Dealers and arsonists bid to become teachers

Hundreds of criminals living in Lancashire have applied for teaching jobs in the last three years.
Hundreds of criminals living in Lancashire have applied for teaching jobs in the last three years.
Have your say

Hundreds of criminals living in Lancashire have applied for teaching jobs in the past three years, The Gazette can reveal.

Arson, drug dealing and assaulting a police officer are among the list of offences flagged up during background checks for applicants from the Fylde coast.

Figures released to The Gazette under the Freedom of Information Act reveal would-be teachers and teaching assistants living in the FY postal area amassed 155 offences between them.

The figures include convictions, cautions, warnings and reprimands flagged up by a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check carried out at the request of prospective employers since 2012.

It is not clear how many of those applications were for jobs on the Fylde coast.

The figures do not show whether applicants were eventually offered the job but Blackpool Council said five people with criminal records have been offered jobs in resort schools in the past three years.

Coun John Jones, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for children’s safeguarding, said enhanced DBS checks are carried out on successful applicants for jobs in schools and a dedicated panel looks at cases where convictions are flagged up.

He added: “The panel assesses the severity of the offence and potential risk based on all the information available and present a recommendation to the school to help them to make an informed decision.

“The decision is then ultimately that of the school.

“In the last three years in Blackpool, only five people with criminal records have successfully applied for permanent teaching or teaching assistant positions.”

Last year, DBS checks flagged up 50 offences for Fylde coast residents applying for teaching jobs, up from 36 the year before.

They range from fare-dodging on a train to fraud and arson.

Applicants from previous years have records that include wounding, possessing a knife in a public place and possession of heroin with intent to supply.

The DBS said the information may include multiple entries for one person where they have committed more than offence or applied for more than one job.

Lancashire County Council, which is responsible for schools in Fylde and Wyre, said it does not know how many people with criminal records have successfully applied for teaching jobs as the information is held by individual schools.

Coun Matthew Tomlinson, the council’s cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said all school appointments are conditional upon DBS checks.

He added: “If the DBS check reveals an offence, its severity and when it was committed would influence whether the provisional job offer was immediately withdrawn.

“In cases where the offer is not immediately withdrawn, the headteacher could ask for an explanation from the individual concerned, and then make a decision as to the suitability of the individual to work in the school.”

The council supports headteachers in such cases, he said and several factors are taken into account including the severity of the offence, when and why it was committed, and if it was a one-off as well as the nature of the job applied for.

He said: “Another important consideration for the headteacher is whether the individual has been up front and told them about the offence before the DBS form has been processed, rather than the headteacher finding out about the offence after the DBS check has been carried out.

“After careful consideration of all the information, the headteacher would decide whether or not the individual could be given another chance and be employed at the school.”