NSPCC warning on criminal checks loophole for private tutors

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The NSPCC is urging the UK Government to close a loophole that could leave thousands of privately-taught children at risk of harm.

Around one in four children receive extra, out-of-school tuition. But there is no legal requirement on the thousands of self-employed private tutors in the UK to undergo a criminal record check, which would reveal details of any child sex offences.

Without a compulsory criminal record check parents are left in the dark about the risk self-employed tutors may pose to their children.

If they are supplied by an agency tutors would be checked by their employer, but if they are self-employed the same level of checking would not necessarily be undertaken.

This is in stark contrast to jobs such as accountants, vets and even traffic wardens, whose work does not involve children but still require a basic DBS check on entry to the profession.

The NSPCC is now calling for all self-employed professional tutors to be legally required to get a criminal record check before they are allowed to take private lessons with children.

Sandra McNair, NSPCC Head of Service for the Midlands, said: “Over the summer months many parents will be giving their children a head start in the coming school year by employing a tutor at home. Clearly the vast majority of private tutors are not child abusers, but the current legal loophole makes it an ideal scenario for any predatory adult seeking to harm children.

“It’s absurd that you need a basic criminal record check to issue a parking fine, calculate finances, or treat animals, but not if you’re a self-employed tutor working with children. We want all tutors teaching children to be required to undergo a criminal record check - just as anyone driving a car needs to have a driving licence.

“Children have a right to be educated in safety and parents need to know that every care has been taken to ensure unsuitable people cannot practise as tutors. The rules on applying for criminal record checks need to apply to self-employed tutors just as they do for teachers employed in schools.”

The NSPCC recommends that parents employ tutors through reputable agencies. Parents should also take additional steps to check a tutor is suitable, including interviewing prospective tutors, following up references and speaking to previous employers.

Parents should also make sure that their children understand how to keep themselves safe from abuse, for example by teaching them the Underwear Rule.

The NSPCC is available 24 hours a day to offer advice to parents on 0808 800 5000 or by emailing help@nspcc.org.uk.