From September 2018, schools will no longer have to adhere to ‘disqualification by association’ rules.
Under disqualification by association rules, individuals working with young children are required to apply to Ofsted for a waiver if they live with anyone with convictions or cautions for specified offences.
The aim of such rules is to stop individuals working with children if they may be under the influence of a person who is likely to pose a risk to children, but the rules have been deemed controversial and widely criticised by schools.
Numerous cases have emerged of schools being obliged to suspend teachers who had not committed any wrong pending the outcome of their waiver application. This caused many to raise concerns that the rules were disproportionate, unnecessary and unfair especially as there are already robust safeguarding arrangements in place which protect against risks of abuse to children.
To address schools’ concerns, the Department of Education launched a consultation in May 2016. It considered three options:
- Eliminate disqualification by association for all childcare workers in schools and non-domestic registered settings
- Keep disqualification by association, but create a new right which allows individuals to make representations to Ofsted before disqualification is effective
- Keep disqualification by association, but reduce its scope
Now over two years later, schools will no longer need to determine whether a teacher is disqualified by association and the statutory guidance will be updated on 31st August 2018. However, until September, current rules apply.
What steps should schools take in light of the change?
Under the draft statutory guidance for local authorities, maintained schools, academies, free schools and independent schools should:
- review their policies and safer recruitment procedures
- think about providing training to governors and those individuals with management responsibilities
- not ask their staff any questions to ascertain whether they are living with someone who has any cautions or convictions
- be clear of what is expected of staff, including how their relationships outside the workplace can have consequences on their safeguarding duties
Jane Hallas, Head of Ellis Whittam’s Education team, comments: ‘It is important to realise that schools should still follow the safer recruitment procedure in KCSIE and create a culture whereby staff are encouraged to talk about relationships, which may impact on safeguarding so that appropriate steps can be put in place to deal with any risk. Schools should ensure that appropriate updated training for staff with management responsibilities and governors is provided.’
If you would like to discuss the implications of this change on your school, contact your Employment Law Adviser who can guide you. They can help you review your policies and give you clear advice on how to proceed.