Overseas checks on staff

Posted on October 19th, 2022

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is the public agency for processing requests for criminal records checks for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, the DBS cannot access criminal records held overseas. In addition, since the UK’s exit from the EU, teacher status checks from the EEA are no longer available from the Teacher Services portal. Therefore, employers should ensure they have access to all the information available to them to make a safer recruitment decision.

Keeping children safe in education

The statutory DfE guidance ‘Keeping children safe in education’ states that:

280. Individuals who have lived or worked outside the UK must undergo the same checks as all other staff in schools or colleges (set out in paragraphs 232). This includes obtaining (via the applicant) an enhanced DBS certificate (including children’s barred list information, for those who will be engaging in regulated activity) even if the individual has never been to the UK. In addition, schools and colleges must make any further checks they think appropriate so that any relevant events that occurred outside the UK can be considered. Following the UK’s exit from the EU, schools and colleges should apply the same approach for any individuals who have lived or worked outside the UK regardless of whether or not it was in an EEA country or the rest of the world.

What schools should do

Employers need to obtain proof of an individual’s past conduct as a teacher, in addition to a criminal record check from the country (or countries) a teacher has lived or worked in.

For teachers who have worked or trained overseas, schools should request a Letter of Professional Standing from the professional regulating authority in the relevant country.

Schools should ensure that further appropriate pre-employment checks are carried out on individuals who have lived or worked outside of the UK, in order to sufficiently establish the person’s suitability to be appointed.

Resident overseas for three months or more

The NSPCC recommends that someone who has been resident overseas for three months or more over the past five years should have a criminal record check in that country. Therefore, it is advised that schools carry out an overseas criminal records check on all staff, volunteers and governors who, during the preceding five years from their anticipated start date, have lived, worked, or been on holiday outside of the UK for three months or more continuously, in any one country.

In addition, schools should consider what overseas checks should be carried out retrospectively on existing members of staff, if those checks were not carried out when the employee was first appointed. In some circumstances, schools are also advised to consider whether it would be appropriate to check the preceding 10 years for individuals, for instance if the school is a special needs school.

Where the preceding five years cover a period of time before the individual’s 16th birthday, a check does not need to be sought for that particular time period.

How to obtain an overseas criminal records check

This should be obtained from the relevant country. Advice published by the Home Office on how to obtain an overseas criminal record check can be accessed here.

Who pays?

It is the responsibility of the applicant to:

  • Obtain and pay for the official statement from the police or judicial authorities, government departments or their Home Embassy in the relevant country or countries.
  • Provide a translation of the documentation, if required, and pay for any costs incurred in relation to the translations.

Certificates and other original documents obtained remain the property of the individual, but should be copied by the school and retained on the individual’s personnel file. Details of an overseas check should also be entered on the school’s Single Central Record.

No longer than six months

The process is easier if the individual applies for documents themselves before leaving the country. If the applicant presents documents to the school, they should have been issued no longer than six months before the date the applicant left the country. The school should check authenticity of all documents by contacting the issuing agency. The UK national agency for international qualifications and skills (UK ENIC) can advise on how to check international qualifications and skills.

The case of William Vahey (2016)

Although the Serious Case Review into Southbank International School dates back to 2016, it is a reminder to schools how important it is to always carry out the necessary safeguarding checks. The case can be found here.

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