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Why do Ofsted take so long in approving waivers for those who have been disqualified by association?

I’d like to tell you about my disqualification from the primary school that I’ve worked in for the past fifteen years.

In August last year, my 21 year old son was convicted of a sexual offence – arranging to meet a 13 year old girl and sending her explicit photographs. He received a suspended sentence, was put on the Sex Offender Register and told that he had to attend some courses relevant to his offence.

He wasn’t living with us when the offence took place but moved back home just before the court case started.

My family and I were devastated when my son received his conviction. We’re a decent family and have never been in any bother with the police before but the case was all over the local and national newspapers. It was, and still is, the most horrific experience I have ever been through.

As soon as we knew the result of the court case, I approached the Head of my school and explained the situation to her. She was really understanding and told me that the school would support me through this difficult time. It was at this meeting that I learnt about the need to obtain a waiver if I wanted to continue teaching and I immediately applied to Ofsted for one.

I’d always had a very good working relationship with both parents and staff at the school. As well as my teaching role I also managed a breakfast and after school club so I got to know the parents really well. The school told me that whilst I was waiting for my waiver to be approved, I could work from home. I helped with the school accounts, website management and anything else that was easy to do away from the school. This worked well for about three weeks and then the blow came. I was told that Ofsted were not happy about this arrangement and I was asked to return anything that belonged to the school and also told that I was not allowed on school premises. I was totally distraught. This felt like the final nail in my coffin.

The only good thing to come out of this has been that approximately four weeks after his conviction, my son started a new job. A family friend who runs his own business took him on. He knew all about my son’s conviction but was willing to look past it. My son’s doing really well at work and is trying hard to rebuild his life.

I, on the other hand, am still waiting for the results of my waiver. I had a horrific meeting with two women from Ofsted which took place in my own home. They grilled me about my son’s conviction and I had to tell them everything that happened – it was hell. They also asked about safeguarding at school, giving me details of different scenarios and asking me what I would do (it was as if it was my fault that my son’s offence had taken place). They said that they didn’t think I was aware of how serious the situation was because I hadn’t let my Head know as soon as the offence had taken place. As far as I knew, I had nothing to say at that time – my son might not have been found guilty.

We’re now six months on and I still haven’t heard from Ofsted. The Head of my school hasn’t been in touch – I don’t receive emails from her and don’t get invited to anything concerning staff that goes on outside of the school. I’m just totally being blanked. My union who have been representing me really don’t seem to be much use. They’ve told me that they haven’t been through anything like this before and they don’t know what to do. I even sent my union representative the links to Unlock’s website on Disqualification by Association to provide him with more information.

I regularly read the Unlock website and forum – it’s been a great comfort in some dark times. I really don’t think that people realise what impact a conviction has on a person’s family and how much it can affect their day to day life. As much as I loved having some time with my family without having to worry about money when things were very new and raw, I now feel as if I am being alienated. I rarely go out, especially on my own, I feel like I have the conviction and not my son.

I’m on the verge of getting a solicitor to help me as the worry and stress this has caused me and my family is really detrimental. I’m dreading the phone ringing telling me that I need to meet with Ofsted for a decision about my waiver. I really don’t think that I can handle it right now.

If Ofsted need me to have a waiver, then the very least they can do is to deal with the matter quickly or at least keep in contact so that I know what timescales I’m going to be working to.

By Cheryl (name changed to protect identity)


Editors note

We’ve since heard from Cheryl that Ofsted refused her waiver. However she is in the process of appealing their decision and we will keep you updated on her story.

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