A newspaper report which claimed this week that more than 1,500 teachers with criminal convictions, including paedophiles and attempted murderers, applied for jobs in schools in the past year reinforces the need for stronger checks in the application process, according to one of the UK’s leading education recruitment companies.

TLTP Education (The London Teaching Pool) said that the government’s decision to delegate recruitment of teachers to individual schools means that much of the work to check candidate suitability routinely undertaken by specialists may not be being done by individual schools.

“The government’s flagship reform of teacher training, which put the onus on schools to recruit new staff through the School Direct programme means that many of the precautions that recruitment specialists take are simply not being carried out in those cases,” explain TLTP Managing Director, Darryl Mydat.

“TLTP and other reputable educational recruitment agencies undertake, as a matter of course, a full background check on all candidates. This includes enhanced CRB checks, checks against List 99 for people deemed not suitable to work with children in schools, a minimum of two references, photo ID checks, confirmation of their right to work, checks on utility bills and passports, with the General Teaching Council or similar and that’s outside of our mandatory face to face interviews. Schools have neither the time nor the capacity to be that thorough.”

The Daily Mail report suggested that candidates for teaching jobs last year included drug dealers, burglars, thieves, fraudsters, flashers and blackmailers. The report cited a Freedom of Information Act request as revealing that around 100 head teachers had applied for new jobs even though they had criminal convictions including wounding, cottaging, ABH, theft, battery, burglary, benefit fraud, drugs offences, hit and runs, violent disorder and one even planned a bomb hoax. In addition, the Daily Mail reported, around 800 teachers and 600 teaching assistants with criminal records also asked schools for work in 2012.

The news follows the Department for Education’s decision to abolish the Quality Mark accreditation for recruitment companies. The scheme, which was developed as a joint initiative by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and the Department for Education (DfE) in July 2002, set minimum standards for agencies and local authorities. These standards covered areas such; as the way they recruit and interview supply teachers; the way they check and manage their performance; and the way they stay at the forefront of changes in the teaching sector.

“We were very disappointed at the DfE’s decision to discontinue the Quality Mark. The high standards set by the Quality Mark helped schools choose agencies with the highest standards of recruitment practice and safeguarding of children,” continues Mydat.

“The closure of the Quality Mark gave us serious concerns regarding the safeguarding of children, without proper checks and audits. I think we are seeing the result of that now.”