Teachers told: ‘Carry CRB check at all times’

I just received an email from a teacher, reporting that the teaching agency he works with told him: ‘carry your CRB copy with you at all times’. That is, he would be expected to produce his criminal records certificate not just on the first day of a job, but at any time in the course of working life. (Over coffee in the staffroom? In the middle of a class?).

This request to carry one’s criminal records check on your person is a sign of how this piece of paper has become an index of trustworthiness; you could be challenged at any moment and asked to prove your legitimacy, a question which is answered by a photocopy of a database search. The CRB check functions as a kind of clearance, a licence to be in a school which one must carry just as a foreign visitor must carry a visa.

Similarly, elderly volunteers in the north-east were asked to wear a badge detailing their CRB check number. The CRB check was their authentication, their eligibility to pass through school gates.

The teacher who emailed me asks: ‘Surely once I am in the school they should be more interested in seeing how I get on teaching (or supporting students) not relentlessly checking my criminal record status? What is more important? It seems there is a problem with priorities here.’

Quite right: the trust in paperwork means that a school is less interested in a teacher’s actual conduct with children, and more in the result of the state’s database search. Vigilance means asking someone to show their papers.

Here we see how the culture of relentless checking is also an abnegation of real responsibility for the education and welfare of children.

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