Safeguarding compliance – has the education recruitment sector been lucky so far?

The education sector spends millions, even billions (if you read some reports) per year on supply teachers and support staff. As this demand for teachers continues to grow, thousands of agency staff, often complete strangers are being sent into UK schools on a daily basis, writes David Boon.

So it would stand to reason that every education recruitment agency across the country is rigorously monitored to confirm compliance checks are being carried out thoroughly, ensuring children are safeguarded and schools Ofsted inspection-ready.

No one body is responsible for governing safeguarding compliance

The reality is that there is no one body that is responsible for governing this: aside from a couple of recruitment membership bodies who provide guidance, agencies are expected to implement and monitor their own compliance procedures based on government guidance documents. And many schools, rightly so in my opinion – trust that an agency has complied with regulations before sending someone in.

There are some ways the government could intervene to regulate this, for example by introducing legislation with clear requirements that agencies are responsible for adhering to, or creating an agency inspection framework or a simple register of government-approved suppliers. But it is clear this is something of a pipedream, for now at least! So, in the meantime, here is some guidance on what questions and warning signs schools should look out for when engaging an agency.

What to look out for when using an agency

Brand new candidate
When an agency says they have just registered a brand new amazing candidate and offers them to you the same/next day – it’s wise to question if all of the compliance checks have been completed.  Though it is possible to get a candidate 100% compliant at short notice, it is not common. Look out for freshly registered candidates that are still undergoing or have not undergone appropriate compliance procedures. Always ask your agency if there will be enough time to get their new candidate ready before the planned start date.

No up-to-date DBS certificate

Mark Orchison-exp-web-800x420px
What does the new government safeguarding guidance mean for schools?

It’s essential that a teacher should have an up-to-date DBS certificate available or evidence of being subscribed on the Update Service. Regardless, all agencies must see an original certificate – so if the supplied candidate cannot provide one on-site you should question whether the agency has seen one before sending them in. Always ask your agency if they have a certificate on file for the candidate.

An incomplete or missing Candidate Compliance Pack

In most cases the school should receive a complete Candidate Compliance Pack for each candidate prior to starting. This will either be sent prior to the start day or the candidate will bring it with them, on their first day.  If you are having to chase for one it would stand to reason that one does not exist or has not been completed yet. Make sure you ask for this in advance to save any embarrassing issues on site.

Agency reluctant to send a candidate’s CV
In order to register with an agency you need a CV – so when an agency is reluctant to share one with you it could be because the candidate does not fit your criteria, isn’t fully qualified or worse! All candidates have their strengths and weaknesses and it’s the agencies job to understand them – if they can’t provide a CV you should wonder whether they match your criteria.

The photo you have been provided is from the candidate’s passport or driver’s licence
Compliance legislation stipulates that candidates have to be met face to face to prove their identity. One way to prove this has taken place is for the agency to take a new photo at their offices at the time of registration. If the agency cannot provide a quality dated photo it is wise to question if they have met this candidate in person.


To bring me back to my original question… has the education recruitment sector been lucky so far? Well – possibly, but we may never know. What we do know is that there are some agencies out there that do take compliance extremely seriously and dedicate entire departments to the process. When using an agency, you should take steps to be assured that your school remains compliant and continues to keep children safe.

David Boon is the Head of Schools Recruitment at Teaching Force, an East Midlands based recruitment agency

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  1. John Cable

    Statutory compliance, including a DBS, is a retrograde step. Children, teachers, parents and schools are complex so administration and checking is also complex. The more complex something is, the more likely it is to fail or be corrupted. Think “Fly by wire,” “Program hacking,” “Rotherham” and “Airport security” which are far simpler than a school.
    The solution is alert, observant caring staff and communication. I have been teaching in countries where “Systems and government nanny rules are absent and teachers fill the role. I have had to get overseas police checks to work here, and I have been amazed at how easily they can be circumvented especially in the UK. Think about government. Would you trust a group of MPs or social workers to look after your children whatever compliance system has been followed?