesman for the CRB said it was not up to the bureau to decide who should or should not be checked.

But he said the service was available to headteachers wherever they thought it necessary and any check would take between three and four weeks to process if all forms were properly completed.

The spokesman echoed colleagues in the Department for Education and Skills who said checks on school governors are deemed unnecessary because there is no direct and unsupervised access to children.

Janet Wellings, Suffolk County Council's senior education officer for school support, said governors played a vital role in schools.

Governors manage budgets, control staffing levels and have a legal obligation to promote the school on all levels – from exam results right through to pupil behaviour.

There are generally 10-12 governors per school, irrespective of the number of students.

Laws do not set hard rules on the make up of a governing body, but they stipulate that parent governors must be in a majority.

A typical body could be made up of four parents, three community members, two people appointed by the Local Education Authority, one teacher, one member of the support staff and the headteacher.

Miss Wellings said: "The role of the governing body is essential because it's part of the school structure.

"It's a very responsible position, governors do a vital job. Where the governors work well with a school, it works extremely well.

"The circumstances were schools struggle is where governors are not committed or where they think everything is wonderful and don't ask questions where they are needed."

Miss Wellings said there were pockets of Suffolk that struggled to attract enough governors – with Ipswich being one of the worst blackspots.

N Do you think school governors should be subject to criminal record checks? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter