Because my mum works as a clerk to the governors at a few nearby primary schools, I occasionally get asked to talk to a class of primary school kids about my job, and what it's like to write scripts for a living. Obviously I could just shout 'BRILLIANT' at them, but I usually need to fill an hour or so, which means having to go into more detail than that.
Anyway, it's an honour to be asked to do this kind of thing, and I keenly remember authors coming to my own primary school when I was a little 'un, which directly led to me realising that making up stories/lying was something I could actively make a living out of rather than just being a thing I was told off for. So of course when I read about various famous authors boycotting school visits in outrage at being forced to register as non-sex offenders, I was FURIOUS.
I mean, sixty four quid? And don't they know I'm properly middle class now? I have a barely-maintainable mortgage! Middle class people are never paedophiles! Certainly no children's author or illustrator has ever used their position to abuse children. Oh, apart from this one.
Except, when I looked into the guidelines more deeply, because you can download a copy from this site I discovered two things.
1. I will not have to pay £64, because I do the talks as a volunteer. In fact, I did not realise there was even a possibility of being paid for talking to schools, and next time I'm asked, I will get Agent Matt to handle all the negotiations, which will include a substantial rider, beginning with 'champagne (crate of)' and getting more ludicrous from there on in.
2. Oh no, hang on, I won't have to pay £64 or go on the register at all, because the only people who have to register are those people who work with children or vulnerable adults 'frequently or intensively', whether they be prestigious authors, taxi drivers or stripey-jumper wearing janitors with bladed gloves- actually probably those last ones do need a second glance at the cv.
And quoting from the same FAQ:
‘Frequently’ is defined as once a month or more.
‘Intensively’ is defined as where an activity takes place on three or more days in any 30 day period; or overnight (between 2am and 6am)
So if I went to all (I think) five of the local primary schools between now and November to talk to the kids about writing, I would not have to register (okay, two of those talks would be a bit quiet, since they're on holiday, but apparently you can get paid for these talks now, so whatever). If I wanted to do regular workshops, or a two-day workshop, or overnight sleepovers or whatever, I would have to undergo a background check to make sure I'm not a wrong 'un, and try as I might, I don't obviously see a problem with that.
There may well be other questions to be asked about who's making money from this, and more importantly, as someone brought up on a forum thread that was debating this as a topic:
"What about reformed young offenders/drug addicts etc giving talks in school? These checks flag up everything, including rumour, not just convicted sex offenses. What about 6th form students helping out with the younger children as part of their courses? Those in charge are going to be liable to prison if they allow anyone not checked work with kids under the terms of the scheme"
Which is a good point, and deserves a look. But I can't help thinking that at least some of the authors in this boycott are just pissed off at being lumped in with taxi drivers.
EDIT: I should probably say, I've changed my mind about the whole thing five times (and back again) in the half hour or so since writing this, but there we are. This shall stand as a snapshot of my feelings at the time of writing.