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Immediate police checks for Catholic school teachers

Thousands of Victorian Catholic school teachers who have never been screened for criminal offences will be required to have a police check.

The Age reports today that under the new agreement between the education arm of the Catholic Church and the Victorian Independent Education Union, Catholic school teachers who are yet to be screened for a criminal record will be directed to be checked immediately. All checks are expected to be completed by the end of next year.

It is estimated that about half the state's 16,000 Catholic school teachers are yet to be checked.

The agreement comes just weeks after police swooped on a principal and teacher at two separate Catholic primary schools for allegedly downloading child pornography.

In light of the recent national crackdown on internet child pornography, the State Government also moved this week to check about 4000 public school teachers and education staff who have slipped through the system.

However, critics of the Government's system have raised concerns that the checks on public school teachers are voluntary. Under the Catholic system, employers will require the police checks take place, but if teachers refuse, it is believed a directive may be issued.

Victorian Independent Education Union general secretary Tony Keenan confirmed a deal had been struck for immediate police checks when contacted by The Age last night. He said the system would allow for consistency and fairness across the sector.

"We didn't want a system where it would be left to individual schools to do it because people would have been treated differently school by school. Schools wouldn't have handled it in the same way," he said.

Some Catholic school teachers have expressed concerns that minor offences they committed several decades ago that are unrelated to teaching will be exposed by the new checks.

Immediate police checks for Catholic school teachers (The Age 29/10/04)

Catholic Education Commission Victoria
Church names Melbourne teacher in child pornography probe (CathNews 5/10/04)
Catholic teachers nailed in child porn swoop (CathNews 1/10/04)

29 Oct 2004