torah-scroll1It seems to be a principle of law, and certainly it is a principle of biblical law, that you do not suffer in law for the sins or wrongdoings of another. No man was to die because of the sin of their father, for instance. A key part of the new covenant announced by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:30) was that there was to be no punishment for the children of those who had done something deserving the death penalty.

Another principle is that as soon as you have paid the penalty for your sin, your account with the state or the judiciary is settled. You have “done your time.”

A third principle, inherent in the work of the probation service and the criminal justice system, is to allow for the possibility of change. The National Probation Service program to reduce reoffending is called Transforming Rehabilitation. People do change and we put a lot of work into rehabilitation as a nation to help them do so. Part of the reason for the abolition of the death penalty and the “life-means-life” idea in societies working towards equity is the realisation that in a good and just society people do change and that that releases them into a new phase of life should they choose to. Of course we have to put safeguards in, and of course people disappoint us, but the principle is sound.

However, all three principles are flouted beyond any hope of justice by the new and thoroughly iniquitous “disqualification by association” regulation, a draw-down from the Childcare (Disqualifications) Regulations 2009 and applied thoughtlessly, via supplementary guidance published at the end of last year to the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance that serves as the mainspring of our child protection and safeguarding work in schools. In essence, (it is a little more complex than this) it concerns the disqualification of an adult from working with children under 8 if there is somebody in their household who has a conviction for a violent or sexual crime. It was published in October 2014 but has not been widely picked up on, at least not by many Milton Keynes heads, and therefore, I must assume, by heads across the UK, depending on how the communication networks function in different authorities. It is applied patchily, often unjustly (how could it be otherwise?) and the stories that are emerging are appalling, with massive economic consequences for both schools and the employees caught by this regulation.

It seems to be in part an application of the probably sound principle that if a child-minder is living with somebody who has a conviction for violent or sexual offences, there is a chance that those children being minded in the home might come into contact with the partner or co-resident, and that that (and that alone) could increase the risk to the children. We can take it so far and no further, I think. Some authorities, notably Essex, have taken it a draconian step further and there are reports now that across the country, people are facing disqualification, sometimes choosing to resign, facing dismissal or haviong to choose between their partner and their job, both of which they probably love.

This regulation is therefore sinful and iniquitous and contributes not one jot toward better child protection in the way that it is being applied. Worst of all, it undermines a key principle of human rights law, that nobody should be convicted (and this is a form of conviction even if it will not mean a prison sentence) for the wrongdoing (often in the past) of another.

It is a moot point whether we will be able to ask our staff to comply with this regulation, so badly does it offend against conscience. Unfortunately, mnany heads have already complied and issued a declaration form to their staff. The chance to stand together against this regulation on a point of conscience has gone now, and all that is left is the wasteland of chaos that has appeared in its wake.

We do do some stupid things in this country.

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About Huw Humphreys

I am a headteacher in the city of Milton Keynes, where I have been since April 2011, looking to make education effective for the whole child and keeping a distant relationship with the powers that be and their narrowing approach to education... but most of all I am looking to find out what it means to be both a follower of Jesus Christ and a passionate educator in the midst of an unsettled community. I am also a part time musician, part time linguist and lover of history and literature...committed both to freedom to learn and depth of learning for all our children. The views on this blog are all my own, and not in any way those of the school I lead!

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  1. […] the curriculum and assessment that treat children and adults in an industrial model, or the recent disqualification by association legislation that militates against the protection and care of children. Obviously, my thinking in this is […]

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