British children to study sex at schools

Teacher records dating back several decades will be reviewed in the hunt for sex offenders who may be working as instructors in state schools, the British government said Saturday. The announcement came as the government is coping with public anger over the disclosure that several registered sex offenders have been allowed to work as teachers, despite strict rules barring them from doing so.

Ministers ordered officials to widen the search of education department files to find pedophiles who may have been cleared to work in schools, a spokeswoman in Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said Saturday. She refused to put specific dates on the scope of the search, saying: "The review will go back as far as is necessary." Another Blair spokesman said Friday that the examination would go back decades to check for cases of concern. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity, in keeping with the rules of Blair's office. Several people who had been banned from teaching because of child sex offenses have won exemptions allowing them to work in the schools, according to the British media.

Three men placed on the confidential List 99, which is intended to bar sex offenders for life from working in schools, were cleared to take posts where it was felt they would not be a danger, The Times newspaper reported Saturday.

That has led to widespread criticism of Education Secretary Ruth Kelly, who launched a review of the vetting system after it emerged that one of the instructors, Paul Reeve, was cleared by another government minister to work as a physical education teacher in a state school, despite a caution he had received for viewing child pornography.

Kelly has acknowledged that she does not know exactly how many registered sex offenders have been allowed to take up teaching jobs. Kelly told Parliament that her department will tighten procedures meant to prevent offenders from working in schools and will investigate how many have slipped through the net, reports the AP. N.U.