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Fitness to practise - CS101904

An applicant for a PGCE course disclosed a recent criminal conviction in their written application for a place on the course, five months before the course began. After an interview, the provider made a conditional offer of a place on the course.

The applicant had to complete a short course before starting in September. They paid travel and other costs to attend this course. The provider told the applicant in August that they now had “DBS [Disclosure and Barring Service] clearance”.

In September, the provider allowed them to enrol on the course but told them that it would have to consider how the criminal conviction might affect their studies in more detail. The provider carried out a two-week long investigation, ending with a fitness for practise panel. It decided that the student could not continue on the course. The student complained about this decision, and the way the process had happened. The provider upheld one part of the complaint, that it had not explored whether the criminal conviction would prevent the student from taking the course, quickly enough. It did not uphold any other part of the complaint or offer the student any remedy. It pointed out a footnote in its procedures which said that the provider had the right to terminate a student’s registration if the DBS check did not meet the requirements of the profession’s regulatory body.

The student complained to us. We decided that the complaint was Justified. The provider had not followed good practice guidance during the admissions process when an applicant discloses a criminal conviction. We decided there had been enough time to investigate the situation before allowing the student to enrol. Although it had allowed the student to enrol, it treated the student as if they were still an applicant and did not follow the formal fitness to practise procedure for students. The student was not directed to any support or advice. The student was not invited to attend the panel meeting and wasn’t told that it was a formal meeting with potentially serious consequences. The panel members had been involved in the investigation process. The panel made some assumptions about the student’s behaviour without asking the student about it.

We decided that the provider’s apology to the student was not meaningful, and was not enough to put things right. We recommended that the provider should apologise again and offer to compensate the student for the serious distress and inconvenience it had caused, and to pay the costs the student had incurred attending the short course before they enrolled. We also recommended that the provider should review its procedures for dealing with the disclosure of criminal convictions during the application process. We recommended that all staff making decisions about these matters should receive training on what the provider’s policies are.