Northern Ireland

Concerns raised about people working in schools without necessary background checks

Concerns have been raised about people people working in schools without a necessary background check
Concerns have been raised about people people working in schools without a necessary background check (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Concerns have been raised about the number of people working in schools without a necessary background check.

Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit MLA, said he is alarmed that correspondence from the education minister suggests it “may not be possible to finalise the Access NI check prior to engagement”.

Mr Carroll’s comments come in response to an assembly question he asked Paul Givan about the “number of education workers who have not had an Access NI check”.

Stormont Education Minister Paul Givan
Stormont education minister Paul Givan. PICTURE: REBECCA BLACK/PA

An Access NI check lists an individual’s criminal record history and information held about them on the police database and is a mandatory requirement for a growing number of paid and voluntary positions.

People are often unable to accept an offer of employment or take up a voluntary role until the checks have been completed.

The DUP education minister said in his written answer: “Staff working in schools are employed by individual employing authorities and not by the Department of Education.

“All education workers employed in a statutory education setting in a regulated activity post are required to complete an Access NI check.



“In the case of a short-term temporary hire or emergency cover appointment, it may not be possible to finalise the Access NI check prior to engagement.

“In such situations, a risk assessment must be completed, and all necessary steps must be taken to ensure the safeguarding of children and young people.

“Given this is an ongoing process within a number of employing authorities, it is not possible to confirm the number of education workers who at a point in time do not have a completed Access NI check.

“However, there are processes in place to follow-up and confirm that checks that were not able to be completed prior to engagement have subsequently been completed.”

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll. Picture: Cliff Donaldson People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Mr Carroll said it was “an astounding and deeply worrying admission of risk to schoolchildren”.

“The education minister should make it his business to know how many in our schools have not had the necessary Access NI checks and take steps to ensure the safety of pupils,” he said.

“Responsibility for this mess does not lie with those workers engaged in short-term temporary or emergency work.

“It cannot be separated from the recruitment and retention crisis facing our schools and the refusal to meet the needs of education workers who are overworked, undervalued and underpaid.

“The Executive must take urgent action to address this issue.”

The Department of Education has been contacted for comment.