Further education and skills: For further education and skills providers

Safeguarding children and young people

Ofsted and our inspection partners carry out all the required checks for staff who visit nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges as part of an inspection. This includes appropriate employment checks and an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) disclosure.

All HMI, Regulatory and Additional Inspectors carry official Ofsted photo identification badges so that schools and other providers know they have passed these rigorous safeguarding checks.

Ofsted inspectors work to government legislation and statutory guidance, which is based on the Department for Education's Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education.

Below you can find additional advice and FAQs.

If you want to contact us to make a complaint or you have a concern about any service Ofsted inspects or regulates go to the How to complain page.

If you want to contact us to report concerns about practices and procedures for the safeguarding of children and young people in local authority services go to the Whistleblower hotline page.

Additional advice and FAQs

When the guidance refers to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for under 18s, does this refer to all staff or just teaching staff?

Under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 the college is not required to request checks on any other staff and in most cases will not be entitled to do so either.

There is no requirement for governors to have been DBS checked, unless they regularly take on such a role.

While colleges may consider it good practice to DBS-check all staff, this is in fact counter to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 since it requires disclosure of offences that are not relevant to posts not classified as above. This does not apply to schools, where all staff are subject to the same checks.

I have a new member of staff just starting work whose job will be to deal with adult learner personal information. I have been told that they must have a DBS certificate because this is what Ofsted expect, and we would be failed in an inspection if they didn’t have one. Is this true?

No, this is not true. As Ofsted has repeatedly stated through these FAQs, in conference presentations and in individual correspondence, any statutory requirements affecting DBS disclosure certificates are set by the Government; Ofsted interprets these requirements in close consultation with the Department for Education.

Under the terms of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 the only employees whom an organisation is required to check are those regularly in unsupervised contact with children – that is, under 18s – in a regulated activity. Regulated activities are: teaching; training; instructing; caring for; supervising; providing advice and guidance on well-being; anddriving a vehicle only for children.

It is difficult for Ofsted to challenge a misunderstanding like this without knowing more of the details about where this suggestion originated, and we would encourage anyone who believes they are being misled about Ofsted expectations refer to these FAQ pages or contact our national call centre.

Are 16–18 children and young people resident in land-based colleges covered in the boarding inspection arrangements?

Land-based provision with residential accommodation is covered by social care inspection. Ofsted has introduced arrangements to inspect education and welfare provision in colleges with residential accommodation as single inspection events.

How does the safeguarding guidance fit in with the complaints process where Ofsted does not take action on complaints about individuals, and if parents do not give sufficient details the issue is not referred to social services?

If Ofsted receives a complaint relating to an individual child that indicates safeguarding issues, or about a possible abuser, this will be referred immediately to Ofsted’s national compliance, investigation and enforcement (CIE) team. This team will confirm the details and contact the relevant authorities – in this case, the local authority designated officer (LADO), local authority emergency child protection team or the police.

Where contracts may contain vulnerable young people/previously looked after children, should DBS checks be in place?

There is no requirement for DBS checks for training provider staff working with vulnerable adults, whether or not they have previously been looked after children, but inspectors should expect to see evidence of a risk assessment and policies/procedures to safeguard learners as outlined in National Institute of Adult Continuing Education and Department for Education's (NIACE) Safer practice, safer learning. Under the terms of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 the definition of vulnerable adults has been significantly revised and now focuses on the activities being carried out with them rather than the status of the adults. The activities where a practitioner should be subject to DBS checks are now mainly in the area of personal or health care, and not in education or training.

What about situations where providers do not know their population because of confidentiality/safeguarding precautions for potential vulnerable learners?

See the above FAQ; inspectors will expect that providers have taken all reasonable measures to identify those of their learners who may be vulnerable as part of their arrangements to safeguard all learners.

The Ofsted guidance on training for staff refers to Local Safeguarding Children Board level 1 and level 2 training. What do these levels mean and does it imply that the training has to come from the Local Safeguarding Children Board?

We have stopped referring to levels of safeguarding training as we recognised that this does not match Government guidance.

All staff in regular contact with children should have been trained in child protection to a basic level. The designated member of staff for safeguarding should have received further training and had more frequent updates. Further information about what training is recommended can be found in the Department for Education guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

How does Ofsted inspect safeguarding when a provider subcontracts all its provision to other colleges or providers? Does Ofsted inspect how a provider checks the colleges’/providers’ arrangements, or does Ofsted inspect how each college/provider checks its arrangements?

The provider is responsible for ensuring subcontractors are making the appropriate safeguarding arrangements; the provider should be able to demonstrate to inspectors that it is doing this rigorously. Inspectors can test this during discussions with subcontractor staff and learners and visits to subcontractor sites. It is also important to refer to the local funding body or National Employer Service (NES) contract section on working with subcontractors.

How will an inspector know that the provider has checked the identity of staff as they start work? How can an inspector check that the provider does this correctly and that all the provider’s staff are who they claim to be?

The provider should be able show the inspector evidence that they do this: for example. a spreadsheet showing which documents the provider has seen and checked for all staff.

Is a DBS check required for a tutor from overseas who works with vulnerable adults and under-18s? What should inspectors expect to find in a language college employing staff from overseas with a visa working with vulnerable adults and under-18s? Other countries do not have the same DBS requirements nor allow access to records if they are kept.

The Department for Education guidance Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education makes the requirements very clear and applies to tutors working with children, that is, under 18s: the statutory requirements do not extend to tutors working with vulnerable adults.

  • Paragraph 3.49. List 99* and DBS disclosures and where appropriate PoCA* [Protection of Children Act] List checks must be completed on overseas staff. In addition, criminal records information should be sought from countries where individuals have worked or lived.
  • Paragraph 4.9. …in the case of DBS disclosures, the certificate must be obtained before, or as soon as practicable after, appointment.
  • Paragraph 4.66. In addition all staff who have lived outside the United Kingdom and were recruited since March 2002 should have DBS Disclosures undertaken where this has not been done, unless the individual had within the three months before his or her appointment worked in a school in England in a post which brought him or her into regular contact with children (or any post they were appointed to since 12 May 2006); or an FE college in England in a position which involved the provision of education and regularly caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of children or young people under the age of 18.
  • Paragraph 4.67. DBS disclosures will not generally show offences committed by individuals whilst living abroad (except in the case of service personnel and their families, as detailed in paragraph 4.73). Therefore, in addition to an enhanced DBS disclosure, additional checks such as obtaining certificates of good conduct from relevant embassies or police forces are necessary. The level of information contained in these certificates varies from country to country: some are complete extracts from the criminal record; others are partial.
  • Paragraph 4.69. In the case of staff who have lived abroad, if, in the opinion of the local authority, school, or FE college, the DBS disclosure is unlikely to provide sufficient information, based on how long the individual has been in the UK, then other checks, including obtaining certificates of good conduct from relevant embassies or police forces as appropriate, must be completed prior to the individual starting work or volunteering activity.

What requirement is there on a work-based learning provider for 16-18 year olds to ensure that work-based learning supervisors have been DBS checked?

Training organisations or employers taking responsibility for non-employed under 18s on a long-term placement – that is, lasting more than a month – should be asked to make a commitment to safeguarding their welfare by endorsing an agreed child protection policy or statement of principles. For staff in the workplace who teach, train, or are in sole charge of non-employed under 18s as their main job role, their emplyer should require a DBS check for the purpose of protecting these children.

A work-based learning provider will decide, after a robust risk assessment, who these individuals are likely to be. In most instances this is likely to be a very small number of staff. However, the DBS requirement does not extend to anyone working with employed under-18s.

For safeguarding, where does a provider’s jurisdiction start and finish; for example, outside the college campus or travelling to a work placement?

If a learner aged under 18 is travelling from college/provider site to a workplace site during the college day then the college should take reasonable steps to ensure their safety; for example, making sure the workplace is expecting them and that the workplace lets the college know if the learner does not arrive.

Are prisoners over the age of 18 classed as vulnerable adults/learners?

Under the terms of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, the definition of vulnerable adults has been significantly revised and now focuses on the activities being carried out with them rather than the status of the adults. The activities where an employer should require a DBS check are now mainly in the area of personal or health care, and not in education or training. Prisoners over 18 would therefore be categorised as vulnerable adults only when receiving relevant services.

The grade characteristic for outstanding in safeguarding uses the words 'frequent' and 'intensive' to describe the people for whom the emplyer should require a DBS check and child protection training. What does this mean?

The definition of ‘frequent’ and ‘intensive’ was clarified in December 2009 by Sir Roger Singleton and the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and has not changed since then as a result of the passage of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. Please note, however, that under the revised Common Inspection Framework for learning and skills providers, safeguarding is no longer graded as a separate area and the previous safeguarding grading characteristics are therefore no longer relevant.

Is Ofsted asking for employers with apprentices to be DBS checked?

No and it is not for Ofsted to ask for anything concerning DBS checks. The legislation is a matter for the Department for Education; our interpretation would be that employers should not require a check for any other employees working in any role with the apprentice, whether alongside, training, mentoring or managing. It is up to the employer to decide, on the basis of a risk assessment, whether they wish require a check for anyone among their own staff or from a third-party provider delivering off-the-job training to the apprentice, but it likely that few staff would be eligible for such checks.

Are there safeguarding courses that Ofsted approves of?

Unfortunately, this is not an area where Ofsted can give advice. This is a commercial decision and it would be inappropriate for us to comment. There may well be an opportunity for the Learning and Skills Improvement Service to provide suitable training for sector members.

Ofsted is also sometimes asked whether we approve of on-line safeguarding or child-protection training as opposed to any other form. Again, this is not a matter for us. Our focus on an inspection is the extent to which staff understand their contribution to child protection, for example by being able to recognise signs of abuse and being confident in how to make a referral to the appropriate authorities where abuse is suspected.

An Ofsted Inspection Service Provider is charging for safeguarding training. What is Ofsted’s view on this?

This is not a matter on which Ofsted can comment. Inspection Service Providers (ISPs) are commercial organisations that work in partnership with Ofsted. Some ISPs have training divisions that are kept totally separate from their inspection activities. However, ISPs should not provide training in areas where there is a conflict of interest with their inspection activity. If any college feels there is such a conflict of interest, they should let us know with full details.

What is the difference between a health and safety issue and a safeguarding issue?

This very much depends on one’s definition of health and safety. In general, safeguarding is much more encompassing and concerns activities/issues that affect the broad welfare of children and young people.

Can Ofsted describe why a limitation might be made on the overall effectiveness grade if a college is graded as adequate in safeguarding?

The revised Common Inspection Framework which will be used for all learning and skills inspections from September 2012 no longer includes a separate judgement or grade for Safeguarding. Safeguarding judgements will now contribute to the overall judgement and grade for leadership and management.

How can a college get a grade one for safeguarding?

Please see the previous FAQ. Safeguarding is no longer graded separately.

We are a higher education institute with a further education college within the organisation. One of our campuses is shared between further education and higher education provision. I checked with the Criminal Records Bureau and we cannot carry out Criminal Records Bureau checks on staff unless they meet the strict regulated activity definition, and obviously the vast majority of our higher education lecturers and staff do not meet the frequency or intensity criterion. The exception would be if there was a group with vulnerable adults who were not incidental to the group, but the Criminal Records Bureau says that none of these staff are eligible for checks either. How can we best meet Ofsted's requirements whilst ensuring that we keep within the rules of the Criminal Records Bureau?

Ofsted itself has no requirements as far as Criminal Records Bureau checks are concerned – all such requirements are set by the Government and will be definitively interpreted by the Criminal Records Bureau. Our role is to check that an organisation understands, and is meeting, these government requirements.

Under the terms of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 the definition of vulnerable adults has been significantly revised and now focuses on the activities being carried out with them rather than the status of the adults. The activities where an employer should require a DBS check are now mainly in the area of personal or health care, and not in education or training.

Ofsted inspectors will understand that this is the position when they make their judgements.

We are a residential land-based college, and some of our staff live within the grounds of the college.  Can these staff start working in the student accommodation as well as the college before we have received their DBS disclosure certificates, or those of their family members? What does Ofsted expect colleges to do in such situations?

There are two separate parts to this question, and therefore two answers.  However, in both cases, the expectations are set by the Government rather than Ofsted. 

As far as family members are concerned, Ofsted’s understanding is that the Government would not expect family members of FE college employees to be routinely required to provide a DBS disclosure certificate. Instead, the college should have guidance in place setting out what access these people can and cannot have to parts of the college site and what contact - or not - they should have with learners aged under 18. Similar guidance might be given to the learners themselves.

This is properly set out in the current National Minimum Standards for residential colleges offering accommodation to under-18s. Under Standard 34: 

34.3 The college provides all adults resident in college accommodation, including those not employed by the college (i.e. adult members of staff households) with guidance which clearly set out the standards of conduct and probity expected of them as residents on college premises. This should include guidance on contact with students and their responsibilities to supervise their visitors. Such guidance should also include information on the sanctions available to the college in the event that these standards of conduct are breached.

Should there be any change in the status of these people, for example if they are co-opted into some kind of supervisory/training role, the college would of course need to make the appropriate checks.

Members of staff for whom the college is required to obtain DBS disclosure certificates may start work pending the arrival of the certificate as long as it has been requested, other recruitment checks have been made in line with the recommendations in Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education and the college provides appropriate supervision until all the checks are completed.

Is it still a requirement for administrators in services regulated and/or inspected by Ofsted to be DBS checked if they have access to children’s records? We have been told by the DBS that these staff are no longer eligible for such a check.

Administrators who work with children’s records but who do not have regular opportunities for unsupervised contact with children are currently categorised as working in a controlled activity. Under the terms of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 controlled activity will disappear with effect from 10 September 2012. From this date, organisations will no longer be entitled to request a check on such people for the purposes of protecting pupils.

*On 12 October 2009, the three current barred lists (List 99, Protection of Children Act and Protection of Vulnerable Adults scheme) were replaced by two new barred lists currently administered by the DBS: the Children’s List and the Vulnerable Adults’ List.   

Annual Report 2012/13