Schools: For Schools

Safeguarding children

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 Keeping children safe 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

Legal requirements

Is Ofsted asking for more than the legal requirements?

Ofsted works very closely with the Department for Education to ensure that our inspectors do not expect schools or other providers to exceed the legal requirements. However, inspectors will wish to discuss those situations where providers have the authority to make their own decisions about safeguarding arrangements as part of the inspection of leadership and governance.

Checks for visitors

Are DBS checks required for all visitors or volunteers to schools and colleges?

  • Visitors DBS checks are not required for visitors. Visitors do not have unsupervised access to children.
  • Volunteers Checks are required only for those who have regular and unsupervised access to children and young people. Under the terms of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 where a volunteer is being adequately supervised, they are not considered to be working in regulated activity however often they do this, and the school does not need to request a DBS check. The Department for Education will shortly be publishing guidance to help schools decide what level of supervision would be considered adequate.

For the purposes of an Ofsted inspection, schools (and colleges) should be able to explain the rationale for those who have been checked and those who have not. The key criterion for checking volunteers is regular unsupervised contact with children.

Checking visiting staff

Is written confirmation required that all recruitment and vetting checks have been carried out on individuals who come in to a college or school from an outside agency?

Yes, but the checks that are required depend on the type of staff involved and as with other visitors, the key criterion is the opportunity for regular and unsupervised access to children.  Visitors who will only have contact with children on an ad hoc or irregular basis for short periods of time are not eligible for DBS checks and schools and colleges will not be entitled to request them.

Visiting staff

Visiting staff who do not have unsupervised regular access to children and young people – such as initial teacher education mentors and tutors – are not eligible for a DBS check. The normal risk assessment that applies to all visitors is sufficient. For visiting staff who do have unsupervised regular access to children and young people – such as educational psychologists, social workers, supply teachers, trainee teachers, nurses, sports coaches, MOD personnel and inspectors  their 'providing' organisation (for example, the supply agency, the university, primary care trust, local authority and so on) should request the check. It is sufficient, for schools and colleges to seek written confirmation that appropriate checks, including DBS checks have been carried out and by whom – most commonly the relevant human resources department (it is not necessary to specify a named individual) – and to confirm the identity of these visitors. It is not necessary (or practicable) to require a date for such checks unless the providing organisation supplies a list of named individual supply staff.  Written confirmation may be in the form of a public statement on the agency website, as is the case with Ofsted.

Contracted staff

Contracted staff that come into regular contact with children and young people – such as cleaning, caretaking and kitchen staff – should be included on the single central record (the next set of FAQs covers the single central record); as in the case of agency supply staff, written assurances from the providing organisation – for example, the local authority – or copies of contracts referring to staff who have access to children are sufficient proof that the relevant checks have been undertaken. This requirement is usually included in the contract that schools, colleges and/or local authorities will have set up. Schools and colleges are not entitled to repeat these checks. Therefore a letter or copy of a contract that states that an agency or contractor has carried out all appropriate checks, including DBS checks, is sufficient. Where an organisation has provided a link to their website where they explain their position regarding DBS and employment checks (as Ofsted does)  it is not reasonable or practicable to expect dates or names of those who did the checking; to see an example on the Ofsted website, please visit the Our partners page.

Part-time staff

Part-time staff may use the same DBS check for two or more posts as long as they are at a similar level and the school or college has satisfied itself about their veracity and appropriateness. This might include, for example, a teacher employed part time for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) or supply cover in one school and as a classroom assistant in another.

Police officers and police staff

There seems to be some confusion over the need for DBS checks when serving police officers or police staff work in schools – some local authorities and schools think they are needed while others do not. What is Ofsted’s position on this?

Ofsted is not a legislator. Our inspectors are bound by government safeguarding requirements, but Ofsted does not determine what those requirements are. However, in line with the exemption granted by the previous Government, Ofsted recognises that checks for police officers and police staff are more stringent than those for DBS and that an enhanced DBS disclosure certificate is not required in most circumstances. Police officers and staff who are visiting schools in their professional capacity are only required to produce some form of endorsement of their status and their identity. Their official warrant card or identity card showing the appropriate photographic evidence would be quite sufficient in these circumstances.

However, both the police service and Department for Education have previously made it clear that for activities where an individual employed by the police service is acting as an ordinary volunteer (for example going on a residential trip in a personal capacity as a parent or helper) then they should be treated as any other volunteer for the purposes of determining whether they are eligible for DBS checks or not. The requirements around checks for volunteers have been changed as a result of the passage of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The principal criteria will be the how frequent or intensive their contact is with children, and the level of supervision by staff who have been subject to these checks.

Student work placements

I run a childcare course for students aged 16-18 who have regular work placements in schools and nurseries as part of the course. I apply for DBS checks for all the students at the start of the course; some of the work placement providers allow the students to start their placement before the checks are completed, but others do not. Who is right?

This depends on how the students are working while on placement. As long as the placement provider – for example a school or nursery – can ensure that the students are adequately supervised at all times, it is permissible for them to start their placements pending the completion of the DBS check. However, if the school or nursery cannot provide this level of supervision, they are entitled to ask for the completed DBS check before the placement starts.

The single central record

There is key information about the single central record in Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education. However, please note that as a result of the passage of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, some of the requirements (particularly around volunteers) will be different from September 2012. The Department for Education will be publishing a revised version of this key document and schools and other providers are advised to look out for it on the DfE website.  The requirement to keep a single central record has not changed as a result of the passage of the Protection of Freedoms Act.

Who should be included on the single central record?

Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education makes it clear in paragraphs 4.49 and 4.50 which staff schools and colleges should list on the single central record. Below is a summary of the two paragraphs. Schools, sixth form colleges and further education colleges (but no other education or training providers) must keep and maintain a single central record of recruitment and vetting checks on the following people:

  • All staff who are employed to work at the school or sixth form college, and those staff in further education colleges providing education.
  • All staff who are employed as supply staff to the school or sixth form college or as supply staff providing education to the further education college, whether employed directly by the school, college or local authority or through an agency (checks required in respect of agency staff are described in the 'Is written confirmation required...' FAQ above).
  • Any volunteers that the school or college has recruited to work regularly with children and for whom DBS checks have been requested because they are working unsupervised.
  • People brought into the school or college to provide regular additional teaching or instruction for pupils but who are not staff members; for example, a specialist sports coach or artist.

It does not include peripatetic staff supplied by the local authority who are entered as recommended in the local authority’s single central register. For all visitors not included on the single central register, schools and colleges should require them to sign in. Where unsupervised access to children is likely – for example, visiting local authority staff – schools and colleges should check their proof of identity.

How long must we keep the actual DBS disclosure certificates for when we appoint a new member of staff?

This is not a matter for Ofsted. Inspectors do not need to see DBS certificates during an inspection. However, the DBS publishes a code of practice that states (under Management and Use of Disclosure Information): ‘Registered Bodies must retain disclosure information, its content or any representation of the same in any format for no longer than is necessary and for a maximum of six months following the recruitment decision unless a dispute is raised or, in exceptional circumstances, where DBS agreement is secured.’ 

Should schools and colleges retain documents that are evidence of identity? Previous advice indicated that schools and colleges should destroy this information.

Although the Department for Education does not specify how long these records should be retained, schools are expected to make sensible decisions on how they put in place arrangements to ensure the documents should at least be retained whilst the person is in the school’s employment. The Business Link website provides very useful pointers covering this area, which include advice on retaining records for six years after employment. 

However, please see the following FAQ on evidence of the right to work in the UK and the requirements of the UK Border Agency.

Are there different rules about retaining evidence when it is in support of the right to work in the UK?

Yes, but they are not Ofsted’s rules. The requirements in relation to the right to work in the UK are set by the UK Border Agency.

The UK Border Agency published summary guidance for employers in April 2009 explaining what they have to do to satisfy the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. The UK Border Agency guidance states that employers should keep a copy of every document that the employee uses to support their right to work in the UK. The copies of the documents should be kept securely for the duration of the individual’s employment and for a further two years after their employment has ceased. By doing this, the UK Border Agency will be able to examine an employer’s right to the excuse, if the agency detects anyone working illegally for that employer, that they carried out the required checks.

Do schools and colleges have to include the unique reference numbers for staff appointed before 2007?

There is no required format for the Single Central Record, although there is a suggested layout included in Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education. Schools should include the number of any DBS disclosure certificate obtained at the time of recruitment.

DBS checks only came into being in March 2002 – is there a need to undertake DBS checks for staff employed before March 2002, if they have not changed jobs and there are no concerns?

No, staff recruited before March 2002 and who have continuity of service – that is, no break longer than three months – are not required to have been subject to CRB checks. However, there is a requirement for all these longer-serving staff who work with children and young people to have been checked against List 99*. In general, schools and colleges are required to carry out the checks that were relevant at the time the appointment was made. 

Is there still a need for a three-year rolling programme of DBS checks?

The ‘three year rolling programme’ for all staff is a myth. There has never been a requirement for a rolling programme of three-yearly checks for staff who have unbroken service (that is, no break of three months or more). The only reference to three-year checks in Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education is in appendix 11, where it is recommended for agency staff. Ofsted and the Department for Education have repeatedly pointed out that such routine checks for staff directly employed by a school or college are not required. Ofsted will consider such routine re-checks to be excessive, as they go beyond what the law requires or the Government recommends. They will not be considered evidence of good practice, and may be considered to represent a poor use of resources.

Who can enter the information on the single central record?

This information can be entered by whoever the school/college/organisation identifies as responsible for doing so. In order to verify that they have checked the employee’s or volunteer’s details, each entry must show the name of the person making the check, the position held and the date when the check was completed.

Does the single central record show the date when the DBS or List 99* check was carried out and who carried out check? Is it necessary to also record the date when the DBS disclosure certificate was evidenced at the school?

The single central register should show:

  • the date on which each check was completed, or the relevant certificate obtained
  • who carried out the check, that is the person in the school/organisation with overall responsibility for this.

Whose name should appear as the person who carried out the check?

The name of the individual who was given the responsibility for submitting the application for a DBS disclosure certificate – including making the necessary document checks and, in most cases, dealing with the certificate when it was returned.

How detailed should the record of qualifications be? Do we now have to record the actual qualification held – Certificate in Education and so on? If so, do we have to go back and enter this information for all existing staff members?

It is sufficient for the single central record to record that the teacher holds Qualified Teacher Status and the teacher reference number against staff names where appropriate, with the name and position of the person who checked this.

What physical evidence do teachers need to provide to prove they that they are qualified to teach – for example, do they need to produce their original certificates or diplomas?

This is a matter for the employer to determine, but there are a number of 'proofs' that could provide this assurance. Certainly, original certificates or diplomas are acceptable.

My school is now part of a federation. How does this affect the single central record - should we have one covering the whole federation or stick with our separate ones?

If each school retains its separate Unique Reference Number (URN), then it is a separate identity and should continue to maintain its own single central record. It is up to each Federation to decide how it wants to record those staff who do/may work across several separate URNs but there are ways of doing this, such as the fairly common practice of colour coding the names of teachers from other schools.  However, this is not a matter that Ofsted has a view on.

Normal identity checks should be made of any teachers not already known to a federated school when they arrive on the premises, but no additional recruitment checks are necessary.


Will a school be judged inadequate because of minor administrative errors on its single central register?

No, although schools have had since April 2007 to complete the single central record by carrying out the relevant checks and implement the register in line with the guidance in Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education.

Will a school be judged inadequate if there is a footpath running through a playing field used by pupils?

No, but it is important that the school has carefully assessed and mitigated the potential risks and taught pupils to be aware of them.

Will a school be judged inadequate because its perimeter fence has holes or is too low?

No school has been found to be inadequate solely due to site boundary issues such as holes in the fence. But once again it is important that the school has assessed and mitigated any risks and made sure that pupils are aware of them.

Will a school be judged inadequate because inspectors were offered coffee before their identities were checked?

No and there is no record that this has happened, but it is important that inspectors’ identities are checked in the same way as those of other visitors to the school. Inspectors are required to carry photographic identity badges which should be checked.

If a school has two entrances is this a safeguarding problem for Ofsted?

It is not so much how many entrances there are to a school, but what measures are in place to secure access and minimise risk. It is the measures the school uses to ensure no-one gains unauthorised access that matter. Having more than one entrance may make this more difficult, but it is nothing to do with Ofsted.

Will a school be judged inadequate if it allows parents to drop off and collect nursery children from their classrooms?

No, provided, of course, that school staff are present and know the parents who might collect a child. This arrangement can help to build relationships between schools and families and make a positive contribution to safeguarding.

Should schools require a DBS check on sixth-form students in their own school for the purposes of protecting pupils?

Possibly, but the requirement depends on the nature of the work done. A DBS check is not required for students who, as part of their studies, or for their own personal development:

  • volunteer to work in school, or
  • have a work placement in school.

This could include, for example, mentoring younger children or helping with after-school activities such as drama or sports clubs, or supporting a Duke of Edinburgh Award or Combined Cadet Force. This applies both to their own school and to other schools, such as feeder primary schools. However, if a school pays some of its students to work – for example, as cleaners or lunch-time supervisors – these students become part of the school workforce; they are, therefore, subject to the same workforce regulations as any other school employee. Unless these students are working in school at a time when there are no other children at all on the premises, or are employed in a shift or rota that does not meet the frequent (once a week or more) or intensive (more than 3 times in a 30 day period or overnight) test, then the school should require a check on them.

Is it true that new staff appointed to supervise children in boarding school accommodation can start working as soon as the school has applied for a DBS disclosure certificate? I thought they could not start work until the actual certificate had been received.

The National Minimum Standards for Boarding Schools were revised in September 2011. These standards apply in England to all mainstream boarding schools, for all age groups of pupil up to 18, and as appropriate to any pupils over the age of 18 who live alongside those who are under 18. The standard relevant to DBS checks for new staff now states:

  • 14.1 Schools operate safe recruitment procedures and vet staff in line with the regulatory requirements and having regard to relevant guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
  • 14.2 For all persons over 16 (not on the roll of the school) who after April 2002 began to live on the same premises as boarders but are not employed by the school, there is a DBS check completed at the standard level.
  • 14.3 There is a written agreement between the school and any person over 16 not employed by the school but living in the same premises as boarders (for example, members of staff households). This specifies the terms of their accommodation, guidance on contact with boarders, their responsibilities to supervise their visitors, and notice that accommodation may cease to be provided if there is evidence that they are unsuitable to have regular contact with children. They must be required to notify an unrelated designated senior member of staff if they are charged with, or convicted of, any offence.

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.

We have a situation where we have families living in accommodation situated within the grounds of our school. We have received conflicting advice on whether we need to request a DBS check on family members who are over 16. What is Ofsted’s position on this?

Ofsted’s understanding of the regulations in situations like this is that it will depend on how the family accommodation is used. If this is accommodation that the pupils of the school also use, for example for lessons or as boarding provision, then Standards 14.2 and 14.3 of the National Minimum Standard for boarding schools (2011) apply:

  • 14.2 For all persons over 16 (not on the roll of the school) who after April 2002 began to live on the same premises as boarders but are not employed by the school, there is a DBS check completed at the standard level.
  • 14.3 There is a written agreement between the school and any person over 16 not employed by the school but living in the same premises as boarders (for example, members of staff households). This specifies the terms of their accommodation, guidance on contact with boarders, their responsibilities to supervise their visitors, and notice that accommodation may cease to be provided if there is evidence that they are unsuitable to have regular contact with children. They must be required to notify an unrelated designated senior member of staff if they are charged with, or convicted of, any offence.

[Please note that the department interprets ‘in’ and ‘on’ in these standards to mean the same thing.]

However, if the accommodation referred to is a house situated in the grounds but not part of the school (that is, not used by the pupils and they do not have regular access to it) then it is not part of the school premises. This would apply equally whether the house is used by a member of staff or not as the 1996 Education Act (which covers this situation) excludes from the regulations any house which is a teacher’s dwelling house.


Do governors in sixth form or further education colleges have to be DBS checked before they can start work?

This question has already been covered in an FAQ for learning and skills providers, but is further elaborated here.

There is no requirement for governors in a sixth form or further education college to be DBS checked. As Section 4.58 of Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education makes clear: individuals who are not wholly or mainly engaged in caring for, training, supervising or being solely in charge of under 18-year-olds only require a DBS check should a risk assessment give cause for concern. All others should be asked to sign a declaration confirming their suitability to fulfil the role.

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 further education college employees living in their own home 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 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 who are 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.

*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