Schools

Delayed DBS checks leave teachers waiting in the wings

Target to process four in five enhanced checks for education staff missed in August, figures show

Target to process four in five enhanced checks for education staff missed in August, figures show

Delays to DBS criminal record checks have held up the start dates of school staff this term, with some workers waiting months for the all-clear.

The Disclosure and Barring Service aims to complete 80 per cent of enhanced checks – required by all school staff – within 14 days.

Although it met its target for education staff in June and July, figures seen by Schools Week show it missed it this August, despite receiving fewer applications.

The delays are at stage four of the process, which requires police forces to search their records.

Matthew Cave, the headteacher of Four Acres Academy in Bristol, is still waiting for DBS checks for three members of support staff who applied on August 21, more than three weeks ago.

He said he had “never had to push a start date back like we are now. I don’t remember ever having a problem”.

“One of them is our new caretaker … so that’s a real pain. We’re cobbling it together between us. Some of the cleaners have stepped up. I’m doing some of the unlocking and locking.”

Police force reports ‘significant increase’ in applications

Historic data on police performance with DBS checks shows variation between areas. However, the data ceased publication in 2021.

Jon Barr, from the NAHT union’s Bristol branch committee, said colleagues have been contacting him since April reporting “ongoing delays”.

This is despite the Department for Education and Avon and Somerset Police “telling us that the staffing situation was resolved. It’s incredibly frustrating for school leaders.”

Avon and Somerset Police said there had been a “significant increase” in applications since last summer.

This had “a knock-on effect in terms of processing times. For example, last month we received 22 per cent more applications than had been forecast.”

The police said it hoped people would “understand we received an exceptionally high number of applications and this is an important process that must be carried out thoroughly”.

CRB Direct, an agency that helps people apply for checks, said delays in Bristol “appear to have been caused by a larger number of applications from people looking to move jobs or start a career in roles”.

The force said it had recruited six research officers to help manage the workload, resulting in a “significant reduction in the number of checks waiting to be processed”.

Supply teacher ‘unable to work’ amid months-long delay

A supply teacher based in Hertfordshire, who did not give her name, said her DBS, which she applied for at the beginning of July “has been stuck at the police search stage since July 6”.

She taught full-time last year, but her move to supply work required a new check.

“It has been more than 60 days now and has been escalated, meaning they get another 14 days. It’s ridiculous… this is the longest I’ve waited.”

She was “unable to work” without the check, replying this month on her final pay check from her full-time job last year.

“I will struggle from the start of October as I’m a single mum. DBS did not care when I told them this.”

Supply agencies have also reported delays. Athona Education told Schools Week its checks were now taking six weeks on average, compared to one or two in early 2023.

Agency waits 5 months for head’s check

Jeanette Holder, its managing director, said it “had a number of placements at the end of last term where the start date was constantly pushed back, but thankfully our candidates haven’t lost any placements as of yet”.

She said the “worst delay” was five months for a DBS check for a headteacher.

Mike Donnelly, from Premier Teachers, said the system had “only just freed up”, and that “around 10 staff had very delayed ones”.

In June and July this year, 81.3 per cent and 82.2 per cent of enhanced DBS checks for the education sector were completed in two weeks, meeting the organisation’s 80 per cent target.

However, despite far fewer applications, only 76.2 per cent in August were completed within two weeks.

Across the whole of last academic year, 80.7 per cent of enhanced checks for the education sector were completed within 14 days, and the average turnaround time was 9.9 days.

The proportion of enhanced checks for all sectors processed within 14 days fell from 87 per cent in 2020-21 to 78.4 per cent in 2022-23.

A DBS spokesperson said it was “meeting targets” while issuing more than 100,000 enhanced checks a month in the education sector.

Some checks would take longer to complete. “However, it is imperative – in the interests of upholding a robust checking process – that the relevant police forces are able to interrogate their own systems to ensure all relevant information is disclosed.”

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3 Comments

  1. Pam Hardy

    I cannot understand why the DBS cannot operate in a similar way to the driving licence: the keeping of records etc should be very similar and all computerised, with changes, transgressions or whatever recorded in a similar fashion too. Having a valid DBS would be transferrable to a new post without all this extra cost and inefficiency.
    Imagine the insanity of needing to apply for a separate driving licence each time you wished to drive into a new county!!

  2. Who knows

    It’s almost like they’re doing this on purpose tbh. There shouldn’t really be a reason for this hold up and it gets worse when you find out if you live in specific parts of the country you can email your local police and get the checks done quicker. Anyone in the borough of Greenwich has no chance.

  3. It’s almost like they’re doing this on purpose tbh. There shouldn’t really be a reason for this hold up and it gets worse when you find out if you live in specific parts of the country you can email your local police and get the checks done quicker. Anyone in the borough of Greenwich has no chance.