Start dates for some school staff at the start of the school year in September have been delayed due to delays in the DBS criminal record checking system, leaving some employees waiting for months before receiving their certificates. These checks, which were previously known as CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks, look into the criminal record of job applicants to make sure they are of good character and do not have a lengthy police record – something which is obviously of huge importance when teaching children.
Teachers cannot opt out of the police checking system, and the sort of work they are being employed for will determine the level of check to apply for. Local authorities, private schools or academy trusts which employ a lot of staff will provide guidance on how to apply for your CRB check.
The Disclosure and Barring Service, which runs the criminal records checking system in England and Wales, aims to complete 80% of enhanced checks, the most detailed level of checking, which is mandatory for all school staff, within 14 days. While the target was met for education staff in June and July, recent data shows that targets were missed in August, despite a decrease in application volume. Applicants usually find delays happen at stage four of the process, where Police Forces around the country search their records. Figures from the DBS’s own performance statistics show that performance varies between different areas of the country, with Police Services covering large urban areas such as Birmingham and London taking much longer to turn around DBS checks than smaller Services covering rural areas.
Causes of Delays
Avon and Somerset Police stated that the delays in their area were down to a "significant increase" in applications since the summer 2022, leading to processing backlogs. There is also a theory that the pandemic led many people to reconsider their career paths and switch from roles which do not require criminal records checking into roles which do, such as in healthcare or education. Some employment agencies who place teachers and other staff into schools report an increase in average check processing time from one to two weeks in early 2023 to six weeks.
Six weeks’ processing time is just an average, and there are examples of much more serious delays, such as a five-month wait for a headteacher's DBS check. In August 2023, only 76% of criminal records checks were completed within the DBS target time.
Processing Time Advice
The DBS acknowledged the difficulties of processing over 100,000 enhanced checks monthly in the education sector. However, the DBS also emphasised the need for police forces to ensure thorough checks, even if this means delays in the system overall. We can help with advice and guidance on how best to complete your DBS form and maximise your chance of getting your certificate back speedily. Most delays are caused by applicants misunderstanding the requirements of the form or making mistakes when completing it.