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Teaching is facing a recruitment crisis; how can it be turned around?

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Several years ago, The Guardian published an article about the crisis in the recruitment of teachers. Since then, things haven’t got much better however as an ex-teacher with a criminal record, I’ve got my own ideas on how to improve the recruitment problem.

Back in 2017, it was reported that a shortfall of trainee teachers was reaching crisis levels, with particular shortages in London and the home counties, and a significant drop over the last decade in the number of women applicants. A number of factors were used to explain this, including the gap between the growth in private sector and public sector salaries. 

It was suggested that the Department of Education could reverse the crisis by considering:

  1. Reducing teachers’ unsustainable workload
  2. Treat the profession with respect
  3. Keep pay rises in line with the private sector
  4. Tackle the perceived ceiling to success
  5. Change and challenge damaging perceptions of teenagers

Here’s a link to the original article if you’d like to read it in full.

I’d like to add a number 6 to the list.

Stop being so risk averse to people with minor criminal convictions”

I’d been a teacher for many years before I received my criminal conviction and my last job was a senior position as part of the school management team. In exchange for the amount of money that the government had invested in my training, I was able to shape the lives of generations of students, helping them succeed academically and helping lay the foundations to the rest of their lives.

Immediately after I received my conviction however, this counted for nothing. Of course teaching is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and guidance states that for teaching roles those who have serious convictions would normally be deemed unsuitable. The definition of a ‘serious offence’ is:

  • Serious drug related offences
  • Robbery/burglary/theft
  • Deception/fraud
  • Murder/manslaughter
  • Rape/Other serious sexual offences
  • GBH/ABH/Other serious acts of violence

My conviction doesn’t fall under any of these categories.

I’m not on any barred list and my conviction is my one and only one. It happened at a difficult time in my life – my parents were both very ill and my relationship with my wife was coming to an end. I should have asked for some professional help at the time but I guess I was too proud.

I can explain the circumstances around my conviction until I’m blue in the face but nobody is prepared to give me a second chance. If you work with kids no conviction it seems is ever acceptable. I hear of teaching students being refused placements because of old convictions for shop-lifting or fights they got in at school. Rather than ‘fight their corner’, a lot of these potentially great teachers decide to follow another career path. Is it any wonder therefore that there’s a shortage of teachers?

Do I think I’m a worse teacher because of my conviction? ‘No’. If truth be told, I’d probably be a better one. Prior to my conviction, I’d lived a fairly privileged existence. I’d always had a nice house, money in the bank, nice holidays – I’d never had any real difficulties in my life. A lot of my students had a much less fortunate home life, some were incredibly chaotic. I had no understanding of what life was like in a household where parents were out of work, money was tight and alcohol helped ‘take the edge off’ the problems. I know what it’s like now and know that I’d have a much greater empathy with those students.

I’m not suggesting that every teacher with a conviction is given a job. Our children and young people have the right to be safe at school and there are no doubt some individuals who may pose a genuine risk to them. However, these people really are in the minority. Most head teachers are clever enough to tell from an open and honest conversation who the real ‘bad pennies’ are but, so worried are they about their own position that it’s easier to put a blanket ban on anybody who has a conviction.

So, in my mind there’s quite a simple way to ease the shortage of teachers – Give heads some credit for making reasoned decisions and allow them to work in a ‘no blame’ environment.

Truly assess the level of risk a person poses, for example is the offence relevant, how long ago was it and how old was the individual when it happened.

There are currently 11 million people in the UK with a criminal record and 1.5 million new convictions each year. How many of these 11 million would love to go into teaching and how many of the 1.5 million are already teachers.

By Lawrence  (name changed to protect identity)

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • For practical information – More information can be found on our information hub site on becoming a teacher
  • To discuss this with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

I was told that my historic convictions would stop me working in a prison, but is that really the case?

Like many people who’ve had personal experience of the criminal justice system, Victoria wanted to help others who found themselves in a similar situation to the one she’d been in. Sadly, she discovered that the Prison Service were more likely to consider her historic convictions rather than judge her on her skills and experience.


I applied for a job as a functional skills tutor working in a privately run prison. The interview went well and later in the day I received a call to confirm that I had the job. Great! Or so I thought.

I needed an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check and the education department at the prison also sent me a security vetting form to complete. I have convictions from twenty and forty years ago and I knew that I would have to disclose them but as I hadn’t received any prison sentences or been barred from working with children or adults, I assumed at that stage that I wouldn’t have any problems.

I’ve done a lot of voluntary work with children,helping them with their literacy and numeracy skills and I’ve worked with people suffering from dementia and alzheimers. I thought this would increase my skills and knowledge and would improve my chances of getting into paid work.

As I read through the very long, detailed and complicated security vetting form from the prison, I thought it might save a lot of time if I spoke to the education department at the prison and tell them about my previous convictions. The lady I spoke to at the prison told me that in her experience she was 80 – 90% sure that the job offer would be revoked as a result of my convictions. I therefore decided not to put myself through the ordeal and withdrew my application.

Having had my confidence knocked, I was very anxious about applying for other jobs. Eventually I was offered a job as a tutor at a private language college. I disclosed my convictions to the manager during the interview and she was a lot more relaxed about them, especially as they were so historic. Despite getting the job, things didn’t really work out as I had expected (for a variety of reasons) and I resigned.

My experiences over the last few years have left me in a really bad place. I can’t seem to stop crying and just can’t cope with anything right now. I’ve seen my doctor and been put on anti-depressants which I’m hoping will help me.

I’ve tried so hard over the past 7 years to get a job. I’ve re-trained as a foreign language tutor and took other qualifications not thinking at the time that I would have any problems getting into this type of work.

I love teaching English as a foreign language and I’m good at it. I have the skills and abilities to be a great teacher and could have easily done the job in the prison. Unfortunately from what I’ve heard, the system doesn’t seem to want me.

By Victoria (name changed to protect identity)


A comment from Unlock

We’d always encourage people to apply for any job which they believe they have the necessary skills and experience to do. If you want to find out whether your criminal record will affect your chances of success, make sure that you speak to the relevant person within the organisation, for example an HR Manager. Although Victoria was told by a member of the education department that there was an 80 – 90% chance of the job offer being revoked, she may have found herself in the 10 – 20% that was successful.

Useful links

  1. Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  2. Information – We have practical self-help information on prison vetting
  3. Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions on specific occupations and professions on our online forum.

Shooting for the stars – getting a shotgun licence with a criminal record

As Bernie’s story shows, being told you can’t do something doesn’t always have to be the end of your dreams, but you’ll need plenty of resilience and often help from others. 



Even if I do say so myself, I had a rather troubled upbringing and spent a bit of time in a youth detention centre. However, by the time I’d reached my late 20’s I’d started to calm down a bit and was thinking about using my energy and enthusiasm in a positive rather than negative way.

To keep on the right side of the law, I needed to stop mixing with my usual crowd and had to find new ways of meeting people. So I started volunteering at my local game shoot every weekend as a bush-beater. This basically involved working with a group of other beaters, a gamekeeper and a shoot captain and making lots of noise by clapping, shouting, cracking sticks etc to flush the birds into a specified location.

Everybody involved was really welcoming and were more than happy to pass on their knowledge. I volunteered with people of all different ages and backgrounds and soon made new friends.

I did this for a while and, to cut a long story short, I was eventually offered the job of gamekeeper. As part of the job I needed a shotgun licence and this is where I ran into my first problem. I soon discovered that anybody who’d received a custodial sentence of between 3 months and 3 years is banned from having a shotgun licence for five years. So although I applied, I wasn’t entirely surprised when my application was refused. However, the fact that I couldn’t get a licence was seriously affecting my ability to do my job. It’s like being a gardener who isn’t allowed to use a lawn mower – get my drift?

I couldn’t let it drop. I knew that this was my future career and I had to do all I could to get that licence. Although I didn’t have a lot of money or savings, I decided to invest some in getting the help of a specialist shooting solicitor. At our very first meeting, the solicitor told me that I should be prepared to go to court to fight my corner.

So the negotiations began. I hadn’t been in trouble at that point for over 8 years but the police were still relying on my historic convictions. With money being tight, I knew that I had to do a lot of work on the case myself and I managed to get the support of 10 well respected individuals who were more than happy to vouch for me in court. The police took the decision to speak to these people prior to the court date. I’m not sure what these guys said, all I know is that the police decided that there was no need to go to court and I was issued with my shotgun licence.

I’m 52 now, still working in the same job and still have my licence.

If there’s one piece of advice I’d give to anybody it’s not to be put off from following your dreams. If you’ve got a good reason for wanting a licence, then you’ve got nothing to lose by appealing a decision. If you can afford it, get some help from a solicitor and be prepared to do some ‘leg-work’ yourself.

By Bernie (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

  1. Comment – Let us know your thoughts n this post by commenting below
  2. Information – We have practical self-help information on shotgun and firearms licence

I’m hoping that the law doesn’t destroy my future – Pushing for changes to the filtering process

In support of your current campaign in the Supreme Court this February, I would like to describe my case which is an example of how the law for individuals with more than one conviction falls foul of expectations when it comes to human rights and what’s fair. I have been trying to pursue a career in finance, but have been dismissed due to the two minor convictions I have. This has led me to live in constant fear of not being able to land a role in my chosen industry and now most certainly in the advisory segment of the business which is regulated by the FCA.

This problem is all because I have two minor convictions. The first was in 2004 when I was 17 years old for criminal damage to a phone box for which I received a fine and community service. The second was in 2012 when I was 25 years old for common assault after an altercation one evening between myself and another gentleman. I was informed that the common assault conviction was ‘protected’ (eligible for filtering) however, because I have two minor convictions they will both always show on my DBS criminal record check.

This has led me to feel very uncomfortable when filling out applications for roles in the financial industry and in some cases I have had to explain my convictions prior to criminal record checks, often leading to roles not being landed.

At the moment I am studying very hard for exams that will lead to regulated positions in the finance industry. These roles require standard DBS checks and therefore I would need to disclose my two minor convictions. This makes the process very difficult and will often mean that an employer will not wish to proceed with my application.

When will this nonsense stop! Even if the law changes for minor convictions, having to wait for over 11 years for it to be filtered is ridiculous. Justice has been done, I’ve paid the fine and more than suffered for my mistake.

I regret both instances. I wish I could turn back the hands of time to change the situation but unfortunately I can’t. I’ve done my absolute best to move forward and build a career but truthfully it’s not myself holding back my progress but these two minor convictions. When is the law going to change so that I can apply for a job without having the stigma of disclosing a criminal record. These convictions are not relevant to the jobs that I want to do but an employer will obviously chose the candidate without the conviction and mask it under the fact that the other candidate was stronger for the role.

I plead that the law does not destroy my future as it has many others who simply want to just get on with life.

Finally, I’d like to thank the volunteer that I recently spoke to when I rang the Unlock helpline. He provided me with more sound advice than any legal entity or online party that I could have found.

By Dennis (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on filtering and financial services sector 
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to job centre agreements and sanctions on our online forum
  • Our policy work – Read about the policy work we’re doing on this issue

There are people in the caring profession that care about people with criminal convictions: Getting a job in a care home

care-homeAs a youngster growing up my life was extremely chaotic. A mixture of getting in with the wrong crowd and being mentally unwell meant that I picked up a series of convictions – shoplifting, assault, burglary and possession of heroin. However, there reached a point when I realised that I needed to get away from the crowd I was mixing with and better myself. So I started studying for a degree in health and social care.

As my degree course came to an end, I turned my attention to job hunting and after sending off several applications, I was invited to an interview at a care home. Obviously, I was nervous – this was going to be my first proper job. The interview was going well and then the interviewer said:

You’ve ticked the box stating that you have a criminal conviction, can you tell me a little more about that’

I had so many but I disclosed what I could remember and the manager thanked me for being so honest.

A couple of days later I received a phone call offering me the job. I was asked to go in and complete the paperwork for my enhanced DBS check (I was told that I couldn’t start work until I’d received this) and put an order in for my uniform. I was over the moon.

Several weeks later my DBS certificate dropped through the letterbox and on opening it I felt physically sick. It was far more in-depth than I’d expected it to be with information about a short prison sentence that I hadn’t even mentioned and a couple of other things that I’d totally forgotten about. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten this stuff but I’d been mentally unwell at the time and had even been hospitalised for a while. What was I going to say to the manager when I had to take my DBS check in? He was going to see far more than he’d bargained for and I felt absolutely awful about it. I’d kept out of trouble for over 16 years yet it all seemed a waste of time – my past would follow me around forever.

I felt as though my future had just gone up in flames. I was young and stupid at the time of my offending. Addicted to drugs and mentally ill.

One of my neighbours works in the same care home and she’d been as excited as me when I told her that I’d got the job. What would happen when the job offer got revoked. It would be obvious that there’d been something on my DBS check. Would she tell anybody? My head was buzzing with the implications that handing over the certificate would have.

That night I dreamt about working in the care home. It was the strangest dream ever but it made me realise that I owed it to the manager to go and explain the situation. I rang the home and started to explain. The manager told me that he’d have to arrange for me to meet the company’s Area Manager as it was too much for him to deal with.

As I prepared for the meeting lots of scenario’s were running through my head. I’d convinced myself that the job offer would be withdrawn and even if it wasn’t and I started work I’d probably be treated differently to my colleagues. I read my DBS certificate over and over again and tried to remember what was happening at the time of each of my convictions.

On the day of the meeting, I walked into the office of the Area Manager and handed over the certificate. I gave her a moment to read through it and then started to explain. I told her that I hadn’t deliberately withheld information but as a result of my mental state at the time there was stuff that I just couldn’t remember. I told her about the care I’d been given when I was ill and how I really wanted to do the same for somebody else and how I felt that I’d never be able to shake off my past. She listened to everything I had to say and asked me couple of questions.

She thanked me for being so honest and I prepared myself to hear her say ‘unfortunately we won’t be able to progress any further with this job offer’.

Instead she said:

Congratulations, I think you’ll make an excellent addition to the team’

I’m starting to think that it might just be possible to shake off my past after all.

By Lizzie (name changed to protect identity)


A comment from Unlock:

Lizzie’s story demonstrates how there are employers willing to see beyond a criminal record and give people a second chance.

Although Lizzie initially forgot to disclose some of her convictions, her employers still gave her the opportunity to explain them in further detail when she handed over her DBS certificate. Sadly, many employers are not so obliging and, if the same situation had arisen elsewhere, Lizzie may have had the job offer revoked. Some employers might have taken the view that she had been deliberately dishonest.

Unlock’s advice would always be to find out exactly what is on your criminal record (apply for a subject access request if you’re not sure) before you start applying for jobs.

Great result Lizzie!


Useful links

John O’Groats to Land’s End – not as far as the journey from armed robber to vicar!

john-ogroatsIf there’s one thing I’ve learnt from watching Robin Hood on television, it’s that even the most hardened lawbreakers can defy all expectations and turn their lives around. Some will go on to earn millions in the business world, others will help other individuals in need. I’ve just seen a story which really bears this out.

The Reverend Matthew Martinson, vicar at St John’s Church, has been using a wheelchair for the past 7 years after waking one morning unable to feel his legs. Now, more than 20 years after being jailed for 11 years for armed robbery, he’s about to embark on the mammoth journey from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

Reverend Martinson, turned his life around after being released from prison in 1999. He’s now raising funds for his church which he hopes will contribute massively to a new facility for the whole community. He says:

I woke up one morning and couldn’t feel my legs. I went to bed one night and that was it. I was very fit and active and then suddenly couldn’t do things that I wanted to do. It’s very hard and challenging and that will be something I’ll have to deal with on the journey as well. It’s going to be mostly down to my hands and arms.’

Matt Martinson knows all about a challenge. He was a homeless drug addict who ended up in prison for his part in an armed robbery before being ordained as a priest in 2010.

As a child, Matt lived with a father addicted to alcohol and drugs who would ‘knock’ Matt about whenever he felt the need. It’s perhaps inevitable that this would have some effect on a child and, after a spell in the army, Matt ended up using drugs and drink regularly. His life became violent and he eventually progressed into the criminal world.

He was eventually arrested for his part in an armed robbery and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Serving his sentence at HMP Wolds, put him in contact with a fantastic chaplaincy team and one guy in particular, who helped Matt to nurture his faith and helped him grow as a Christian.

After 4 years, Matt successfully gained parole and left prison. He found the adjustment really hard, his whole life had changed. He got himself a job working for a marquee hire firm but knew he wanted more from God.

Matt had loads to learn. He started a degree in theology, made harder by the fact that he was dyslexic and struggled to read and write. But Matt ploughed on and upon graduation, helped set up a charity, working with ex-offenders, drug addicts and alcoholics.

However, seeing some of the amazing things that God had done in other people’s lives, Matt visited his local church, sat down with the vicar and told him that he too was thinking of becoming a vicar. Matt was delighted when the priest told him that he would fully support him and six months later, he was accepted to be a priest. He went to training college and progressed from there.

As I think you’ll agree, once Matt sets his mind to something nothing will stop him and I’m sure he’ll easily make it to Land’s End in the three week’s he’s set himself to complete the challenge.

You can read more about Matt’s challenge in the Hull Daily Mail.

By Debbie Sadler 


Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on universities, colleges and education for people with convictions on our information site.
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to education and training from people with convictions on our online forum.

Harnessing my anger to help myself and others – Becoming a teacher with a criminal record

teacherHaving grown up with an alcoholic and abusive father, I struggled to behave like a normal teenager. On reflection, I now appreciate how angry I was that nobody was trying to help me out of the dreadful situation I was in and my unwillingness to be ‘normal’ was undoubtedly my way of rebelling.

I dropped out of school because nobody there understood me and this just added to my sense of anger with the world and life in general.

At the age of 17 I’d found myself a boyfriend and things were starting to look up. But, during the course of a heated argument, this lad pushed me. The red mist descended and in that moment of rage, I knew that I wasn’t going to let any other man hurt or take advantage of me. I picked up a knife and stabbed him. He survived and I received a three year probation order.

At about the same time, my father went to court and received a conviction for the abuse he’d subjected me to. He was sent to prison. This stirred up a lot of emotion in me not least more anger – I couldn’t understand why he’d been let off so lightly, when he’d left me with a life sentence.

Following his conviction I received a large amount of compensation and I turned to drugs to help me deal with the situation. I wasn’t ready to accept any help from probation or the counsellors that they put me in touch with. It followed that I would be caught and I was eventually charged with possession and the supply of controlled substances (cannabis and sleeping pills). This time I received a two year probation order that ran concurrent with my earlier conviction.

I’m now approaching my 42nd birthday. It took me some time to stop being angry at life but, over the years I returned to school, gained 5 GCSE’s and started to study with the Open University. I also found full time work and eventually a job that paid for me to complete my degree on a day release basis. I’d always loved science and this is the field that I concentrated my study on. I completed my degree, worked my way up the organisation and was doing pretty well for myself.

Although I enjoyed what I was doing, the idea of teaching and making a difference to the lives of young people kept crossing my mind. I really wanted to share my love of science and hopefully inspire other young people to love it too. I started to seriously look into the possibility of becoming a teacher and approached a local university to ask them what my chances were of being accepted on to a PGCE course. They were totally honest and told me that;

although they would accept me, I should expect a mixed response from schools when looking to find a work placement.

I was really nervous about leaving a perfectly good career but I knew I had to give working with kids a try. I decided not to go down the PGCE route, but took a job in a school as a laboratory technician. Whilst working there, I spoke to my colleagues and the head teacher about my dreams of teaching and after a year, I applied for a government teaching placement (now called School Direct), fully supported by the school I was working in.

Since then I’ve worked in several schools. Some heads have been amazing, they’ve listened to my story and understood that my past allows me to empathise with more difficult pupils. Other’s have shut the door in my face as soon as I’ve explained the circumstances. The head teacher at my training school gave me some excellent advice about filling in application forms. He suggested that it was better to state on the form ‘2 x convictions which I would like to discuss further at interview’. He told me that this would enable me to get through the door and prove myself before I was judged.

I’ve also found some recruitment agencies really useful. I applied for my current job through one. They asked me to write a statement detailing the offences and explaining my circumstances at the time. They spoke to the school first, which saved me the stress and embarrassment of talking about it at interview

I now work in a very challenging school with lots of pupils who remind me of my former ‘angry self’. I can honestly say that I absolutely love my job and really glad that I made the move.

I really wanted to tell my story because I thought it was important to encourage others. Having a criminal record doesn’t have to be the end of your dreams. You just need to have some patience and perseverance.

By Juliet (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links 

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on becoming a teacher and applying to university.
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to this issue on our online forum.

Seeing the legal system from both sides – and becoming a solicitor!

SolicitorIn 1993 I drove the ‘get away’ vehicle in a robbery. It goes without question that this is a crime that I am deeply ashamed of and one I regret every day.

I had grown up on council estates and seen friends make mistakes and get in serious trouble. I really hoped I would not suffer a similar fate However, in my teens my life became afflicted with an addition to gambling that I simply could not control. It got worse and worse and I got myself heavily in debt. Understandably no one would lend me money. It was in these circumstances that I decided to involve myself in a robbery in a bid to clear my debt. This is by no means an excuse, its just what happened.

Thankfully I was caught and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. I say thankfully as it was in prison that I managed to turn my life around.

I distinctly recall a moment in prison (HMP Parkhurst) after about 18 months or so when I’d reached absolutely rock bottom. My parents were suffering greatly, particularly my mother. She had such high hopes for me and always pushed me to study hard and make something of my life. She was simply devastated by my incarceration – the sad and frightened look on her face whenever she visited me still burns me now.

At the time I was still gambling in prison, only the currency was tobacco and phone cards rather than cash. That didn’t stop me getting heavily in debt again.

I was surrounded by examples of what I would become in 10 years, 20 years or 30 years time if I didn’t find a way out. So I just decided that enough was enough and that I had to do something to change my life’s direction. My dear mother and family right behind me.

So I enrolled on an offending behaviour course and it soon became obvious to me that despite my constant denials and protestations that I could control my gambling, it was indeed gambling that was the root cause of all my problems. This led me to get in touch with Gamblers Anonymous and I received literature from them that changed my life forever.

I’d tried giving up gambling before, but always got bored and ended up convincing myself that I could control my habit only to fail miserably. The literature advised me to fill the gap that inevitably follows after giving up gambling (you spend so much time gambling and finding money to gamble when you’re an addict that you have little time for anything other than sleep) with positive things.

I decided to fill my gap with education in the main and rekindling my love of basketball. I was always interested in law so got myself a job as a student orderly, helping inmates with basic English and Maths along with studying a correspondence course in A level law. I’d written to various organisations and managed to get funding to do the A level.

Whilst doing the course, I applied to the University of Southampton to study for a degree in law. I disclosed my conviction for robbery and I was lucky enough to be invited to sit an internal exam and go through a rigorous interview. The prison I was in was good enough to give me a licence to attend and I managed to pass the exam and persuade the university to offer me a place contingent upon me getting a grade A in my A level law exam.

I remember my exam was 2 days after my release and being worried sick that I would get out and be so distracted by the euphoria of being released after three and a half years in prison that I might mess up my exam. I therefore asked the Prison Governor if I could remain a further two days, sit my exam and then be released so I could focus on what would be the biggest exam of my life. The governor agreed and I managed to secure my grade A.

I excelled at university getting a high 2.1 and being amongst the top 10% in my year group. I then obtained a distinction on the Legal Practice Course at Guildford’s College of Law.

In order to qualify as a solicitor, I had to convince the Law Society that I was now a fit and proper person to become a solicitor. I had spent a tremendous amount of time since my release doing as many positive things in the community as possible. As a consequence, I was able to produce a number of references from people such as my law tutor, careers advisor, employers, voluntary work supervisors and friends. I have no doubt that this enabled me to convince the Law Society that I was now a fit and proper person to become a solicitor.

My only hurdle then was to convince a firm of solicitors to give me a training contract. This was not easy and I was turned down 100’s of times. It eventually became obvious that the smaller high street legal aid practices would be more willing to take a chance on me.

I eventually managed to secure an interview with one of these practices and was given a chance to complete my training contract. I qualified as a solicitor and gained a further qualification which enabled me to conduct jury trials and appear in courts as high as the Supreme Court. I spent 7 very happy years with this organisation until I decided to set up my own practice specialising in criminal defence work.

I can’t say it has all been plain sailing, there have been very difficult moments throughout my journey. I have experienced people, including those in the criminal justice system. that have made negative comments about myself being allowed to practice and about my achievements. This was a big shock to me, as I assumed that everyone would view my rehabilitation and achievements positively.

However, I soon understood and came to realise that it was a healthy reminder of the fact that I committed a very serious crime indeed that will never leave me no matter what I achieve. That is the real punishment, but I have not allowed it for one second to deviate me from my pursuit of doing the best I can to be an active and positive role model in the community. That is the least I can do for the victims of my crime.

By Thomas (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on becoming a solicitor for people with convictions on our information site.
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to education and training from people with convictions on our online forum.

Convictions accounted for!

In 2006 I received a custodial sentence for possession with intent to supply. Prison gave me lots of time to reflect on my past and consider my future and I realised that when I was eventually released, I didn’t want to carry on like before, – I wanted to change.

I had been fairly successful academically and when I was sentenced, I had been in the final year of a Computer Science degree. I went on to finish this after I was released from prison.

Once I’d graduated, I started to look for work and this is where my troubles began. As soon as I mentioned my conviction nobody was interested in taking my application any further. The only work I was successful at getting was a short term, temporary admin job which didn’t require any criminal record disclosure or check.

I tried to keep positive, telling myself that someone would eventually give me a chance and that’s exactly what happened – I got a job as an Assistant Buyer. I did this for about a year until the company went into Receivership and I was back on the jobs market again.

I managed to get another job quite quickly as a Coordinator. The job had quite a lot of financial content to it which I really enjoyed and so I started voluntarily shadowing one of the company’s finance guys to get more experience. At last I’d found something that I thought I could make a career of. I contacted the AAT for advice about routes into finance work and joining the AAT and they explained that I’d need to go through a thorough process of vetting to be allowed to join them as a Student Member. This included sending copies of police reports, a CRB application form (as it was then), job references and reports from my Probation Officer. The process took nearly 6 months for the AAT to finally decide to give me the green light. I was over the moon – I had a real chance here to build on the experiences at work and the opportunity to be a part of a recognised professional association.

I started studying through the AAT and quickly passed modules and progressed to the next level. I then started applying for dedicated finance jobs. I always disclosed my convictions in a separate private letter providing employers with the full context of where I was at the time of my offence and where I am now.

Eventually I was offered a job with a Housing Association – this was it, a foot in the door. I started seeing all sorts of opportunities opening up with salaries I wouldn’t have dreamed of a few years before. I had a long conversation with the Senior HR Manager about my convictions after which I was given a contract to sign and a start date. This was a really successful time in my career during which I passed my AAT examinations and became a qualified member.

The next step academically was to become part of a Chartered accounting body – the likes of ACCA, CIMA, CIPFA etc. I had ambition, experience and with the support of my Deputy Finance Director and Line Manager I decided to pursue an application to join CIMA. I contacted their student membership department who asked me to email my application. It was a very similar process to what I’d gone through with AAT and 2 weeks after my application they accepted me, stating that I would eventually be able to join as a full member once I’d qualified. I have since progressed through CIMA now sitting the Management Level papers.

I spent 2 years at the Housing Association before earning a promotion. I’ve been doing this new job for just over a year and then a couple of weeks ago, I was offered a move to another Housing Association as a Project Accountant. I made my criminal record declaration in the usual way but for the very first time ever, wasn’t asked anything else about it.

I feel like I’m well on the way to becoming a fully qualified Chartered Management Accountant, with good job prospects. This time next year I won’t have any legal requirement to declare my convictions for roles covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. I’m already doing better than many of my counterparts who don’t carry the baggage I do and I think I can really make the grade if I continue to work hard. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but seriously if I can do it – anyone can. You really need that drive, commitment and optimism to keep pushing yourself. If you’re honest with yourself, I think someone out there will give you a chance.

Regulated by the FCA on a life licence

Since about 10 years ago, I have been employed full time by a nationally recognized registered Charity, as a Specialist Debt Caseworker. About a year before I started, I was released from prison on license after serving 22 years of a life sentence for murder. I remain on license of course and my conviction will never be spent.

My role as a Debt Caseworker is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. This is a legal requirement of my employer and it is their responsibility to ensure that those they employ meet the required professional standards to fulfill their role which serves the best interests of our clients. My role includes working with vulnerable people, occasionally visiting people in their homes and taking responsibility on occasion for cash sums held in trust on behalf of clients to pay for their fees connects to particular insolvency procedures such as bankruptcy. It also involves liaising with partner agencies, particularly representatives of the Local Authority and negotiating with creditors regarding my clients’ finances.

My role also entails me representing clients in the County Court before District Judges, arguing before the Court why it should consider suspending Possession action on client’s property or suspending the execution of a Warrant of eviction due to mortgage or rent arrears.

My employer is fully aware of my background as I was required to disclose it at interview. I have been assured since that I was offered the role on merit, having been able to demonstrate to the interview panel a history of volunteering during the latter stages of my imprisonment and the first year of my freedom, as well as being able to persuade the panel that my years in prison had given me the time to reflect on my life, the course it had taken and the steps I’d taken to turn my life around.

As part of the recruitment process a CRB was requested which was sent centrally to the charity for whom I work. It revealed not just the murder but also a history of petty offending throughout my adolescence. The charity centrally sought assurances from my specific employer that I had disclosed but the final decision to employ me was left at the discretion of my employer.

By Philip* (name & details changed to protect identity)

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