Unions hit out at delay in teacher check

A GOVERNMENT body which took five months to process a criminal check on a new Suffolk teacher has been criticised by unions, after it emerged that he had previously spent 12 months in prison.

A GOVERNMENT body which took five months to process a criminal check on a new Suffolk teacher has been criticised by unions, after it emerged that he had previously spent 12 months in prison.

Andrew Larman, who gave false information on an application form for a teaching position at Stowmarket High School, was immediately sacked from his job within the English department following the disclosure, which showed convictions dating back to 1997 for nine counts of false accounting.

Teaching unions criticised the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), for being too slow.

Martin Gould, secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Suffolk said: "It does appear these checks seem to have worked, but the lesson is that the CRB need to get their act together and process their workload more quickly,"

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"Schools are having to take risks, and are in an impossible position – if they cannot get the information about an individual, then they must provide cover."

At an employment tribunal in Bury St Edmunds on Monday a panel rejected Mr Larman's claim of wrongful dismissal, ruling instead the school's governing body had acted entirely properly in terminating his contract on learning of his previous convictions.

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Alan Gillespie, for Stowmarket High School, told the tribunal Mr Larman had failed to comply with statutory requirements revealing criminal offences on both the school's application form, which he completed last May, and the CRB disclosure form.

He said: "The CRB was under such pressure a risk was taken in some circumstances, and this was one of those occasions. Mr Larman was therefore allowed to start work at Stowmarket Upper School at the beginning of the September term, but the information from the CRB was not returned until October.

"He made misrepresentations, firstly on his application form – even though there was a declaration which made clear what may happen if he gave false details or did not record something he should of – and again to the CRB.

Mr Larman's contract was terminated on October 11, five months after he completed the CRB disclosure form and two months into the new school term.

Ruling in favour of Stowmarket High School, Brian Mitchell, chairman of the tribunal panel, said: "Advice from Suffolk County Council and the Department of Education was that teachers should not be taken on to work while this report from the CRB was awaited.

"But there was pressure on a number of schools to provide teachers at the start of the school year, and Mr Larman was allowed to begin working at Stowmarket High School.

"In our judgement, the governors were quite within their rights to rescind the contract, because of the fraudulent information in those document."

Mr Larman was unavailable for comment after failing to attend the hearing.

After the tribunal, David Oliver, headteacher at Stowmarket High School, said the delay had posed no risk to pupils, as Mr Larman was supervised during his entire time in the classroom before his checks came through.

The Home Office, which oversee the CRB, said the majority of applications were now being processed within an average of five weeks.

A spokesman said: "The average turn-around time is now less than five weeks for applications with no errors or admissions."

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