Parents who wish to volunteer in their children’s schools are increasingly vetted prior to being allowed to lend a hand, The Daily Telegraph reports from the UK. This year alone, more than 57,000 volunteers have already had to pass rigorous background checks. The number includes more than 11,000 parents with children enrolled in the school to which they wish to donate their time.
The number of people getting screened – which is already on pace to overtake last year’s – appears to be a snub to the Government’s efforts to cut down the amount of barriers schools put in front of members of the community who wish to get involved with their local schools. Parents especially are incensed at being treated like “felons on remand,” and in some cases being asked to undergo a full criminal background check.
The Manifesto Club, a group that campaigns against excessive regulation, released the report on vetting of school volunteers and said that if schools continued to vet people this thoroughly they were going to turn off parents from volunteering altogether.
Vetting procedures turned schools into hostile environments and made volunteers feel like “second-class citizens”, it was claimed. Many people are also deterred by the amount of time needed to fill in forms and the administration fee of up to £20, the report said.
CRB checks are believed to have been behind a 35 per cent drop in the number of primary school volunteers between 2003 and 2008.
Parents who choose to engage with their children’s schools don’t only promote better academic outcomes in their own children, but by performing tasks like reading with students, supervising field trips and take on other tasks, they improve the educational environment of every student. High levels of parental involvement in the community is a boon to the local school system. As Josie Appleton, director of the Manifesto Club, explained, the rigorous vetting systems deprive both the parents and the students by turning off those who would be happy to help but don’t wish to struggle with hours of paperwork and – in some cases – being forced to pay a fee.
The report said that some schools routinely vet any adult involved with the school as a “matter of routine box-ticking”. One man from Hertfordshire was asked to undergo vetting simply to provide cash sponsorship for the school, even though he would not be coming into contact with children. Last term, a school in Wiltshire asked all parents to complete a CRB check to watch their children play sport. The report told how some schools “mark out volunteers as a kind of second-class citizen” by requiring them to wear “parent helper” badges at all times or ID tags sporting their CRB reference number. It said these “arduous terms and conditions would be more appropriate for felons on remand” than school volunteers.