'Disqualification by association' rules for schools scrapped

Schools will no longer have to follow controversial safeguarding rules which caused teachers to be unnecessarily suspended from work.

From September, so-called “disqualification by association” rules, which require staff working with young children to apply to Ofsted for a waiver if they live with anyone with spent convictions for certain types of crime, will no longer apply to schools.

The change was first mooted in a 2016 consulation following widespread criticism of the rules in schools, but has only just come to fruition more than two years later.

In many cases, primary schools were forced to suspend teachers, support staff and even headteachers who had done nothing wrong themselves but had to wait for waiver decisions.

In one instance, lawyers reported that a head whose husband was previously convicted of domestic violence against her was suspended as a result of the policy.

The requirements, included in the 2006 childcare act, were initially thought not to apply to schools, but guidance issued in October 2014 brought schools within their scope.

Schools Week reported in 2015 that the number of applications for waivers under the rules quadrupled in the space of just one month following the appearance of updated guidance.

But new draft guidance which comes into effect from the end of August explains the rules will no longer apply to schools.

It means schools will no longer have to “establish whether a member of staff providing, or employed to work in, childcare is disqualified by association”. Disqualification by association rules are now “only relevant where childcare is provided in domestic settings”.

From September, schools “should not ask their staff questions about cautions or convictions of someone living or working in their household”.

In response to the change, schools should “review their staffing policies and safer recruitment procedures, and make changes accordingly”.