DBS checks: summary of requirements

Download our summary table to quickly identify who needs which type of DBS check. Use our template risk assessment to decide whether to accept an existing DBS certificate, and find guidance on staff starting before their check comes through.

Last reviewed on 16 August 2023See updates
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Contents
  1. Download our summary table to identify which checks are required 
  2. Use our risk assessment to decide whether to accept an existing check
  3. Understand the different types of DBS check
  4. Delays in the DBS check process

Download our summary table to identify which checks are required 

Use our summary to find out who needs a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and which level is needed:

KeyDoc: summary table for DBS checks DOC, 212.5 KB

It's based on part 3 of the statutory safeguarding guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) 2023. 

GOV.UK also has a tool for working out what level of DBS check someone needs.

Use our risk assessment to decide whether to accept an existing check

For appointees from another school/college who've been in employment within the last 3 months, 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 in a maintained school, check first whether your local authority (LA) has guidance on this). 

KeyDoc: DBS risk assessment DOC, 185.5 KB

Understand the different 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 additional information such as interviews and allegations (where a chief police officer reasonably believes it's relevant and 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

See paragraph 237 of KCSIE for more details. 

When do you need an adults' barred list check?

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 appropriately supervised; and
  • They've undergone all other required checks, including a separate children's barred list check

See paragraph 247 of KCSIE.

However, we strongly 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.

You should seek specialist HR and legal advice before allowing someone to start in a role before you have their DBS certificate.

Exceptional circumstances

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. There isn't 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.

If you aren't able to show inspectors adequate evidence of exceptional circumstances or adequate additional safeguards, this could lead to your school being rated 'inadequate' on the basis of safeguarding concerns.

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

Hollie Simmonds of Fitzgerald HR gave us this advice. 

What are the legal implications?

While KCSIE 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 could 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 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 check show they're unsuitable for the role, their services will no longer be required with immediate effect

You should document all of this in writing, along with detailed notes of your correspondence and interactions with the employee at every stage of the recruitment process.

Get help with this from your HR provider and legal support.

Even if you do all of the above, it may not prevent someone claiming 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.

Carry out a risk assessment

If you need 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 of this article titled 'Use our risk assessment to decide whether to accept an existing check' to help you decide:

  • Whether this would be appropriate
  • What safeguards you'd need to put in place

If you're in a maintained school, your LA may have its own risk assessment that you must 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

Article Updates

16 August 2023

We've updated this article to be in line with Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) 2023. There are no new DBS requirements. We've added a section on online searches to the DBS risk assessment. 

For details of what's new in KCSIE for 2023, take a look at our summary of September 2023 changes.

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