DBS Checks in Further Education

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Many people assume that the “further education” sector refers to Universities, and other institutions which educate people who are past school leaving age. That however is only partly true. There are thousands of young people who leave school after their GCSEs aged 16 and go to college either to do further academic qualifications, or to study a practical course in something like hairdressing or plumbing. According to the strict legal definition, child in terms of a DBS check is anyone under the age of 18. So, all staff who are employed in further education college will need a DBS certificate, not just the teaching staff.


Periodic Checking

The main point of confusion for staff working in further education settings is how often they should repeat a DBS check. The guidance on this is woolly, which has probably led to the confusion. Anyone applying for a new position in a sixth-form college or other establishment which has children under the age of 18 will require a DBS check when they first start work. But after that the guidance simply states that checks should be reviewed “periodically”. There is no ruling about what periodically actually means though.

Further education providers therefore have to make up their own minds about how they are to define “periodically”. This has led to disparity across the sector, with some providers renewing DBS checks on an annual basis, with others leaving as long as five years between checks. Neither of these two extreme approaches is automatically wrong, but it can make things very difficult for staff members who wish to move regularly between providers.


DBS Update

One of the solutions to this issue being promoted by the sector is asking staff to sign up for DBS Update. Update is an add-on service to the standard DBS checking process and involves staff paying an annual subscription. Once subscribed, members have access to an online platform which lets them check their DBS status online, and also allows the police to add any new convictions and cautions automatically. DBS Update isn’t just beneficially for staff who are applying for new jobs in different colleges; it’s also useful in situations where an organisation’s policy is to renew checks on existing staff every year or two. If a member of staff is enrolled in DBS Update, then their check takes a matter of minutes to complete.


Enrolling in DBS Update

There are timing constraints with enrolling in DBS Update, and the easiest way of getting signed up is to tick the relevant box when you apply for your DBS check. You have within fourteen days of the receipt of your certificate to apply to join DBS Update. If it’s been longer than that, the only way to join update is to start the application process again from scratch and apply to join Update at that stage. Having access to Update should make things easier going forward, so it’s worth a bit of extra hassle initially to sign up for the system and get access to your online account.