Fairplayforchildren.org, a national organisation campaigning for every child’s right to play, has just released results of a survey on the government’s new Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS). The survey gathered views from parents, grandparents and other carers on the issue of who should be vetted in employment settings such as schools and nurseries.
Although the survey results don’t appear to be up yet on their website, eGov monitor covered the story yesterday.
In line with the rules of the VBS, 88% of those questioned thought that vetting should take place where the activity is weekly or more. However, 66% supported vetting where the activity is monthly or more, 66% wanted schools to check authors and other similar visitors to schools, and 61% said that parents involved in school exchanges should also register with the VBS.
Ironically, these are the very areas of the VBS which were scaled back last December amid a storm of protests from parents, teachers and volunteers that the government had gone too far. At the time, the seven main representative organisations for school and college leaders wrote a letter to Ed Balls saying that the newly introduced system was “disproportionate to risk”. The result was a government climbdown involving a reduction in the number of adults who would have to register from around 11 million to 9 million.
It is hard to know what to make of the new Fairplay For Children survey. Jan Cosgrove, its National Secretary, is one of the few outspoken supporters of increasing the scope of the VBS. Sitting firmly on the other side of the fence are campaigners such as Josie Appleton and the Manifesto Club. Personally, I’m impressed by the views of Mark Easton, BBC News’ home editor, who has described the VBS as “a child of moral panic” and “a textbook case of how media hype, political expediency and bureaucratic process lead to conclusions that can later appear disproportionate”.
Last month, we published our own survey which suggested that there was widespread opposition to the VBS among private tutors, for whom signing up is voluntary.
We’re now doing some research into the risk of child abuse within the private tuition context. We’ll be asking questions such as How big is the risk? Is there any evidence that a voluntary system for tutors will actually reduce the risk of abuse, or is it just something good for the tutor’s CV? Could the VBS actually increase the risk of child abuse? John Adams (expert in risk compensation, Emeritus Professor of Geography at University College London and Honorary Member of the Institute of Risk Management) recently raised this spectre in his blog:
Leaving aside the mind-boggling expense and bureaucracy required to perform this feat [introduction of the VBS], its effect is almost certain to be perverse. A CRB check will be seen as an insurance policy; behaviour that might previously have aroused suspicion is now less likely to be questioned because some superior authority has certified the suspect as “safe”.
John Adams states on his website that he is “intrigued by the persistence of attitudes to risks” and laments “disputes about issues for which conclusive evidence is lacking”. Quite. We’re hoping to get some more evidence together on the subject of risk in private tuition, for the benefit of parents, tutors and other interested parties. Watch this space!