International Schools Told to Stop doing DBS Checks

Recent announcements by the British government aim to ban DBS checking for international schools. There are around 500 British International schools across the globe, educating pupils on a UK curriculum. Most schools have a mix of ex-pat and local children. Lots of the teachers working in International Schools are British, and this may be the source of the problem.

What is an International School?

In simple terms, a British international school provides a British education, overseas. They have traditionally grown up in areas where lots of British people have moved to work. Parents choose an international school because they want their kids to be taught in English, and study for the same exams they’d sit at home. Local parents also choose to send their children to a British international school to improve their English. These schools are usually private, and cost depends on location and facilties. There are also American, French or Japanese international schools in places like London or the Middle East.

Most teachers in international schools have experience working in UK schools. International schools tempt British teachers overseas with higher salaries or perks like free accommodation and air fares.

DBS Checking and International Schools

Most British International schools are part of an umbrella body called COBIS. COBIS is in charge of processing DBS checks for all staff, not just teachers. Parents who are from the UK are familiar with the idea DBS checking, designed to weed out people who aren’t suitable for working in schools with children. The Disclosure and Barring Service has recently said that it will no longer process checks for COBIS, but why?

Well, it all boils down to arguments about geography. COBIS is based in central London and represents schools across the world. The government argues that it’s illegal for COBIS to ask for DBS checks on people applying to International Schools as they are not working in England or Wales.

Alternatives to DBS Checking

There are a few problems for international schools when it comes to DBS checking or similar. If they can’t use the UK DBS system any more, then the obvious alternative is to use whatever system is in place locally. Most countries have some sort of checking for people wanting to work with children or vulnerable adults. However, if a teacher has only recently arrived from the UK, the checks will be blank as they have no history locally. So any checking in those circumstances is fairly pointless.

Teachers could also apply for a Basic Disclosure themselves. This would flag up serious crimes which are not considered as spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, but isn’t as detailed as an enhanced enclosure.

Finally, schools could ask teachers to apply for an International Child Protection Certificate through a separate body called ACRO. This certificate isn’t as well known as the DBS system however, and could cause some confusion among parents and other members of staff. The one thing which schools can’t do is ignore the issue – if International Schools want British standards of education, that has to extend to child protection and safeguarding too.