Vetting red tape could force up private school fees, warns headteacher

3rd March 2016 at 15:53
vetting checks costing too much
There should be a common system which schools can use to carry out background checks, says chair of the Society of Heads

The cost of performing an "ever-growing" number of background checks on staff could force independent schools to increase their fees, a boarding school headteacher has said.

Schools were having to appoint administrative staff dedicated to making “safer recruitment” checks on new teachers, said Dominic Findlay, headmaster of the £9,300-a-term Langley School in Norfolk.

He said that it was time for the authorities to provide a more joined-up system where more information was accessible in one location and through a single procedure.

Mr Findlay, chairman of the Society of Heads, which represents 100 independent schools, spoke out as a new ruling from the European Union was brought in requiring schools to check if their staff have been banned from teaching in another European country.

Including CV checks and references, schools should carry out eight separate background checks on new staff, the government's Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance says.

Alongside standard disclosure and barring (DBS) checks, schools must also check individuals' identity, right to work in the UK, mental and physical fitness and whether they have any convictions abroad.

Records for all teachers must also be kept meticulously up to date.

'A common-sense approach'

Mr Findlay told TES, prior to his speech at the Society of Heads' annual conference in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, earlier this week: “We have a compliance officer working on this alongside his other work and an HR person dedicated full-time to this issue.

“If every school is having to do this there will be an impact on fees at a time when we are desperately trying to keep the staffing bill down.”

He said it would make sense for schools to be able to carry out the majority of the checks on a common system, so schools weren’t left making multiple applications for information and chasing up the results.

“Being on the ground, a common-sense approach is all I am asking for,” he said.

Mr Findlay’s comments come just months after another figure in independent education complained that the “sheer volume of regulatory change” was now “untenable” for both private and state schools.

Alun Jones, president of the Girls’ Schools Association, told his organisation’s annual conference in November: “The impact on workloads has been massive and the increased stress amongst staff is worrying".

Private schools are currently battling to keep fee rises low, after being criticised for letting fees spiral beyond the reach of ordinary middle-class families.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Nothing is more important than keeping children safe and we are clear that only the very best care is good enough.

"This is why we are strengthening statutory guidance for all school staff to make clear that keeping children safe is the responsibility of everyone, and to clarify recruitment procedures and training requirements for staff. Schools are responsible for appointing school staff, and we trust them to recruit with the safety of their pupils in mind.”

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