Tower Hamlets mayor gets tough on schools hiring ex-convicts in wake of 15-year-old murder
PUBLISHED: 13:59 27 July 2016 | UPDATED: 13:59 27 July 2016
Schools in London’s East End are being warned not to hire staff who have violent or sexual police records without contacting the Town Hall first.
The warning comes in the wake of protests over the appointment at Ian Mikardo special school in Bromley-by-Bow of a once-convicted killer involved in a racist murder 15 years ago just two streets away.
It led to picketing Tower Hamlets council and a petition handed to mayor John Biggs as he arrived.
The mayor accepted the petition, then told the council meeting that things had to change.
“We should accept the principals of rehabilitation,” he said. “But what troubles me is that a man connected to this crime is employed just a few hundred yards from where the murder took place.
“If it had been up to me, I would not have approved of this appointment.”
The school’s full-time technician was 17 when he was convicted of manslaughter and 16 at the time he was involved in the murder with two others of 35-year-old Shiblu Rahman, a family man on his way home from work who pleaded with his three attackers for his life.
One of the convicted men, now aged 32, returned to the area in 2005 on his release from prison, working on building sites, and was hired by the school in 2012, having declared his past conviction.
But news of his past leaked out last month at the school, which caters for sensitive and special needs pupils and those from troubled backgrounds.
The issue caused a storm of community protest in the East End with two rallies held in Whitechapel and Bromely-by-Bow and calls for the head-teacher to resign. Several governors had already quit the school over the appointment, including the governing body’s chairman.
“The council has no powers over this appointment,” the mayor told a stunned council meeting last Wednesday.
“So I have ordered a change to the agreement with schools to prevent this sort of appointment again.
“From this summer, any Tower Hamlets school wanting to appoint someone with a serious conviction for a violent or sexual offence will have to seek the views of the Director of Children’s Services and, where appropriate, consultations will be made relating to the wider community impact.”
Schools had a duty of care to the community as well as to its pupils and staff, the mayor pointed out.
The new measures mean appointments would take in “the sensitivities of the community” and would also mean protecting head teachers and governors from “having to take these kind of decisions alone without the council’s advice”.
But the mayor also appealed for public calm after reports that the school had been attacked twice with rocks thrown at the building since the issue broke.
The campaigners were not against rehabilitation, they insisted, but were angry at the school’s “insensitivity” at hiring a man involved in murder within 500 yards of the school gate.
Their 3,000-name petition demands an investigation into “how a convicted racist killer” was employed at a school in the same neighbourhood and to know what politicians and council officers were involved in the appointment. The petition was also being sent to the Education Secretary of State.
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