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Last updated: 23.08.17

Safer Recruitment Practices in Education

All employers and employees working in an education setting with children and young people have a responsibility to help keep these vulnerable groups of people safe. Part of this important responsibility is in ensuring safe recruitment processes are followed, which ensure that only suitable people are hired. In this article, we’re going to summarise the safer recruitment initiative; explaining why it’s important, that advice you should follow, and outlining the process when hiring candidates to work with children and young people.

Why is It Important?

Normal recruitment processes are designed to test a candidate's ability to perform a job, which includes their previous experience, their skills, and their ability to fit within the team. For many job openings, this is entirely sufficient, but when it comes to working with vulnerable people, of which children and young people are one of the designated groups, these processes don’t do enough to ensure that the candidate is suitable. The government believes that it is too great a risk to vulnerable individuals for suitability to be self-reported, and instead it must be determined by an independent authority. Alongside this, it’s important that additional steps are taken during the recruitment process to ensure that candidates are fit to work with vulnerable groups. Whether this is in a school or other educational environment, and relating to volunteers or full-time employees, it is both mandated and important.

What Legislation is Relevant?

There are several pieces of legislation that underpin the process of safer recruitment, with the primary two being the following:

  • Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 - This act is the main body of legislation behind the initiatives, and set out the legal framework for the Independent Safeguarding Authority. This government body was set up to oversee the Vetting and Barring Scheme, which ensured that employers were making safe decisions when it came to recruiting people that would work with vulnerable groups.
  • Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 - This wide-ranging piece of legislation included a section (Part 5) that deals with safeguarding. It made several amendments to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, but most importantly, began the process which saw the Independent Safeguarding Scheme merge with the Criminal Records Bureau into the Disclosure and Barring Service. This public body is now the main body that helps organisations make safe recruitment decisions.

You can read more about both acts and safer recruitment policy on the Gov.uk website, and both are covered within our Safer Recruitment course.

What is the Process?

In contrast with a typical hiring process, safer recruiting requires a variety of additional steps, and amendments to usual practices. These will be detailed fully during any safer recruitment training that you attend, but the primary steps in the process that you should be aware of include the following:

  • The job description created when the position is opened must always make specific reference to the fact that it involves working with children in young people in an educational setting, and the responsibilities to safeguarding that this involves.
  • When writing the person specification, you must include the fact that there must be a suitability to work with children and young people as part of it.
  • Comprehensive information about the candidate’s identity and general details must be sought throughout the process.
  • References sought from previous employers, or character references, must include specific questions about the candidate’s suitability to work with children and young people.
  • The interview should similarly contain specific questions about the candidate’s suitability to work with children and young people.
  • You must ensure that the candidate goes through the relevant DBS check, and potentially further checks if, for example, they are a foreign national.

What is a DBS Application?

A DBS application is designed to check a candidate’s criminal record. It can be used for a variety of purposes, but is generally used when checking a candidate’s suitability to work with children. It used to be known as a CRB check or CRB application, until the Disclosure and Barring Service was established. An an employer, you can request an application, have the candidate complete it, and then the DBS will return their certificate to the candidate. You must request to see the DBS certificate.

Important: The full extent of safer recruitment practices is expansive, detailed, and in some cases complex. In order to be fully briefed, you should undertake a course that covers all of the relevant legal requirements. Find out how Virtual College can help you or your employees understand how to recruit safely by visiting our Safer Recruitment Course page here.

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