International schools can no longer access the DBS…what next for safer recruitment?
“ We ALL have a responsibility to safeguard children. This should be at the core of every recruitment decision made within an international school”
ACRO Criminal Records Office senior manager Thomas Mason explains how international schools can still put safeguarding at the heart of every recruitment decision despite no longer having access to DBS checks.
A state of limbo
In early September 2018, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) announced that they would no longer be accepting DBS checks for international schools where the recruitment decision is not made in England or Wales.
This meant that international schools could no longer access enhanced or even standard DBS checks to assess whether or not applicants were suitable to work with children.
While this may have caused concern for key decision-makers within international schools and the education sector overseas, an alternative product exists, which fills the gap created by the loss of access to the DBS.
The International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC), created in partnership by ACRO Criminal Records Office (ACRO) and the National Crime Agency (NCA), is the solution.
The ICPC is a criminal record check for UK nationals, or anyone who has previously lived in the UK, who is seeking to work with children overseas. It confirms whether or not the applicant has a criminal history and provides details, including relevant conviction and non-conviction data.
An ICPC certificate is produced in two parts:
- Part 1 – details of any convictions, impending prosecutions, cautions, reprimands, warnings and current investigations held on UK databases
- Part 2 – details of any information deemed relevant in the interest of child protection
As such, it enables international schools to make informed risk-based decisions about an individual’s suitability to work with children; whether it is a future employee, a volunteer or existing staff members.
After all, you can’t tell by looking whether an employee or prospective employee has a sexual interest in children.
In using the ICPC as part of pre-employment checks, international schools would be able to make these informed decisions as they would be privy to information that may indicate whether the applicant poses a risk to children.
“After all, you can’t tell by looking whether an employee or prospective employee has a sexual interest in children”
For example, in a recent case, a schoolgirl made a complaint against an individual who was seeking to work with children overseas. The applicant had allegedly touched the schoolgirl inappropriately, without consent, while under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
While no further action was taken against the individual, information relating to the allegations of sexual assault could now be disclosed on any ICPC application. This would be highlighted to schools the applicant was applying to, allowing them to assess their suitability to work with children.
Their safety. Our responsibility.
We ALL have a responsibility to safeguard children. This should be at the core of every recruitment decision made within an international school.
There are countermeasures that international schools can be put in place – such as asking applicants to obtain an ICPC – to protect children against offenders who travel overseas with the sole aim of harming and exploiting them.
That is why last year, ACRO and the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) announced a collaboration to encourage more international schools to access the ICPC as part of their pre-employment / vetting checks.
Although international schools looking to employ UK nationals or those that have previously lived in the UK can no longer access the DBS, there are a few key practices that we would recommend:
- Reviewing school policies around safer recruitment; exploring how the ICPC can be used
- Requesting an ICPC for all new eligible employees and volunteers i.e. UK nationals or those that have previously lived in the UK
- Consider retrospectively vetting existing eligible employees and volunteers
- Examining school policies around the regularity of vetting eligible employees and volunteers i.e. every year, every three years or every five years
We believe that the ultimate aim is to ensure that children and young adults in international schools are protected against individuals seeking to gain employment or voluntary roles for the purposes of harming them.
International schools often abide by British standards of education, as well as following the national curriculum. Without access to DBS checks, key decision-makers within international schools need to extend these high-standards to child protection and safeguarding too.
For more information regarding the International Child Protection Certificate please visit www.acro.police.uk/icpc-organisations
About the author: Thomas Mason is a Senior Manager for the National Disclosure Unit at ACRO Criminal Records Office.