Teaching is equal parts challenging and rewarding. Almost anyone can be a great teacher in their subject of specialism. However, not everyone has a clean criminal record. You may be surprised to hear that this won’t necessarily count against you when training to be a teacher.
Many of us have speeding points on our licence, resulting in a driving offence claim. If everyone who had a minor conviction on their criminal record couldn’t become a teacher, we’d have a serious shortage and they’d be dropping like flies!
And yet, it goes without saying that you will be subject to rigorous background checks, as you will be working with children and young adults. You will be in a position of authority and power – you must be reliable.
Serious convictions, such as robbery with violence, murder, Class A drugs dealing, serious sexual assault, and any violence against children/vulnerable adults, will almost certainly stop you from becoming a teacher. On the other hand, convictions such as manslaughter in self-defence may not act as an obstacle.
Bear in mind that any criminal conviction or caution will still be a concern for schools, when applying for a position. Obviously, the cleaner your record, the better. Minor convictions from your youth are often dismissed, but any convictions that involve violence will be scrutinised. Remember that circumstances are everything and not all schools will be as strict about offences as others.
Turning a Negative into a Positive
In fact, some schools may see a misspent youth as a positive attribute; life experience can make you a better teacher who can handle challenging behaviour more effectively. If you’ve been through a mildly criminal youth (for example, you were involved in minor convictions), you are more likely to be empathetic towards struggling kids.
The important thing is to address your conviction in your interview and show how you’ve changed and how it has made you a mature person. Not declaring your convictions can be grounds for dismissal, so acknowledge that elephant in the room. It can actually work in your favour.
Before being allowed on a teaching course, you should be vetted by DBS. You can look at their website to find out a bit more about convictions and how they will affect your chances of becoming a teacher. You may find that, even though your convictions are acceptable, schools will have many applicants or one position, and you may be bypassed regularly for other candidates with clean slates. Finding a job may be a little more challenging. But don’t give up!
Target schools that you think may be more forgiving towards your past offences and, in your spare time, make sure you work on using this life experience in a positive way. For example, if you were involved in taking drugs as a teenager, volunteer as a charity worker for kids with substance abuse. This shows potential employees that you’ve moved on and are helping others.