Mandatory DBS checks for governors

Recent legislation has now made it mandatory for all school governors to have Enhanced DBS checks. Matt Miller explains what this means for schools

Author details

Matt Miller is a NLG and chair of governors at Highlands School, London. Matt coaches and mentors chairs of governors and delivers regular governance and WRAP training.

The worlds of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and school governors have now become bonded in statute rather than dutiful observance.

On the whole, schools have been reasonably diligent around ensuring governors have an Enhanced DBS certificate but this has had more to do with local policy and observing good ‘safeguarding’ protocols than weight of law.

That said, academies and free schools have been ahead of the legislative game due to Part 4 of the schedule to The Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2014; Paragraph 20(6)(b) of which requires the chair to ensure that an enhanced DBS check is carried out on all governing body members. As a reward for this, the chair’s DBS is personally signed off by the Secretary of State.

As governors, we must make absolutely sure we don’t overlook the implications of ‘The School Governance (Constitution and Federations) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016’.

This came in to force on 18 March 2016 and makes it mandatory for all governors in maintained schools to have Enhanced DBS checks. All governors appointed after 1 April 2016 must apply for one within 21 days and those governors without a DBS certificate who were appointed before 1 April 2016 have until 1 September 2016 to obtain one.

All governors in whatever kind of school - maintained, independent, academy or free school - must have an Enhanced DBS certificate

This now means that all governors in whatever kind of school - maintained, independent, academy or free school - must have an Enhanced DBS certificate.

In my experience very few governors have baulked at the idea of getting ‘DBS checked’ so it is not really going to change very much. In fact the vast majority of governors will not bat an eyelid other than to acknowledge the sense of ending a system which relied on governors self-disclosing their criminal convictions.

Of course, having a criminal conviction does not in itself automatically disqualify someone from becoming a school governor. There are occasions where individuals may have transgressed in their past lives and are suitable for appointment as a governor.

So long as these offences and/or punishments administered through the courts fall outside of the scope of the disqualifying criteria (set out in the School Governance Constitution Regulations 2012) then, subject to a satisfactory risk assessment, there is no reason why they cannot be appointed.

With safeguarding the ‘golden thread’ of the common inspection framework, governors would be well advised to make doubly sure they have got their house in order with the DBS checks.

It would also be good form to make sure that the single central record has had a recent once over too, so that governors are able to demonstrate that they are vigilant in monitoring compliance with all staff.

One last thing: there is a commonly held misconception that DBS checks need to be updated every three years. While this may be a policy in some schools, it is not mandatory.

Some schools do subscribe to the DBS ‘update service’ which enables applicants to keep their DBS certificates up-to-date online and allows employers to check a certificate online. That makes good sense to me.

Last Updated: 
22 Mar 2016