Are our children safe?

A PAEDOPHILE who had been banned from working in schools in Bedfordshire was given a job just across the border in Hertfordshire, despite warnings from his former employer. Last week music teacher Graham Conridge, 60, appeared in Luton Crown Court on 17 c

A PAEDOPHILE who had been banned from working in schools in Bedfordshire was given a job just across the border in Hertfordshire, despite warnings from his former employer.

Last week music teacher Graham Conridge, 60, appeared in Luton Crown Court on 17 charges of making indecent photographs of children and seven of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

He was jailed for two years and eight months.

In 2002 Conridge resigned from his job at Robert Bloomfield Middle School in Shefford following accusations of misconduct.

He was investigated by Bedfordshire County Council (BCC) which informed the police, banned him from working in the county and reported him to the Department for Education and Skills (DfES).

No charges were brought against Conridge by the police and the DfES did not ban him from teaching but warned him about his future conduct.

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However, just two years later, Conridge was employed at Collenswood School in Stevenage as a supply teacher.

Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) confirmed this week that he was employed through an agency to work at Collenswood between 2004 and 2005.

The council admitted that it was aware Conridge had been investigated by BCC and wrote to all schools in Hertfordshire asking them to inform the council if Conridge tried to get a job in the county.

A spokesman for the council said the agency which employed Conridge "should have checked his suitability to work with children".

According to the spokesman, new national guidelines brought in in January this year mean that all schools must check the full Criminal Records Bureau disclosures of staff employed by agencies.

The spokesman added: "We are looking into the circumstances of this case but we do everything we possibly can to protect the young people in our schools, and carry out all available checks but if someone is not on List 99 [the DfES' list of staff deemed unsuitable to work with children] or has no previous convictions it is impossible to prevent very rare cases like this slipping through the net.

"The new legislation which came into force in January has tightened up the regulations for people applying for work through agencies and this will help."

Stevenage MP Barbara Follett said: "This is most worrying and I will be raising this with the local education authority.

"We have procedures in place to protect children and they must be acted upon." Collenswood School was merged with Barnwell in 2005. A HCC spokesman said Barnwell does not employ any agency staff.

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