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Tom – Inappropriate use of ‘Disqualification by Association’ regulations by a university

Tom contacted our helpline for some advice on a problem he was having in completing a teaching qualification at university.

Tom explained that he had just started a teacher training course when his partner had been arrested for being in possession of indecent images. Tom told the university about the situation with his partner and it was agreed that he would defer his study for one year whilst the police were investigating the case against his partner.

At the end of the police investigation, Tom’s partner received a conviction and a short prison sentence. On his partners release from prison, Tom reapplied to the university and began to look forward to finishing his studies after what had been a very difficult time in his life.

Tom explained to us that he had just received notification from the university telling him that he was unable to return to the teacher training course as he was ‘disqualified by association’. The university stated that:

The criteria for disqualification under the 2006 Act and the 2009 Regulations include those:

Living in the same household where another person who is disqualified lives or is employed (‘disqualified by association’) as specified in regulation 9 of the 2009 Regulations

Tom told us that he wanted to teach secondary school children and that even though he was required to undertake work placements, these would always take place in a secondary school.

We contacted the university on Tom’s behalf and explained that the ‘disqualification by association’ regulations only apply to education and supervised activity for children between the ages of 5 to 8 years during school hours. As Tom was looking to work with children from the age of 11 upwards, they would not be applicable to him. We asked the university if they would reconsider its decision to preclude Tom from the teacher training course.

The university very quickly responded to our letter confirming that they had sought further clarification and were now in a position to revoke their decision and offered Tom a place at university to start the following September.

Tom told us:

Prior to contacting Unlock I felt that I was being persecuted by the university. I was never arrested, questioned or charged by the police yet I was being treated like a criminal. I’m so glad that Unlock were able to take on my case and speak out on my behalf.



Although colleges, universities and employers are aware of the existence of legislation, they are not always sure how to apply it to the individuals they are dealing with. Even if Tom had been looking to teach children under the age of 8, precluding him from studying would still not have been the right course of action. The university should have explained to Tom that he would need to apply to Ofsted for a waiver to enable him to teach.


Notes about this case

This case relates to Unlock’s casework and our policy work on scrapping the disqualification by association regulations.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

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