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DBS checks: who needs one?
Use our downloadable summary to find out who needs a DBS check. You'll also learn about checks for staff working with 'vulnerable' pupils aged 18 or over, and whether new staff can start work before their DBS certificate comes through.
Download our summary
It's a quick-reference version of the information below, summarising who needs a DBS check and which level is needed:
It's based on the statutory safeguarding guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education.
GOV.UK also has a tool for working out what level of DBS check someone needs.
Who needs a DBS check
New school staff
New school staff need an enhanced DBS check. This will need to include barred list information if they'll be in regulated activity.
Most staff in your school will be in regulated activity.
New school staff need a number of other checks, as well as DBS checks. Read about these here.
You should carry out “all relevant checks” for existing staff where:
- You have concerns about a staff member's suitability to work with children
- A person moves from a post that was not regulated activity into work that is regulated activity
Apart from these circumstances, you're not required to request DBS or barred list checks for existing staff.
Read about whether DBS checks need to be renewed.
Appointees from another school or college
You're not required to get an enhanced DBS certificate for appointees who've worked in one of the following posts, as long as that employment ended no more than 3 months ago:
- In a school in England in a post which brought them into regular contact with children or young people, or any post if they were appointed on or after 12 May 2006; or
- In a further education setting in England, or a 16-19 academy, in a post which involved the provision of education and which brought them into regular contact with children or young people
All other pre-employment checks must still be completed for these appointees. This includes a separate barred list check for those in regulated activity, which can be obtained via the DBS.
You can request a new enhanced DBS check for these staff, if you wish. Or, you can:
- Use the DBS Update Service to check that the information on their existing certificate is still current (if the appointee has subscribed to the service)
- Accept their existing DBS certificate
Use our risk assessment to help you decide whether to accept an existing DBS certificate or carry out a new check (if you're a maintained school, check first whether your local authority has guidance on this).
If you use staff from an agency or third-party organisation, you must obtain written notification that the organisation has carried out the relevant checks on any individual who'll be working at your school. These include an enhanced DBS check.
The agency or third-party organisation must also obtain a barred list check prior to appointment, where necessary.
You must check that the person presenting themselves for work is the same person for whom the checks have been made.
Trainee teachers need an enhanced DBS check (with barred list information if they're in regulated activity).
Responsibility for carrying out DBS checks differs depending on whether the trainee is on a salaried or fee-funded route:
- Salaried by the school: you're responsible for carrying out the necessary checks
- Fee-funded: it's the responsibility of the initial teacher training provider to carry out the necessary checks. You should obtain written confirmation from the provider that checks have been carried out and that the provider has deemed the trainee suitable to work with children
Any contractor working at the school must have the appropriate level of DBS check. Contractors carrying out regulated activity will need an enhanced DBS check that includes barred list information.
Contractors who have the opportunity for contact with children during their work, but aren't engaging in regulated activity, will need an enhanced DBS check without barred list information.
Governors and trustees
Maintained school governors and academy members, trustees and local governors must have enhanced DBS checks.
Read more about this here.
You must get an enhanced DBS check with barred list information for new volunteers in regulated activity.
Existing volunteers in regulated activity don't have to be re-checked if they've already had a DBS check (with barred list information), but you can do this if you have concerns.
Supervised volunteers who regularly teach or look after children are not in regulated activity. However, you may request an enhanced DBS check without barred list information for these individuals.
Read more about DBS checks and supervision of volunteers.
You don't have the power to request DBS checks for visitors, or to ask to see their DBS certificates. Headteachers should use their professional judgement about the need to escort or supervise visitors.
Out-of-school club staff
It's the responsibility of the out-of-school club, as the employer, to carry out DBS and other checks on its staff. You can't carry out checks on staff you don't employ.
ASCL said if you believe there's the possibility of unaccompanied club staff coming into contact with pupils at the school, you'd be justified in checking with the club that it has carried out the relevant checks on staff.
It's up to you to decide how best to assure yourself of this. For example, you could ask to see DBS check certificates for relevant club staff, or ask the club for written confirmation that checks have been carried out.
Employed sixth form students
If you're employing sixth form students from another school, you should treat these students like any other employee, and get the appropriate level of DBS check for the role they've been hired to do.
If you're employing your own sixth form students to carry out any paid work that could involve contact with pupils, you'll still need to have DBS checks for these students.
In the case of tutoring, anyone hired by the school to tutor pupils would need a DBS check.
This advice also came from ASCL.
You can't carry out DBS checks on people under the age of 16.
Types of DBS check
There are 2 types of DBS check available for those working in schools:
- Enhanced: a check of the police national computer records of spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings, plus any additional information held by the police that a chief police officer believes should be disclosed
- Enhanced with children's and/or adults' barred list information: the same information as the enhanced check, plus checks of whether someone is included on the national DBS ‘barred lists’ of individuals unsuitable for working with children or adults
A check for barred list information can only be carried out on individuals who are in regulated activity.
DBS checks for working with ‘vulnerable’ pupils aged 18 or over
Pupils aged 18 or over are adults. If your school has 'vulnerable' pupils aged 18 and over, staff may also need an adult workforce enhanced DBS check with adults' barred list information, because staff working with 'vulnerable' pupils are in regulated activity with adults.
The definition of regulated activity for adults is different than for children (see below).
It's an offence to knowingly employ someone in regulated activity for adults if they're on the adult's barred list. A representative from the DBS explained this to us.
Who is 'vulnerable'?
The Department of Health's guidance on regulated activity for adults explains that regulated activity for adults is limited to 6 categories of activities (see pages 5 to 9).
An adult is considered 'vulnerable' if they require activities or support in any of the 6 categories.
In schools, the most relevant activity will likely be providing personal care (which includes physically assisting someone), or managing/supervising someone who provides that care.
Who needs this type of check?
You don't have to check every member of staff. You need an adult workforce enhanced DBS check with adults' barred list information only for staff working in regulated activity for adults (see the guidance on regulated activity for adults just above).
This will be in addition to the child workforce enhanced DBS check with children’s barred list information you carry out for an individual if they’re also working in regulated activity with pupils under the age of 18.
More guidance on adult workforce checks is available from the DBS here.
Residential special schools are a bit of a special case – some staff may need adult workforce enhanced DBS checks (without barred list information) even if not in regulated activity with adults. Read the DBS guidance linked to just above to understand the specific requirements here.
Delays in the DBS check process
A member of staff can work in regulated activity before their DBS certificate has come through, provided that:
- They're supervised; and
- They've undergone all other required checks, including a separate barred list check
This is set out in paragraph 120 of Keeping Children Safe in Education.
However, we recommend that you avoid allowing someone to start in a role before you have the results of their DBS check. This is because:
- The DfE and Ofsted expect this to only happen in exceptional circumstances
- Even if there are exceptional circumstances, you leave yourself open to legal challenge if a DBS then shows that the person is unsuitable
Learn more about this below.
The DfE expects that schools will only allow someone to start in a post before the results of their DBS check are known in exceptional circumstances.
The Department doesn't have a definition of 'exceptional circumstances', but you'd need to be able to demonstrate to Ofsted why you felt the circumstances were exceptional.
A DfE representative told us this.
Ofsted will assess on a case-by-case basis whether the decision to allow someone to start in post before the results of their DBS check came through was appropriate.
Inspectors will expect to see evidence of the steps you took to reduce risk and safeguard pupils in this situation.
An Ofsted representative explained this to us.
Failure to produce adequate evidence of exceptional circumstances or adequate additional safeguards could lead to your school being rated 'inadequate' on the basis of safeguarding concerns.
Hollie Simmonds of Fitzgerald HR advised that in order to demonstrate 'exceptional circumstances', you'd likely need to show that excessive delays would prevent you making an appointment in a crucial post, and failure to appoint would lead to:
- Significant challenges keeping the school open; or
- Significant impact on the quality of teaching and learning; or
- Significant impact on the safety and security of pupils
What are the legal implications?
While Keeping Children Safe in Education allows you to start someone in post before the DBS results are received, this can create a complicated employment law situation.
Allowing someone to start in a role before the outcome of checks is known can lead the employee to claim that a contract has been entered into. To prevent this happening, you'd need to be clear with the employee that:
- Starting a job under supervision means that they haven't entered into an employment contract yet
- Their contract will be issued when the results of the DBS check are received
- If the results of the DBS show that they're unsuitable for the role, their services will no longer be required with immediate effect
All of this should be documented in writing, along with detailed notes of your correspondence and interactions with the employee at every stage of the recruitment process.
You'd need to get help with this from your HR provider and legal support.
Even if you do all of the above, this isn't guaranteed to prevent someone claiming that you entered into a contract with them.
That can lead to further issues, such as breach of contract claims or formal dismissal procedures, which can be costly for your school.
This advice came from Forbes Solicitors.
If you'd still like to start someone in post before you know the outcome of their DBS check, and you feel you can demonstrate that your circumstances are exceptional, you can use the risk assessment template in the section 'Appointees from another school or college' above to help you decide:
- Whether this would be appropriate
- What safeguards you'd need to put in place
If you're a maintained school, your LA may have its own risk assessment that it requires you to use in this situation, so check with them first before you use ours.
You can use the risk assessment template in situations where:
- A DBS check for new school staff hasn't arrived yet
- You've decided not to accept an existing check from an appointee from another school or college and are awaiting the results of their new check
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