What does Ofsted say about Disclosure and Barring (DBS) Checks

This article was updated on 27/09/2019.

One aspect of an Ofsted inspection covers how well the school prevents unsuitable adults working with children and young people. To do this Ofsted will look at the implementation of Safer Recruitment procedures, ensure that there is appropriate vetting and make sure that concerns about adults are raised and recorded in an appropriate way.

Minimum Standards

There are statutory minimum standards that organisations have to meet with regard to DBS checks, however many schools go beyond these minimum standards. Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills settings (September 2019), says governing bodies and others should…'[take] proportionate decisions on whether to ask for checks beyond that which is required.’ (page 24)

Beyond the minimum

One area where schools often go ‘beyond that which is required’ is by asking for repeated DBS checks on a rolling basis – say every three or five years. It is a common myth that DBS checks must be redone every so many years – this has never been the case, although there are many policies that state it as fact. Nor is there any requirement to undertake retrospective checks on current staff beyond those that were in place at the time of appointment. As a minimum, staff appointed before March 2002 must have had a List 99 check (now replaced by the barred list); and staff appointed since 12th May 2006 must have had a DBS check (September 2003 for independent schools).

New staff appointments

When new staff are appointed, there is no statutory duty to redo their DBS check, unless there has been a break in service of more than three months*. However, in my experience many schools always undertake DBS checks on all new appointments. The DBS introduced its Update service in June 2013 as an aid to reducing the number of DBS checks that were needed. Schools are free decide whether to use the update service or not and may to choose to continue redoing DBS  checks. It is sensible to move towards using the DBS Update service, as it will be more cost-effective over time and, importantly, it is much more up to date than any certificate can be. *Maternity leave or extended sick leave does not count as a break in service

Volunteers

Although not a statutory requirement in itself to complete an Enhanced DBS on volunteers, as they are unlikely to be in ‘regulated activity’, 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.

See here: Do volunteers in school need an Enhanced DBS check?

Policy statement

The school’s safeguarding policy should outline the types of checks that are undertaken for the different roles in school. A clear rationale should be given for the decisions. Often this is about the risk of harm. I feel it is helpful if the policy sets out the school’s view on the risk factors for students in the school. For example, children with profound and multiple learning difficulties who are non-verbal and need intimate care are at a higher risk than many other pupils.

The Bottom Line

The statutory requirement is not to repeat DBS checks once completed, unless there is a break in service of more than three months or the school has concerns about a member of staff’s suitability to work with children. In practice the minimum standard is usually exceeded.

Further Information

Inspecting Safeguarding in maintained schools and academies (Ofsted, 2019)

Keeping children safe in education (DfE, 2019)

Governors and Mandatory DBS Checks

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