Back in June this year, the UK government announced that the implementation of the controversial Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) set up under the previous administration was to be halted while it underwent a thorough review.
The VBS was seen by some tutors and parents as a positive move, because it would have allowed private tutors to register voluntarily and hence ‘prove’ that they were no risk to children and vulnerable adults. In contrast, there were also many who opposed the scheme (for too many reasons to list here – see our interim statement p.2 for details).
Self-employed private tutors have never been under any legal obligation to join the VBS, or to pay for a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) Enhanced Disclosure certificate to demonstrate their suitability to work with children.
Some would argue that the regulations are not tight enough in this regard. We’ve decided to withold judgement on this issue until there has been some academic research to establish the risk and consequently the necessity for such measures. It is extraordinary that there has never been any such research, and The Tutor Pages is therefore in the early stages of a collaborative project with a British university designed to investigate this area fully.
In the meantime, there have been a couple of interesting developments.
Firstly, the government has recently indicated that the so-called ‘Sarah’s Law’ will be implemented across England and Wales by March 2011. This controversial measure gives parents the right to check with the police if anyone with regular access to their children has a criminal conviction for child sex offences. In simple terms, it is the ‘inverse’ of the flawed VBS system which was originally going to hold the details of millions of innocent people. Though not without its problems, Sarah’s Law may turn out to be a useful tool for parents to check the background of a potential tutor.
Secondly, the government has just launched today its ‘Big Society Deregulation Taskforce’. This taskforce, chaired by Lord Hodgson, will examine how red tape and bureaucracy can be reduced for charities and community organisations. The focus will naturally include the aborted Vetting and Barring Scheme. According to an interview in Third Sector with Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, ‘the move was part of a wider attempt to rethink the state’s attitude towards risk, which was generating too much regulation’.
In the wake of the disaster which was the VBS, it is encouraging to see moves towards a sensible approach to the management of risk in child protection. I am hopeful that there is indeed a different kind of thinking at Whitehall which will bear fruit for the private tuition industry.