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updated on 18 September 2020
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Get a summary of who needs a DBS check, and what type they need. Find out 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 Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and which level is needed:

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

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

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 involved in regulated activity - find out what this includes.

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 involved in regulated activity.

Most staff in your school will be in regulated activity.

Read about the number of other required checks for new staff here.

This is set out in paragraph 133 of KCSIE.

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.

This is covered in paragraph 156 of KCSIE

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 has guidance on this). 

Existing staff

You should carry out all the relevant checks you'd do for a new staff member 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
  • For colleges, a person moves from a post that doesn't involve the provision of education to one that does 

Apart from these circumstances, you're not required to request DBS or barred list checks for existing staff.

This is set out in paragraph 178 of KCSIE

Read about whether DBS checks need to be renewed

Agency/supply staff

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.

This can be found in paragraphs 174 and 175 of KCSIE.

Trainee/student teachers

Trainee teachers need an enhanced DBS check (including barred list information as they're likely to be involved in regulated activity).

The 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

This is covered in paragraphs 176 and 177 of KCSIE.

Contractors

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.

If the contractor is self-employed, you’ll need to apply for the DBS check. If they’re employed by someone else, you should get written confirmation of checks from the employer.

It’s your responsibility to determine the appropriate level of supervision for a contractor on your site depending on the circumstances, and you should always check their identity on arrival. 

This is outlined in paragraphs 196 to 199 of KCSIE.

Governors and trustees 

Maintained school governors and academy members, trustees and local governors must have enhanced DBS checks. Read more about this here

Associate members don't require a DBS check unless they're involved in regulated activity. 

This can be found in paragraphs 189 to 195 of KCSIE

Volunteers

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 any concerns.

Supervised volunteers are not considered to be involved in regulated activity. However, you may request an enhanced DBS check without barred list information for these individuals.

Read our article about DBS checks and supervision of volunteers to get more information and download our template risk assessment. 

This is outlined in paragraphs 183 to 188 of KCSIE

Visitors

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.

This is set out in paragraph 200 of KCSIE

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.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said if you believe there's the possibility of unaccompanied club staff coming into contact with pupils at the school, you're able to check 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.

Under-16s

You can't carry out DBS checks on people under the age of 16.

Work experience students 

If a work experience student is aged 16 or older and:

  • In regulated activity - they'll need an enhanced DBS check with a barred list check
  • Not in regulated activity - they should have an enhanced DBS check but don't need a barred list check.

The DBS Service confirmed this information. 

Work experience providers 

Enhanced DBS checks with barred list information may be required on some people who supervise a child under the age of 16 on a work-experience placement.

It's up to you to decide what checks are necessary and you should make this decision after considering the circumstances, including the nature of supervision and the frequency of the activity. 

Find out what you'll need to consider here.

This is set out in paragraph 202 to 206 of KCSIE.

DBS checks for working with ‘vulnerable’ pupils aged 18 or over

Who is 'vulnerable'?

An adult (anyone aged 18 or over) is considered 'vulnerable' if they require activities or support in any of the 6 regulated activity categories laid out in the Department of Health's guidance on regulated activity for adults (see pages 5 to 9). 

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 with adults, as explained 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.

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.

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.

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 can be found in paragraph 140 of KCSIE.

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.

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 advise. 

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 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

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, you may still not 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.

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 on '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 in a maintained school, your local authority 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

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