DRUG dealers, fraudsters and benefits thieves were among those applying for jobs in East Lancashire schools last year, it has been revealed.

Almost 100 applicants were found to have been cautioned, or convicted of offences such as dealing heroin, assaulting a police officer, skipping bail, and money laundering.

And they could be working in classrooms across East Lancashire, because recruitment decisions are often made at the discretion of individual schools.

Other offences flagged up by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) included assault, stealing from a place of work, harassment, possessing an offensive weapon in public, and shoplifting.

Last year, 2,941 checks were made on people applying for teaching and caretaker jobs at schools in the area, leading to 97 criminal records being revealed.

Although some offences ban offenders from working with young, or vulnerable people, including murder and rape, others don’t, and the decision is left to be made by employers.

The DBS did not release details on where the jobs were applied for, in order to protect the applications, and said it did not know whether they had been given jobs, or not.

Out of 9,137 checks carried out in the last three years, 320 led to criminal records being disclosed.

Blackburn MP and for-mer Justice Minister Jack Straw said: “Some of these convictions may be very old and, just as it would be wrong to employ someone in a position of trust who has been recently convic-ted, I also believe that people who offended years ago and have led orderly lives since should not be barred from having a job.”

Head of schools’ human resources at Lancashire County Council, Jeanette Whitham, said: “Each app- licant is examined individually, and the nature of the offence, and when it happened, is taken into account.

“An applicant’s criminal record is also assessed in relation to the work he, or she, would be expected to do, and in what circumstances.

Director of human resources and legal services at Blackburn with Darwen Council, David Fairclough, added: “There are circumstances where potential staff could work in school without DBS, but there is a stringent process in place that takes decisions like these on a case by case basis, with the final decision being made by the headteacher.”