The primary piece of regulation affecting schools’ and colleges’ recruitment activities is the Department for Education’s
statutory guidance on Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE)
; which is taken into account alongside the guidance on Working Together to Safeguard Children
. In outlining staff’s responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, it also instructs employers on the checks required to identify employees who may pose a danger to the children in their care. At the heart of these checks lies a mandatory criminal check
. Most school and college employees are classed as being engaged in regulated activity as they come into contact with children on a regular basis. As such, they require an Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
Enhanced and a Children’s Barred List check.
The same rules apply to trainee and student teachers, agency and supply staff, volunteers and contractors – if they are engaged in a regulated activity. For employees provided through a third party, the school or college will require written confirmation that the appropriate checks have already been successfully completed. Employees who aren’t engaged in regulated activity will only require the Enhanced DBS check. In instances where it is not immediately obvious, Verifile is well placed to help employers determine whether an employee’s role constitutes regulated or non-regulated activity. Additional checks will be required, where appropriate, to ensure that employees are neither prohibited from teaching and/or holding a management position in a school or college. All these checks should be undertaken when recruiting new employees or when an individual moves from a non-regulated to a regulated role. Unlike other regulated sectors, there are no requirements within education for employers to re-screen existing employees on a regular basis (post-employment screening
), unless there is reason to believe that an individual is no longer suitable for working with children.
The penalties for non-compliance are significant. There are penalties of up to five years in prison if a barred individual is convicted of engaging (or attempting to engage) in any regulated activity. In addition, the school or college itself will be committing an offence if it knows, or has reason to believe, that an individual is barred but allows them to engage in regulated activity regardless. Away from the DBS checks, employers aren’t always aware that reference checks
within the screening
process must be a professional reference, rather than standard employment references
which will confirm little more than job titles and periods of employment. Right to Work checks and overseas criminal records checks (where appropriate) must also be completed before employment can commence.
Employers also shouldn’t forget that pre-employment screening
includes a requirement to verify a candidate’s mental and physical fitness. An applicant can therefore be asked relevant questions about health and disability to establish whether they have the physical and mental capacity for the role. The details of these – and all other - pre-appointment checks must be held by the school or college on its Single Central Record
(rather than employers relying on a separate software solution, Verifile can assist with this).
In terms of recent changes to the regulation, a new requirement was introduced in 2018 for employers to carry out a risk assessment on whether volunteers in the school or college require an Enhanced DBS and if this needs to be accompanied by a Barred List check.
Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see whether employers change their approach to checking academic
and professional qualifications. Bearing in mind the growing prevalence of fraudulent, unaccredited institutions otherwise known as a Diploma mill
, employers may want to start checking the validity of qualifications at source (as they do with e
mployment references), rather than accepting copies of original certificates.
Checks that employers may want to consider running in this sector
Right to Work: We’ll ensure that a candidate’s documentation meets the current Home Office requirements. We can also repeat checks as and when needed for individuals who have a limited entitlement to remain in the UK.
Identity checks: To prevent employers falling victim to identity fraud, we can undertake electronic verification checks on ID documents provided by a candidate. Alternatively, we can provide online identity checks, using biographical data.
Criminal record checks: We’ll undertake the appropriate level of UK criminal record checks, (Enhanced, in this case, with or without an accompanying Children’s Barred List check) subject to strict eligibility guidelines. We’re also able to obtain overseas criminal records for candidates with an international background.
Prohibition from Teaching: We’ll check that a candidate has not been prohibited from teaching.
Section 128 check: We’ll check that a candidate is not prohibited from holding a management position in a school.
Professional and academic qualifications: Where applicable, we can check the validity of someone’s professional accreditations or registrations while also checking that their academic qualifications are genuine. For all professional and academic qualifications, we’ll always check at source with the awarding body.
Teacher Services’ system checks: We’ll verify any award of Qualified Teacher Status and the completion of teacher induction or probation.
Employment history: We’ll obtain detailed references from a candidate’s current and/or former employer(s). Where applicable, employers should ask for details of any capability procedures in the previous two years (and the reasons for them). References should be requested from a senior person, not just a colleague.
Social media checks: An increasingly popular – and relevant – check for employers keen to understand whether someone’s social media activity could damage their brand, reputation or client relationships. As well as highlighting illegal activity and undesirable characteristics, such checks can also play a part in authenticating a candidate’s employment history.
Driving licence checks: We’ll check that the candidate does indeed have a valid driving licence. We’ll also check for any endorsements or disqualifications currently on their licence.