Part three of Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020 (KCSIE) sets out the safer recruitment checks a school should undertake. The KCSIE guidance is there for schools to create a culture of safe recruitment and, as part of that, for schools to adopt recruitment procedures that help deter, reject or identify people who might abuse children.
Unless the safer recruitment check is in KCSIE, the check is not part of the guidance to which a school must have regard or against which they will be inspected.
A recent question has arisen in relation to government guidance and safer recruitment checks required for EEA teachers with effect from 1st January 2021. As we approach key recruitment time for schools, this is likely to be an important and relevant issue.
On the 14th October 2020 the DfE updated its guidance in relation to recruitment of teachers from overseas. The guidance is here.
The guidance had immediate effect although it referred in places to changes after 1 January 2021 (i.e. post Brexit). We raised a query with the DfE as to the applicability and start date of the guidance and in particular in relation to the following heading where the guidance at the time said:
Safeguarding checks for teachers from overseas
Candidates from overseas must undergo the same checks as all other staff in schools, including obtaining an enhanced DBS certificate with barred list information. This still applies even if the candidate has never been to the UK.
When recruiting, schools:
- must follow part 3 of Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) statutory guidance, which sets out the safer recruitment checks schools must conduct.
- must make any further checks they think appropriate so that relevant events that occurred outside of the UK can be considered – the Home Office provides guidance on criminal records checks for overseas applicants.
- can ask candidates for a teaching position to provide proof of their past conduct as a teacher as issued by the professional regulating authority in the country in which the applicant has worked – where available, this can be considered together with information obtained through other pre-appointment checks to help assess suitability.
- should, until 1 January 2021, check for teacher sanctions or restrictions imposed by an EEA professional regulating authority.
We highlighted bullet point 3 above as this would be something ‘new’ which schools may ask for when recruiting teachers from overseas. It is not currently referred to in KCSIE.
It was drafted as a ‘may’ and not a ‘must’ and it suggested that the school may now ask for evidence of good conduct, as deemed appropriate for overseas candidates.
The DfE has since removed the wording from the guidance, confirming it was an error. It is worth noting that the guidance related to all overseas teachers, not just those from the EEA.
The government has since issued/updated further guidance on the recruitment of teachers from EEA countries. It appears to us to be the following three sets of guidance:
The top two sets of guidance do not include the reference to the additional wording mentioned above (it has been removed) but the third set of guidance (Changes to checks for EEA teachers) still includes the wording which appears now in fact to be stronger in its terms. This guidance was last updated on the 4th December and the wording has been changed/strengthened to say the following:
“Teachers will be requested to provide proof of their past conduct as a teacher. This should be a letter of professional standing issued by the professional regulating authority in the country in which they worked. Such evidence can be considered alongside other information obtained through other pre-appointment checks to help assess their suitability.”
The word ‘may’ has become a ‘will’. It is clear it applies to EEA teachers only and not generally to overseas recruitment of teachers.
What should schools do?
As stated in the introduction, unless the safer recruitment check is in KCSIE, the check is not part of the guidance to which a school must have regard or against which they will be inspected. This ability or requirement to ask teachers for proof of past conduct as a teacher is not currently in KCSIE and so it is not an inspection matter.
The wording may indicate an intention at the DfE to add this new check into KCSIE in due course. For this we will need to wait and see. In the meantime, it is likely in light of this latest government guidance that schools adopt this as best practice for recruitment of teachers from the EEA, although not overseas generally. It is worth being mindful that KCSIE requires schools to take proportionate decisions on whether to ask for any checks beyond what is required.