Disqualification by association: what it means for schools
1. ‘Disqualification by association’ what does this mean?
Disqualification by association is the shorthand for a requirement on schools to ensure that relevant staff and volunteers are not disqualified from engaging in childcare for early years or later years children. As the definition is very broad, it includes teaching early years children and the supervision of children under eight years old at before or after school clubs.
The ‘association’ bit refers to the fact that if your staff live with someone who is disqualified, they too are disqualified as a result of their association with that disqualified person. As you can become disqualified simply by committing certain offences, most people do not know they are disqualified.
2. How do I know if this impacts me?
It is a legal requirement for schools to ensure that disqualified staff do not engage in childcare. The original advice was for schools to ask staff to complete a declaration, but that was removed from the February 2015 guidance. Now schools simply need to make staff aware of the requirements and provide an opportunity for staff to come to them if they think they are disqualified.
In practice, this is likely to require a staff briefing, an addition to the single central record, amendment to the safeguarding policy, a tweak to the way schools work with agency staff and a good deal of support to staff who believe they may be disqualified.
3. What could be the consequences if I fail to comply or if people are disqualified?
Failing to comply is not an option, given that it is a criminal offence to knowingly let a disqualified person engage in childcare. Ensuring your school meets the requirements of the guidance is crucial.
If staff are disqualified, schools have to notify Ofsted within 14 days and immediately remove the staff member from the childcare role. This could mean redeployment to a different role, suspension or paid leave.
The staff member can apply to Ofsted for the disqualification to be waived. Until such time as the waiver application is decided, the staff member remains disqualified.
Given the numerous offences and actions that lead to disqualification and the far from simple application of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, schools need to ensure they understand this requirement and do what the guidance requires of them.