Schools suspend staff in child protection confusion

Schools suspend staff in child protection confusion

Hundreds of teachers and support staff have been suspended amid confusion over child protection rules in England’s schools, say unions.

Some 300 school staff who live with someone with a conviction for a violent or sexual crime face disqualification, says public sector union, Unison.

It wants the government to clarify guidance to primary schools introduced late last year.

The government says schools must “use their judgement” in applying the rules.

The regulations were brought in for childminders and day nurseries in 2009 but at the end of last year, the government said they also applied to primary schools.

As a result, staff are being asked to complete disclosure forms and are immediately suspended if a member of their household has committed a disqualifiable offence.


Suspended staff can apply for a waiver from Ofsted, but are barred from their jobs while they wait.

Unison’s head of education Jon Richards told BBC Radio 5 live a growing numbers of cases included teaching assistants and lunchtime supervisors.

“Many members of staff are being suspended for issues completely unrelated to child safety.

“Staff who have been in post for a long time and have demonstrated that they do not pose a risk are being suspended and left in limbo.

“The way that this advice has been rolled out means schools are misapplying it and suspending staff for issues unrelated to the regulations.

“We are also concerned that Ofsted may not have the capacity to deal with all these cases quickly which will be disruptive for both staff and pupils.”

One teaching assistant, who asked not be named, said she had been suspended and faced disqualification because her husband was convicted of grievous bodily harm 20 years ago.

‘It was a stupid mistake as a young person. He paid his debt and it was done. Now I could lose my job of 13 years and my reputation.

“I’m being punished even though I have never committed a crime. I’m a sitting duck. It’s just so unfair.”

Schools have been struggling to work out who is covered by the regulations.

Government advice says they apply to anyone providing education or childcare for under-fives or care, such as after-school clubs, for under-eights.

Many local authorities have interpreted this to include all primary staff.

The National Association of Head Teachers says its helpline has been “flooded” with calls about the issue.

General secretary Russell Hobby wants urgent clarification.

‘We all want children to be safe in school but these regulations are not yet in a workable state. At present they are designed for childcare in the home, not school settings,” said Mr Hobby.

“They will prevent good and trustworthy staff from doing their jobs and wrap schools up in unnecessary red tape, distracting them from real safeguarding issues and the hard work of raising standards.”

‘Complete Scandal’

On condition of anonymity, one headteacher told 5 live of “grave concerns”.

“We are awaiting further advice before we take this to staff but I know of at least two people who would be caught out by it.

“For them the consequences would be personally devastating: they would lose jobs that they do very well; and for the school there would be disruption and upset which is bound to have an impact on the children.

“All of this from a measure which would not make any child one tiny bit safer. It is a complete scandal.”

Education lawyers have suggested applying the rules to primary schools could be challenged under the Human Rights Act.

A Department for Education spokesman said the requirements were not new and the law had not changed.

“Nothing is more important than keeping children safe and schools should ensure this is paramount in everything they do.

“Schools and governing bodies should use their judgement when deciding which school staff are covered and where it is deemed necessary to take action.”

Ofsted confirmed an increase in the number of waiver applications from the regulations and said it was processing them as quickly as possible.

A spokeswoman warned that this could take time, particularly in more serious or complex cases.

“We appreciate the inconvenience this may cause to some staff affected. However, parents and carers would expect us to take all necessary steps to ensure that children are safeguarded.”

The spokeswoman added that no-one had yet lost their job because of the regulations.

Source: BBC News

DBS Amend Definition of Home Based Position

The DBS this week announced a change in the DBS application form, effective from 27th April 2015, which extends the circumstances in which employers and registered bodies can apply for Enhanced DBS Checks on an individual.

Question X66: Does this position involve working with children or adults at the applicant’s home address? has been the subject of some difficulty for applicants in the past, therefore the DBS has sought to provide better guidance on what is meant by Home Based Position (HBP), and who employers can request a HBP Enhanced check on behalf of.

What is the change?

The updated Operational description, effective only after the above date, defines HBP as:

“A role where;

  • the applicant carries out some or all of his or her work with children or adults from the place where the applicant lives or
  • the applicant lives in the household of someone who is or has been checked because they carry out some or all of their work with children from the place where they live.”

This applies to applicants who provide care, teaching, instruction or service to children or adults from their own home, and only where the child or adult is present in the applicant’s home – therefore not including online or telephone services, nor work that is carried out in the home of the child or adult receiving the service.

It also includes applicants who live in the same household as someone who works with children at their home address, though they may not directly work with the children.  However, there has to be sufficient evidence that the applicant may at some time have direct contact with the children in question and therefore could pose a risk to them.  There currently is no similar legislation for applicants living with someone who provides care to adults from the shared household.  The amendment also applies to the question regarding e-bulk applications.

Who is affected?

Individuals living in the same household as foster carer applicants, such as grown-up children and lodgers, are eligible for a home based check by Local Authorities considering foster applications.

Church members who carry out duties that involve children or vulnerable adults within their own home are eligible for a HBP Enhanced check by the church, where evidence can be provided.

Live-in Nannies and Au Pairs also meet the criteria of a HBP check.

Positions are not considered home-based if the work is being carried out at the home of the individual receiving the care or service.

How does this affect your current DBS certificate and Update Service?

The Update Service will only search for new information on the subscriber, it will not retrieve information in relation to the home address of the certificate-holder, nor any other adults who live there.  You must discuss this with the person requesting a certificate for you, to determine if they require a home-based check on other tenants within your household.

If your current certificate is not home-based and you are taking on a home-based role, you will likely be asked to complete a new application form.