Philip Pullman has led a chorus of protest from prominent children's authors over a new scheme that will require them to be vetted before they can visit schools. He called the plans "outrageous, demeaning and insulting" and said he wouldn't be appearing in schools again because of it.
Set up in response to the murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by school caretaker Ian Huntley in 2002, the Independent Safeguarding Authority will vet all individuals who work with children from October this year, requiring them to register with a national database for a fee of £64. Pullman compared the scheme to the notorious piece of legislation section 28, which banned the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools and for which David Cameron offered a public apology last week.
"It seems to be fuelled by the same combination of prurience, sexual fear and cold political calculation," the author of the bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy said today. "When you go into a school as an author or an illustrator you talk to a class at a time or else to the whole school. How on earth - how on earth - how in the world is anybody going to rape or assault a child in those circumstances? It's preposterous."
The Carnegie medal-winning author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce agreed with Pullman. "As an author you're never alone with a class," he said. "There's no possible reason for this, unless it's a revenue-raising scam."
This is important. Read the full article.
I'm not sure schools have yet been made aware of this situation.
As things stand at present, anyone coming in to work alongside children on a regular basis (a voluntary work placement, for example) has to provide a CRB check.
But schools have one-off visiting speakers all the time - in assemblies, in RE lessons, in topic-based events - and, as the article points out, in these circumstances the visitor is always accompanied by other members of staff.
It will be an absurdly and insultingly unnecessary hassle for all concerned.