Criminal checks for foreign teachers could be scrapped

Teacher at board in classroom
Image caption Foreign teachers wishing to teach in Scotland will still need to go through a number of background checks if the proposals to remove the need for a criminal record check are removed

New proposals may remove the need for foreign teachers wishing to work in Scotland to undergo a criminal record check.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) is discussing whether such a check is appropriate.

But it stresses there would still be other safeguards in place to check the suitability of people who want to teach in Scotland.

The teaching union EIS wants the criminal checks to remain.

Last year 186 people from outside the UK applied with the GTCS to register to teach in Scotland.

It is a legal requirement for any teacher in a Scottish school to be registered with the GTCS. This helps provides assurances to employers, parents and children that teachers meet a national standard of teaching.

At present, every application from a teachers who qualified outside Scotland is individually assessed by the council.

'Duty bound'

GTCS said in a statement: "All applicants from overseas currently have to provide a suitable criminal record check from the country in which they are resident. No decision has been taken to stop this practice by GTCS."

Other requirements include showing evidence of relevant qualifications references from previous employers.

The statement added: "Providing a criminal record check is not straightforward as many countries do not hold criminal records. In addition, there are crimes in some countries which are not crimes in the UK.

"There is also a concern that asking for a criminal record check might disadvantage some people applying for registration such as refugees or those who have suffered persecution in their country."

The GTCS said it is duty bound to review its policy from time to time.

It said: "Our Professional Regulatory Assurance Committee (formerly RGSC) is looking into the practice of carrying out overseas criminal record checks and will report back its findings in due course."

Relaxing rules

EIS, Scotland's largest teachers' union, expressed reservations about the proposal but said there may be occasions when it was appropriate to relax the rules for individual applicants.

General secretary Larry Flanagan said: "Clearly, the suggestion of some overseas applicants to the GTCS register potentially not being criminal-record checked is an issue that raises concerns.

"Taking all reasonable steps to background check all applicants is very important; however, there is also the issue of potentially discriminating against suitable candidates from countries that do not have a background check system.

"The EIS view is that checks should be carried out where possible, but that some kind of exceptional admissions procedure should be explored for teachers coming to Scotland from countries that lack a suitable background check system."

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