It would be wrong of me not to mention the issue of safer recruitment given the coverage the issues in Cambridgeshire have received today.
The story is basically that an audit of safe recruitment practices in schools in Cambridgeshire found that practices in our schools have not improved over recent years and that as many as one in eight (based on a sample of sixteen schools) may not be doing even basic checks. These include a check against List 99 - which takes about half an hour and confirms that a potential appointee has not been banned from working with children.
Today I did interviews with Anglia TV and Look East and the story has appeared in the local media and, over the last couple of days, in the National Press too, including some quotes from me. Those quotes are taken from the interview I have done with the Cambs Times and I should thank them, their report of this issue, which is online here, gives exactly the message I wanted - a robust one that makes it clear that complacency in the area of safe recruitment is not an option.
Of course, as a County Council we are looking at what we can do to improve the situation - but actually it is up to schools to do these checks and we cannot hold their hands every time they recruit and appoint new staff. I hope that the National coverage this report has received will help to hit the point home to schools that unsafe recruitment practices are not acceptable.
However, and this is not to divert attention away from Cambridgeshire, it must be said that the reason the issue has been identified here is because our Audit and Accounts Committee chose to do the work they have and, recognising a problem, chose to bring it to the attention of the Cabinet at the County Council. I think I know our schools pretty well, and my instinct is that this situation is not unique to Cambridgeshire and is potentially worse elsewhere. I have sent an email tonight to the Department for Education making exactly this point.