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DBS check mythbuster – avoid costly delays when applying

As most people working within education will know, all staff in schools and nurseries are subject to a DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) check. Schools can encounter staffing problems if DBS checks aren’t done quickly and efficiently. Here, QA Education editor Victoria Galligan busts some of the myths regarding DBS checks and explores what a DBS check actually is, who needs one and how to avoid costly delays when applying…

There is only one level of DBS check for school staff

Yes – for general employees in England and Wales there are three levels of DBS check – Basic, Standard and Enhanced. However, an Enhanced with DBS Barred List check is required for all staff who teach, supervise, instruct, train or care for children in schools and colleges. This is considered “regulated activity” with children. Even school employees who won’t engage in this regulated activity require a DBS check as there is the opportunity for regular contact with children.

Staff such as cleaners don’t need a DBS check

Any member of staff who is like to come into contact with children needs an Enhanced DBS check – even if not taking part in regulated activity. This includes cleaners, caretakers, and often contractors working within schools or even in the school grounds. DBS checking service CRBS states on its website: “The reason for this is due to ‘where’ they are working rather than the ‘job role’ in which they are doing. Schools, nurseries and other similar educational institutions fall into a category known as ‘limited range of establishments’. Legislation provides the scope to allow such establishments to request checks on any candidates working on those sites (as long as they meet the other criteria) to make sure the highest measures of safeguarding are put into place for children.”

Volunteers don’t need a DBS check Teaching application form – a DBS check is carried out on new employees

It depends – people working in schools at least four times in a 30-day period are eligible for a DBS check. As are people who will be left unsupervised with children. So weekly reading helpers, for example, would need one. If you’re taking children on a trip and have asked for volunteers to help out for a day, then they won’t need one as long as a staff member is with them at all times (including in a vehicle). The exception to this are trips with overnight stays as they are also regulated activity – even one overnight trip requires the volunteer to have a DBS check. If a parent is a regular school volunteer, then they will be eligible for a DBS check.

A barred person cannot work in school

The DBS decides whether or not a person should be on one or both of the two barred lists – one for working with children and one for working with vulnerable adults. When on the list, individuals are therefore prohibited from seeking or taking up regulated activity with children (or vulnerable adults). A barred person cannot work for a school at all, or a number of other “specified places”.

The government document Regulated Activity in Relation to Children: Scope clarifies that people who “provide occasional or temporary services (not teaching, training or supervision of children)” can work with children as long as they are supervised. The document explains what is considered regulated activity which a barred person must not do. This is important to check, as regulated activity does not cover activity which is supervised by another adult. An example would be a trainee tradesperson working with a professional.

School governors don’t need a DBS check

Wrong! All governors in all schools – maintained, free, academy, or independent – are required to have a current enhanced DBS check: this regulation came into force on 8th March 2016. This is not simply due to the possibility of contact with children but the fact that governors play a key role in the decision-making process in schools, particularly of recruitment.

I can’t check qualifications through a DBS check

True – they only show an applicant’s criminal record history (with some restrictions). However, Teacher Services is a free government service which will allow you to check qualifications, QTS, completion of induction and any prohibitions, sanctions or restrictions that may stop a teacher from working in certain roles.

This can be done by signing into the school’s Gov.uk portal and if you’re waiting for login details to be confirmed and have an immediate need to check the status of a teacher you can email employer.access@education.gov.uk – just type ‘urgent query’ in the subject line.

Schools have to pay for staff members’ DBS checks

Not necessarily – it’s up to the employer whether or not to foot the bill. One DBS advisory service, clearcheck.co.uk. states: “There is no law which states that employers should be the ones who cover the cost of having a DBS check done, it’s just good practice for the employer to shoulder the cost. Not all employers take this approach though, and some may ask employees to stump up the cash themselves. For people who move jobs regularly of have more than one employer might then find themselves quite out of pocket, so if applying for a job which requires DBS checks it is worth enquiring about the process at the interview stage.” The answer to this is to take out an Enhanced with DBS Barred List check, which costs £44, and pay the extra £13 to be added to the Update Service. This £13 is a yearly fee which will allow the applicant to make changes, and for the employer to make a status check of the certificate to see if changes have been made.

Teachers can transfer their DBS check from school to school

Possibly. If teachers opt to be added to the Update Service, a new DBS check is not necessarily required for each school they teach in – it’s up to the new school. Supply teachers register for a DBS check through their agency. The Update Service website says teachers will only need a new DBS check if:

  • an employer asks them to get a new certificate
  • they need a certificate for a different type of ‘workforce’ (for example, they have an ‘adult workforce’ certificate and need a ‘child workforce’ certificate)
  • they need a different level certificate (for example, they have a standard DBS certificate and need an enhanced one)

Employees can’t work until their DBS is through

Schools take a huge risk by employing someone without the necessary checks having taken place. Last year for example, in one area of Lancashire alone (see lancashiretelegraph.co.uk) among more than 10,000 people who applied for teaching posts there were 470 offences revealed through DBS checks – some of them were sex offences. As everyone knows, the summer months are the busiest time of year for DBS applications. There are a number of umbrella body companies who can process the applications quickly. They can help avoid mistakes and omissions and generally speed up the time taken from application to receipt of the DBS certificate. And remember checks should be done on a regular basis to ensure they are still current – another reason to opt for the Update Service which will list new criminal convictions.

The Government advise that if the employer does:

See gov.uk to find an umbrella body to process every DBS check your school needs.


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