DBS checks

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are designed to help employers determine your suitability for appointment. 

What is a DBS check?

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are designed to help employers determine your suitability for appointment. As part of most school and college recruitment processes, you will be asked to apply for an enhanced disclosure certificate from the DBS. Your prospective employer – or a registered body, such as a local authority authorised to do so – will process and countersign the application form.

The DBS disclosure certificate is a paper document which may include information from local police records, such as acquittals or other non-conviction information. If you have been convicted of an offence in the past, this information may appear on the enhanced disclosure. The enhanced DBS disclosure certificate may also indicate you are barred from working with children and/or vulnerable adults.

When will I require a DBS check?

That will depend on your employer’s vetting policy, but DBS checks may be triggered by:

  • a change of employer.
  • a move to a post that brings you into contact with children for the first time.
  • a break in service of three months or more.

A return to work after a period of statutory leave is not a new appointment, nor a break in service and a DBS check is not required. This is the same if you return from a sabbatical during which your employment continued.

Supply agencies can pass the results of DBS checks (but not the certificate itself) between other school supply agencies and between individual schools. If you have been DBS checked, there is no statutory requirement that another DBS check is carried out before you take up employment in a different school, college or even in a different local authority, provided you have continuous service and the check is at the correct level for the new post.

Some employers have a three-year rolling programme of DBS checks. This is not a legal requirement, but may form part of the employer’s safeguarding procedures. The NEU does not take issue with this practice provided that employers and service users (in the case of agency supply staff) meet the cost.

Home Office guidance requires a prospective employer to obtain a certificate from the embassy or police force of the country in which you lived, but only if a DBS check has not provided sufficient information. The NEU takes the view that a blanket policy of seeking certificates from another country would disproportionately disadvantage job applicants born outside the UK and should be avoided.

Educators seeking positions in FE colleges where they will be dealing only with students aged over 18 are not subject to standard or enhanced DBS checks.

Yes. You may use the services of an umbrella body to obtain a certificate. A list of these bodies (some offering their services for free) are available on GOV.UK

Alternatively, you may make a data subject access request to your local police force, which will provide you with up-to-date details of any criminal records in the UK (including non-conviction material) relating to you.

The DBS cannot process standard or enhanced disclosures for self-employed people. If you wish to obtain a DBS certificate, you will need to register with a supply agency or umbrella body.

Parents or carers who engage self-employed home tutors do not have to check on those individuals.

An enhanced disclosure can disclose:

  • details of all convictions, cautions, reprimands, warnings, discharges (conditional and absolute) held on the Police National Computer (PNC).
  • results of checks against the DBS barred lists.
  • · any information (including non-conviction information) held by the local police forces that the chief police officer reasonably believes to be relevant to the application and ought to be disclosed.

The police are not limited to disclosing conviction information only. It is their statutory duty to consider the release of any information they reasonably believe to be relevant and ought to be included on the certificate. 

The police should not disclose any non-conviction information that they do not reasonably believe to be relevant to the purpose for which the certificate was requested.

The DBS has been removing/filtering certain old and minor offences from certificates since May 2013. Convictions obtained more than 11 years ago (if you were 18 or over at the time) will not be disclosed in a criminal record certificate, provided certain conditions are met. For more information go to the DBS filtering guide.

Any cautions, reprimands or warnings issued six years ago or more (if you were aged 18 or over) or issued two years ago or more (if you were under 18) will no longer be disclosed in the criminal record certificate unless they relate to one or more offences contained in the prescribed list.

If you think they wrongly appear on your certificate, you can apply to them removed using the DBS certificate dispute form.

Yes, you can be appointed and start work pending receipt of a satisfactory certificate, provided it is obtained as soon as possible after your appointment and you are closely supervised in the meantime by someone who has been DBS checked.

Yes, you will. Changes in the law ensure that a copy of the certificate will be sent to you for checking before it is disclosed to your prospective employer or registered body, if different.

Statutory guidance from the Home Office also requires the chief police officer to seek your views before disclosing certain information.

Any disclosures made by the police on an enhanced DBS certificate may be referred to an independent monitor if you do not agree that the disclosure should have been made, unless the decision was made before September 2012.

Your prospective employer is entitled to ask you to disclose all relevant convictions and cautions, including spent convictions, if you are seeking work with children and/or vulnerable adults. You are not obliged to disclose any spent convictions, cautions, reprimands or final warnings which would be filtered in line with current DBS guidance. 

The cost of an enhanced disclosure is currently set at £44 – many employers absorb the cost. Others (supply agencies in particular) rely on individuals to pay, a practice the union opposes.

The DBS update service reduces the cost and improves the portability of criminal record certificates. You can subscribe to it for a small annual fee. The service allows you to apply for a criminal record check once and similar further checks can be made reusing your existing certificate, with your organisation checking online to see if it is still up to date.

How much will the update service cost and will I be expected to pay for it?

The service costs £13 per annum. This may be paid either by you or your employer. If your employer has previously met the cost of DBS checks, but subsequently refuses to do so, alert your school/college rep or the NEU AdviceLine.

How do I subscribe to the update service?

You can apply online to join. You will receive a unique ID number, which will enable you to access your account online.

Your employer will receive one of the following results:

  • This DBS certificate did not reveal any information and remains current as no further information has been identified since its issue.
  • This DBS certificate remains current as no further information has been identified since its issue.
  • This DBS certificate is no longer current. Please apply for a new DBS check to get the most up-to-date information.
  • The details entered do not match those held on our system. Please check and try again.

In most cases, it will. Either you or your employer will meet the initial cost of a new DBS certificate to gain access to the system. Once that is paid, you/your employer will be required only to meet the cost of annual subscription unless the status of your certificate changes.

No. Subscription to the service is not mandatory, but employers are likely to encourage you to join because it will assist their safeguarding procedures.

What should I do next?

For further advice contact your NEU workplace rep in the first instance or the NEU AdviceLine in England on 0345 811 8111 or NEU Cymru in Wales on 029 2049 1818

More contact details.

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