Do volunteers in school need an Enhanced DBS check?

Keeping Children Safe in Education is statutory guidance from the Department for Education issued under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002, the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014, and the Non-Maintained Special Schools (England) Regulations 2015. The guidance should therefore be followed by all schools covered by the relevant legislation.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (2019) says governing bodies and proprietors should prevent people who pose a risk of harm from working with children by adhering to statutory responsibilities to check staff who work with children, taking proportionate decisions on whether to ask for any checks beyond what is required and ensuring volunteers are appropriately supervised (paragraph 92).

Whilst there is no requirement that volunteers who are not in regulated activity should have a DBS check, in ‘certain circumstances…schools and colleges may obtain an enhanced DBS certificate (not including barred list information)’ (Keeping Children Safe in Education paragraph 169).

Schools are busy places and inevitably volunteers could easily be unsupervised; not least because supervised means ‘by someone in regulated activity’; this means that supervision doesn’t simply mean not working alone. Keeping Children Safe in Education recognises this potential loophole and says ‘under no circumstances should a volunteer in respect of whom no checks have been obtained be left unsupervised or allowed to work in regulated activity (paragraph 167).’

‘All schools should undertake a risk assessment on all volunteers and use their professional judgement and experience to decide whether or not to obtain an enhanced DBS certificate for any volunteer not engaging in regulated activity’ (KCSIE, paragraph 170). In doing so they should consider:

  • the nature of the work with children;
  • what the establishment knows about the volunteer, including formal or informal information offered by staff, parents and other volunteers;
  • whether the volunteer has other employment or undertakes voluntary activities where referees can advise on suitability;
  • whether the role is eligible for an enhanced DBS check.

Without undertaking an Enhanced DBS check, schools would not know whether a person had committed offences that could mean they were unsuitable to work with children. In 2015, a teacher who had been jailed after being convicted for grooming a teenage girl was able to work as a volunteer in an infant school after his release. The school had no idea about his past because they had not carried out any checks.

Although not a statutory requirement in itself to complete an Enhanced DBS on volunteers, it is a statutory requirement to carry out a risk assessment on volunteers to ascertain whether there are ‘certain circumstances’ where an Enhanced DBS would be needed. Therefore it is most sensible to complete an Enhanced DBS on volunteers, especially if they regularly come into school, in addition to completing the mandatory risk assessment.

What schools should do:

1. Complete a risk assessment for each volunteer
2. Obtain an Enhanced DBS Check with Barred List if the person is in Regulated Activity
3. Obtain an Enhanced DBS Check without Barred List if the person may be left unsupervised by someone who is themselves in Regulated Activity

A draft risk assessment to provide a starting point can be downloaded here: Risk Assessment Volunteers v.1.2 (DRAFT)

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