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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Dubai's education regulator to step up background checks on teachers 

Educators will have to provide a 'good conduct' certificate from the countries in which they worked in the past five years

Dubai's education officials are imposing stricter requirements on teachers to provide background checks to ensure pupils are protected. Delores Johnson / The National
Dubai's education officials are imposing stricter requirements on teachers to provide background checks to ensure pupils are protected. Delores Johnson / The National

Background checks are being stepped up by Dubai's education regulator to ensure teachers with a criminal background cannot slip under the radar.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority said candidates must now produce a 'good conduct' certificate from the countries in which they worked in the past five years.

Although individual schools have stipulated background checks already, the regulator said the five-year demand will be the standard requirement across the school network.

Without that, teachers will not pass through the necessary employment and visa checks.

"Teachers are in contact with minors and we don’t want the wrong people to be in contact with children,” said Dr Naji Al Mahdi, chief of qualifications and awards.

"Someone like a paedophile will find a place where they can come in contact with children. In all developed countries, you have to go for a police check before you join a school. No adult is allowed to go into a school unless they have been vetted.

"We are strengthening this. We are improving the system of checks on our teachers. We need just as good protection for our children as any developed country.

"While earlier, when someone had to join as a teacher from country X, they only needed a local good conduct certificate. Now, we are demanding that they get the certificate from the countries they have been working in in the last five years."

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Dr Al Mahdi said schools and the authorities are well aware that teachers who have either been struck from the professional register or convicted of an offence in another country may try to find work here.

"We want to know if they were okay in the country of origin or the country where they were working before they came here," he said.

"When you are dealing with children, of course you will need a check. The protection comes from knowing you have a clean history."

"If you want to be a teacher, you must have a good conduct."

In April, the government suspended plans to require all new residents to present evidence that they had never been convicted of a crime in the past five years in order to secure a visa.

Businesses had complained that they were unable to process visas properly, particularly from applicants who had lived in different countries in recent years. They would have been required to contact police forces or authorities in each of those countries and secure documents proving they had no convictions.

But many public sector organisations and private companies continue to stipulate that new employees do so anyway, for their own records.

David Hicks, founding principal of Dubai International Academy - Al Barsha, said most schools already carefully check their teachers' backgrounds.

"Most schools [have adopted] these checks in recent years. They are adopting safer recruitment practices,” said Mr Hicks.

He said "parents will feel much more secure and comfortable that the people in charge of their children have these certificates".

"This is the case almost always, but there have been cases both here and overseas when less scrupulous individuals have gotten through the net."

Brendon Fulton, principal of Dubai British School in Emirates Hills, said some schools, including his own, even require volunteers to secure good conduct certificates from Dubai Police.

"Parents will have peace of mind that people coming to work at the school don’t have criminal records," he said.

Jeff Evans, from Learning Key Education Consultancy, said the best schools also look for black marks on teachers' careers - criminal or otherwise.

"It's not only whether they have been convicted of a criminal offences, it's about making sure they’re suitable and safe to work with children," he said.