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26 April 2012
Responsible journalism is always our aim.
The News investigation this week into the criminal records of those applying for teaching jobs in our school potentially paints a good picture.
Like many local papers, journalists at the News make full use of the Freedom of Information requests, after the act was passed in 2000. They allow us to get information on any number of questions which previously could be hidden away from us. Indeed they often dispel rumours and many of the requests are prompted by our readers or from stories we have covered.
Indeed just four weeks ago we splashed with how a trusted youth worker at the Peckham playground where footballer Rio Ferdinand played as a child was exposed as a sick paedophile who drugged and raped kids as young as ten.
Twisted Edward Wright, 52, who was ‘senior playleader’ at Peckham’s Leyton Square Adventure Playground for nearly a decade, was caged at the end of last month after he was found guilty of luring young boys to his flat and repeatedly abusing them in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He left Southwark in 1993 and until last year was a youth worker in Westminster.
The Criminal Records Bureau checks came into force in 2002, so clearly in Southwark this system was not there at the time he was working in our borough, but would have been available when he was in Westminster.
Newspapers are often accused of just sensationalising every story to get the negative angle, however, especially at a time when there is little to no monitoring of information on the web, papers have a responsibility to dispel untruths and rumour.
Seventy-five people who applied for teaching jobs in the borough last year had criminal convictions some extremely serious and other not so. What we cannot tell from our request is how many of these actually got jobs – that is up to individual heads at the schools and the governing bodies. But it would appear that the system is working in Southwark at least.
It is completely reasonable that a headteacher and governing body can make a decision on individual applicants. The fact is that out of a total of 3,429 teaching applications, 75 came back showing criminal convictions – a rate of just 2.2 per cent.
Many of these could have been for minor offences when the teachers were just teenagers. Obviously parents’ concerns are heightened after evil perpetrators like Edward Wright are rightly exposed in the press, but you’d hope that this type of investigation by the News will reassure parents that schools are not filled with dangerous crooks.
We always aim to provide the most balanced reports possible and know that our loyal readership deserve to see the bigger picture. That is why we also strive to follow up stories and will continue to use Freedom of Information requests to give you the bigger picture.
Eager for readers’ feedback we welcome suggestions on Freedom of Information requests, and will within reason publish what we can.
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