Recently the TES and a number of other daily newspapers ran a story about how teachers who are convicted of sexual offences against children are able to change their name and return to work in schools. Prompted by an email from a Safeguarding Briefing reader, I started to explore how robust education’s safer recruitment processes are, and whether it would be possible to return to work as a teacher, after a conviction, by changing their name without being identified.
It is true that people convicted of sexual offences are not prohibited from changing their name, and may be able do that online whilst still in prison. There are two different types of deed poll for an official name change, these are ‘unenrolled’ and ‘enrolled’ deed polls. In order to obtain a new passport with the new name, the more detailed ‘enrolled’ deed poll would be needed, applications for these are administered by the Royal Courts of Justice and cost £36.
It is relatively easy to change your name and obtain a new passport, although there are potential hurdles in this. If the name change is to defraud or deceive, this is an offence. Someone who is on licence or under probation is required to inform their probation officer and if they are on the Sex Offenders Register they are required to notify the police within 14 days of the name change. Without being upfront about the name change, if found out, it would lead to being dismissed from a job, possibly recalled to prison, and charged with an offence.
Further information is here:
Implications for schools
I am not a lawyer or a HR professional (see below), but this is what I think.
In order to do the DBS check, a person needs to show ID documents (from Group 1), including either a passport or driving licence, (as noted above this could be in their new name); and two other documents (from Group 2). They also have to declare any previous names (though of course they could decide not to – which is an offence). Addresses are needed from the past five years, and this may show up a previous name, or at least no evidence of someone with the new name having lived there.
The next checks in schools are qualification checks and this is where I think it becomes more difficult to hide a previous name because these certificates can’t be changed. Questions should now be asked as to why they didn’t enter that previous name on the DBS application form. Although, someone could gain qualifications in a new name, this would certainly need time; another set of DBS checks for enrolment; and a lot of work.
Now we turn to reference checks, these need to match the person’s work history and, if we assume the offender’s name change is recent, then their previous work history would link to a previous name, or a reference couldn’t be provided. If they have served a jail term, that gap would be noticed and need explaining.
If there was a need to go beyond a self-declaration of medical fitness, any enquiries might reveal a previous name, via GP or hospital records.
For teachers, they would also be required to enter their Teacher Reference Number (formerly the DfE Number) on their application form. This would also link to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, where I believe previous names are kept on file.
Finally, a name change doesn’t change your national insurance number, so I think there is another potential opportunity to identify a previous name there.
In summary, I think whilst it is theoretically possible for a person to hide a previous name to get employed in a school, it would need an awful lot of subterfuge, cost and time (not least to gain new qualifications). It would be much, much easier to unofficially change your name and then set up as a tutor, run a football club or befriend young people in a church, than hide a previous name via an official (enrolled deed poll) name change and work in a school. Therefore, I think the risk of this is relatively low.
It has been suggested that it would help if schools required sight of an original birth certificate, but this supposes that the person didn’t change their name at any other point in their life.
The Police Officer (working in sex offender management)
“Any offender that changes their name has to notify the Police within 3 days of the change in accordance with Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act. This would be updated by Police on the Police National Database, which is one of the checks for DBS. Registered Sex Offenders are also visited at home by Police and we complete a number of intelligence checks on them periodically.
I would find it hard to imagine a situation where a registered sex offender could get through the DBS process to secure a job within a school. This group of offenders can be particularly devious and I would never say it could never happen, but I think it’s highly unlikely if the correct safeguarding processes are followed.”
The Lawyers (Kristine Scott, Partner and Head of Education Sector, and Emma Glazzard, assistant solicitor, both at Harrison Clark Rickerbys)
“When a person changes their name by enrolled deed poll (i.e. with permission from the Royal Courts’ of Justice) a notice is published in the London Gazette advertising the change of name. This details both the former name and the new name, the person’s address and the effective date of the change. This information is freely accessible online on the London Gazette website and the website has a useful search tool. This would be an easier way of checking whether a person has changed their name by enrolled deed poll.
A person on the Sex Offender register must notify the police of a change of name, and any other change in their personal circumstances within 3 days of the change. This has been the position since 1 May 2004. The 14 day notification period referred to last week was the previous position. Updated guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-part-2-of-the-sexual-offences-act-2003. Additionally, they must re-notify the police every 12 months of their name, address, and other personal details, even if there have been no changes.
A person’s teacher reference number remains the same throughout their career. This would not change if a person changed their name. By searching a person’s TRN and their date of birth (both of which you would have from an application form) would provide access to a teacher’s individual teacher record which confirms personal details, qualifications, any DBS restrictions and any prohibitions on teaching status.
I hope that with the safer recruitment checks schools have in place, it would be very difficult for a person to successfully evade the safer recruitment process followed by schools.”
The HR Professional (Kristen Hughes, HR Manager at the LEO Academy Trust)
“Further to this week’s safeguarding briefing focusing on changing of names as a way of gaining employment following a conviction, I wanted to add that when I complete the TRN checks on the DfE’s website, I always check DOB, rather than name. I feel this is a robust way of checking individual data that cannot be changed – and this DOB is cross-checked using methods provided for the DBS check. I download the excel spreadsheets, use control + F and type in the DOB.”
Thank you to everyone who shared their expertise.