Vetting writers

There’s controversy going the rounds at the moment over authors and illustrators visiting schools in England being required to register on a child protection database. Some, such as Michael Morpurgo and Philip Pullman object to the new requirement. I don’t think we in Scotland are going to go down that route, but it did get me thinking about the subject. I work with children quite often in schools and other settings (museums, gardens etc), and I’m required to have a ‘Disclosure Scotland’ certificate to do this work. It means that the Scottish Criminal Records Bureau have done a search on me, and are satisfied that I pose no risk to children. I could have told them that, but it’s an external verification, if you like. The certificate comes in two flavours, Standard and Enhanced, and mine is the latter, but to be honest I can’t remember the difference.

The big name authors say that they give talks to classes of 30 or so, and maybe assemblies of a couple of hundred at a time, and that there’s always at least one teacher present at all times. My visits are usually writing workshops, and although there’s always a teacher in attendance, I’m often working on a one-to-one basis with individual pupils. I can see the need for writers in my situation to be vetted, and I don’t object to it at all. It’s a professional overhead, along with the need to have public liability insurance as a tutor.

I’ve learned the do’s and don’ts by experience, not being a trained teacher, and I’ve often thought that writers’ organisations, like the Scottish Book Trust here, should offer basic training in classroom interactions with children and teachers. It would help all sides to get more out of the experience.

Any thoughts?


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
This entry was posted in child protection, schools workshops, writers in schools. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Vetting writers

  1. Emerging Writer says:

    I'm on the offical writers in schools list in Ireland, organised by poetry ireland but not limited to poetry. They do garda vetting but also at the start, they team you up with an experienced writer in school for a day so you sit in on 2 sessions with them and then they sit in on 2 sessions you run and give you feedback. I found it very useful. And not hard to set up I think.

  2. Colin Will says:

    EW: That sounds an ideal way to do it. I'll maybe suggest it to the Scottish Book Trust. Many thanks.

  3. deemikay says:

    As a former student teacher (another change in career) I had to have an enhanced disclosure to work in primary schools – like you I can't remember the difference. While there's an annoyance factor involved and some local authorities take it far too far just to cover their backsides (one example I read, parents needing a Disclosure to take their children on a school bus) it's a basic thing in the best interests of children.

    Teacher's need it, like you say, as a professional overhead. Writers in schoold should as well. Much as many writers like to think they're better than others, they're not.

    I think some are over-reacting slightly… yes, that means you Pullman.

  4. Rob says:

    My job involves working with children and I need an enhanced disclosure. I don't have any poblem with that. I have no idea why those writers have any objection.

    I like what EW is saying there. It would make sense for the Scottish Book Trust to operate a similar system.

  5. Emerging Writer says:

    I could come and mentor you – except I bet irish garda clearance wouldn't cover Scottish children. I went to primary school in Scotland by the way. (Bothwell then Glasgow) We never had anyone come in a visit us. Wish we had

  6. Colin Will says:

    EW: I think our Disclosure Scotland system works well, but the mentoring side is weaker here. No single organisation sees it as a responsibility, and writers are too often left to their own devices.

  7. apprentice says:

    I thought the English based writers made was a lot of fuss about nothing.

    My former boss helped take the Scottish legislation through, post Dunblane.

    Happy birthday BTW.

  8. Teena in Toronto says:

    Happy blogoversary!

  9. Colin Will says:

    Many thanks A & T. Not started celebrating yet – too much to do!

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