Case study – Sadie – Stopped from continuing my education as a result of my partner’s conviction

Sadie contacted the Unlock Helpline for some advice around the disqualification by association requirements.

She had been studying for a teaching qualification (PGCE) at university, teaching secondary school-aged children, when details of her new partner’s conviction for a sexual offence were disclosed as additional information on her enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service certificate. She had been contacted by the university who had stated that as a result of her partner’s conviction, it was likely that she would be ‘disqualified by association’ and would be unable to teach unless she were granted a waiver by Ofsted.

The university explained that she would be required to sit a panel interview where her risk levels would be assessed. She was advised that this could result in her being prevented from continuing with her PGCE and may also mean that she would be unable to continue with her placement at a local secondary school.

Sadie told us that she had already been offered a full-time job upon completion of her PGCE and that the letter she’d received from the university had thrown into question her future career plans. If she wasn’t able to complete her placement she wouldn’t be able to qualify as a teacher.

We were able to confirm that the disqualification by association requirements apply only to those teaching children over the age of 8 and therefore, there was no reason why she should not be able to continue with her course or start her new job.

We offered to write to the university to set out the legal position as far as the disqualification by association requirements were concerned and Sadie was happy for us to do so. We also suggested that she write to the police to request that the information about her partner be removed from her DBS certificate as this could potentially continue to affect her when she qualified as a teacher. Although she wasn’t disqualified, many schools would still be concerned about employing a teacher who was living with a known sex offender.

On receipt of our letter, the university agreed that in this instance, Sadie was not subject to disqualification by association requirements. However, they still believed that it was necessary for her to go through a criminal records panel to assess any risk that she posed to her students. At this meeting, Sadie was able to demonstrate that she posed no risk to any children in her care and had a good understanding of safeguarding policies and practices. The university agreed for her to continue studying for her PGCE.

Unfortunately, the police refused to remove the additional information about Sadie’s partner on her DBS certificate which not only sets out the details of his conviction but also states that in their opinion, she could be a facilitator for his access to children. She is in the process of appealing this decision with the Independent Monitor.

 

Lessons

This case once again demonstrates how risk averse colleges and universities can be and will often make decisions without having a full understanding of current legislation.

Many universities will have policies/procedures in place to deal with students who have criminal records but aren’t always sure how to assess somebody who is ‘associated’ to an individual with a criminal record.

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Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s case work.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

 

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