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National Police Checks For All Student Teachers

ALL student teachers will be subjected to national police checks before they are allowed to teach in South Australian schools.
The new measure, which will affect up to 3000 student teachers, will also apply to their supervisors as well as researchers who enter government, independent and Catholic schools.
Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith said yesterday the state's three universities and Christian tertiary institution Tabor Adelaide expected to have the checks tor student teachers completed by mid-February.
The initiative follows the introduction of legislation last year that requires each of the state's 35,700 registered teachers to undergo a police check. "When it comes to child protection we cannot take any chances," Dr Lomax-Smith said.
"It is imperative that we do all we can to keep children as safe as possible from abuse of any kind. Since 1997, police checks have only been conducted on teachers seeking registration to teach for the first time, meaning that two-thirds of teachers have never been tested.
The checks on student teachers will mean that parents can be confident that all people teaching in SA schools have a police clearance."
If a student teacher is found to have committed a serious crime - such as drug trafficking, sexual abuse of children or offences of violence - they would not be allowed entry to a school.
"We make no apology for disallowing those who have committed offences of a more serious nature because the protection of children will always be our immediate concern," Dr Lomax-Smith said.
"We are also proposing checks on all out-of-school-hours care staff through new regulations to be introduced to Parliament this year," Australian Education Union state president Andrew Gohl "cautiously welcomed" the new measure- "In the first instance, to ensure that students in pre-schools and schools have a safe learning environment, we need to ensure that the people who are in front of classes are fit and proper people and that includes student teachers," he said.
However, while the Teachers Registration Board considers the findings of the police checks on teachers, Mr Gohl questioned if universities were qualified to determine what should happen to a student teacher if anything undesirable was uncovered during a police check.
If anything untoward is revealed by the check, representatives from the Government, independent and Catholic schools and the universities would meet to consider the student teacher's suitability to enter a school on a case-by-case basis.

Adelaide Advertiser (21-1-2005)
Nigel Hunt

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