Personal safety. It's a priority, isn't it? Without that, everything else is meaningless. If you're a parent, your child's safety comes first. Obvious, really. So let's commend the Oldham Echo for alerting us to a mence in our midst. Or rather, menaces (plural).
You see, the Echo has discovered, via a Freedom of Information request, that "hundreds" of criminals applied for jobs in schools across Merseyside over the last year (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2012/06/25/exclusive-hundreds-of-criminals-applying-for-merseyside-school-jobs-100252-31252988/ ).
An alarming thought, for sure.
However, as the Echo admits, none of the attempts by local criminals to work in the region's schools succeeded thanks to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). The CRB's checks ensured that any applicants with criminal records were flagged up & acted upon. Typically, however, that doesn't stop the Echo from regaling us with the number of such cases & a breakdown of the offences which the CRB detected. Sensationalising the story in a manner which would do the Daily Mail proud, the Echo conveys a dystopic vista of villains, ne'er-do-wells & pond life clamouring at school gates across the region.
Fortunately, some much-required context & proportion is supplied in the piece by Ian Andain from the Liverpool Schools Forum. There is, of course, the possibility that the Echo piece is little more than a thinly-disguised plug for the work that the CRB do. Be that as it may, the paper's hysterical treatment of such matters tells us all we need to know about the wretched standard of journalism which has become its hallmark.
Some of the comments left at the foot of the article on its website suspect so. One commenter, lori, ponders:
"I wonder how many of these people have been forced to apply for jobs by the jobcentre. The staff there don't listen when they make people apply for jobs that they know they can't do. Next thing you know, the Echo is implying that criminals are trying to get into schools!"
Another commenter, andychrist, echoes the more nuanced points made by Ian Andain when he observes:
"Just because someone has a record doesn't mean they will always re-offend, a job is a job and is always a step in the right direction...they will be CRB checked for work with kids anyway so management will be aware of their past.
"Or do we want to keep them jobless and on the dole with a greater chance of re-offending?"
There's a question to ponder. It is, alas, one the Oldham Echo is unlikely to consider for any reasonable length of time.