Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Teachers face ban over child porn

Michael Gove was under pressure to explain why a teacher who downloaded child abuse images was allowed to return to work

Anyone cautioned or prosecuted for child pornography offences in the future will be banned from teaching, the Department for Education has said.

The announcement came as Education Secretary Michael Gove came under increasing pressure to explain why his department approved a decision to allow a teacher who downloaded indecent images of children back into the classroom.

The move sparked widespread condemnation, Mr Gove has now been urged to appear in the Commons to tell MPs why Geoffrey Bettley, 36, was reinstated after police found nearly 200 child abuse images on his computer.

In a statement a DfE spokesman said: "We want to ensure that in future anyone cautioned or prosecuted for offences related to child pornography is prohibited from teaching. We are taking steps to revise the guidance the independent panel uses to make a decision on whether a teacher should be barred."

It is not clear whether the announcement is retrospective and will cover Mr Bettley who had been suspended from St Mary's Catholic School in Menston, West Yorkshire in December 2010.

Mr Bettley accepted a police caution and was dismissed by the school following a disciplinary hearing in December 2011.

But a professional conduct panel has ruled that the RE teacher should be allowed to return to teaching after concluding he "does not represent a risk to children and young people". The decision was signed off by a senior official at the Department for Education.

Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said that many parents would be "deeply disturbed" that Mr Bettley, 36, had been allowed to teach again. He said in the Commons: "He downloaded child porn images and was rightly sacked by the school and put on the sex offenders register. In a decision which has been ratified by the Education Secretary, he's now been told he's allowed back to teach again."

In its judgment, the National College of Teaching and Leadership professional conduct panel said the images viewed by Mr Bettley were "not at the most serious end" of the scale and there were "relatively few" on his computer. The panel said it had considered it safe to conclude that the RE teacher "does not pose a risk to children".

A DfE spokeswoman later said that under current law, the announcement cannot be applied retrospectively. All schools must carry out vetting checks when recruiting staff and a caution of the type Mr Bettley was given would be highlighted.

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