What is a DBS check? Does my tutor need a DBS?

what is a DBS check?

A DBS check is really a criminal records check. It is obtained from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).                                                                                                                                  

Simon McQueen

In this article, we explain what a DBS check is and consider the question of tutors and DBS certificates.

This is the third article in our series aimed at helping parents seeking tuition. It follows our blogs providing tips on finding a great tutor and tips for considering tutoring agencies.

What is a DBS check?

A DBS check is really a criminal records check. It is obtained from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). This was previously the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). The DBS issues a DBS certificate to an individual following a criminal records check. It shows certain convictions or cautions. It can also show if the person is unsuitable to work with children or adults, depending on the activity involved

Types of DBS checks

There are three main levels of checks:

  • Basic DBS - shows unspent convictions and cautions.
  • Standard DBS - shows unspent and spent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings held on the Police National Computer and not subject to filtering. Filtering is the process of removing certain less serious offences (as prescribed by legislation).
  • Enhanced DBS - suitable for people working with children or adults in certain circumstances, including education. In addition to a standard check, it may disclose relevant non-conviction information supplied by a Chief Officer. Depending on the activity, an enhanced check may include a check of one or both of the DBS barred lists. These comprise the children’s list and the adult’s list. They contain the names of people barred from working with children or adults in a certain capacity.

Can an individual request a DBS check?

An individual can only request a basic DBS check and can do so for any purpose. An individual cannot request a standard or an enhanced DBS check. Instead, a potential employer will have to request one on an individual’s behalf. 

Can any employer carry out a DBS check or check the barred list?

A potential employer may only request a check allowed by legislation. In order to check one of the barred lists, the person must be carrying on a regulated activity. Regulated activity is work that a barred person must not do as defined by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. Regulated activity includes regular one-to-one tuition. This means a tutor’s enhanced DBS check can include a check of the children’s barred list.

How long should a DBS check take? Can I speed up the process?

Our service provider, uCheck, claims an average of 2 days to complete a DBS check. Our experience to date has been mixed, however. While certain checks have been quick, we have experienced some frustrating delays. This included a recent DBS check that took well over a month. This was clearly frustrating for both ourselves and the tutor prevented from tutoring.

uCheck advises an applicant experiencing hardship due to delays to contact the DBS directly on 03000 200 190. Tutors trying this have been told to wait for 60 days, unfortunately.

Should my tutor have a DBS certificate?

As tutors are working with your children, it is important that any tutor is in possession of a clean enhanced DBS certificate. This should include a check of the children’s barred list. Unfortunately, due to private individuals not being able to carry out these checks directly, many private tutors do not have a DBS certificate. This is the case regardless of whether or not they are listed on a private tutor directory website. 

A parent should carefully assess how well they know a tutor without a DBS certificate. Parents should ensure that a parent or responsible adult is always present in the home during tuition.

What does a DBS certificate look like?

Ryan has provided one of his enhanced DBS certificates as an example of the information it contains. Ryan obtained this for a charity providing services classed as a regulated activity to both adults and children. It therefore includes a check of both barred lists, although your tutor’s DBS certificate need not check the adult’s list.

Enhanced DBS check certificate for tutors
An example of an enhanced DBS certificate (confidential info redacted)

Bright Heart's approach to DBS checks and safeguarding

Bright Heart ensures its tutors have a clean and current enhanced DBS certificate, which includes a check of the children’s barred list. When required, we request these checks for our tutors. Tutors need to register for the DBS update service when they renew their certificates. This permits inspection at any time to ensure there have been no adverse changes. 

A DBS check is not foolproof, unfortunately. It only indicates if someone has been flagged at the time of the check. We don’t therefore simply rely on DBS checks. Further steps we take include:

  • Not allowing tutors to provide tuition unless a parent or legal guardian is present in the home.
  • Personally interviewing tutors, taking at least two third party references and checking qualifications.
  • Providing guidance and training on safeguarding and requiring all tutors to sign up to our Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy.
  • Carefully monitoring tuition to ensure our contractually agreed high standards are met.

Please get in touch to talk to one of our dedicated team to help find the perfect tutor for your child!


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SEN Magazine features Bright Heart Education

Bright Heart Education’s tuition offering has been featured in the Jan / Feb 2019 edition of the SEN Magazine. 

Bright Heart Education

Bright Heart’s tuition offering was featured in the Jan / Feb edition of the SEN Magazine

SEN Magazine features Bright Heart Education

Bright Heart is pleased to have been featured in the “What’s New” section of the Jan/ Feb 2019 issue of the SEN Magazine

This feature highlighted the nurturing approach that Bright Heart brings to the tutoring market. It also explained how Bright Heart provides its tutors with exclusive training through nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs). 

Extract from the "What's New" section of the Jan/Feb 2019 edition of the SEN Magazine (SEN98)

SEN Magazine is the UK’s leading special educational needs magazine. It is published every 2 months. Its readership includes SENCOs, parents, therapists, teachers and other special educational needs practitioners. It covers many topics with respect to special educational needs in the UK, including:

  • All major conditions (such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and Down's syndrome)
  • Mental health
  • Literacy and numeracy
  • Behaviour
  • Teaching children with special educational needs
  • General issues of education, care and government legislation
  • Special schools and mainstream schools

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Should I use a tutoring agency to find a great tutor?

Should I use a tutoring agency?

We consider the benefits of using a tutoring agency to find a great English, Maths, Science or SEN tutor.

Ryan Stevenson

Wondering if you should hire a tutor through an agency? 

We consider what tutoring agencies offer and let you decide.

Should I use a tutoring agency?

This is a follow up to our blog on tips for finding a great tutor. I wanted to address a common question from parents. Is it better to hire a private tutor directly? Or should I use a tutoring agency?

Private tutor or tutoring agency?

Hiring a private tutor yourself can be cheaper. So why should parents consider using a tutoring agency? Before answering this, it is worth providing some background. 

Tutoring is an unregulated industry.  Anyone can therefore become a tutor. This is regardless of qualifications, experience or competence. While a parent may find a great tutor, individual tutors cannot process background checks (DBS checks). While they can do so through a membership body (e.g. the Tutors’ Association), this is expensive. Many private tutors don’t therefore have DBS checks.

Private tutor directory websites

Many private tutors are listed on “private tutor directory websites. Some of these sites have thousands of tutors. Parents can therefore browse many profiles. Sites vary though with the checks (if any) they perform. A quick search of the terms of one popular site indicates: 

  • “You are not required to have a background check to become a Tutor …
  • [We] cannot verify any claim made by Tutors within their profile
  • Unfortunately, we cannot help tutors secure a background check.” 

https://www.brightheart.co.uk/what-is-a-dbs-check/There are some great tutors on these sites. Yet, there are no guarantees that profiles are accurate or any reviews are genuine. These sites also cannot process DBS checks and do not require them. This means you could select a wholly unsuitable tutor.

Types of tutoring agencies

Tutoring agencies, which introduce clients to tutors,  vary notably. They can be grouped by the level of service offered: 

  • Basic agencies
    Match tutors using information from client enquiries. Tutors are screened and interviewed (usually not in person). Degree certificates and references are checked. All tutors should have in place a clean Enhanced DBS check.
  • Premium agencies
    A key difference is that they interview tutors in person. They therefore have a better feel for the best tutor for your child. Further services may include money-back guarantees if you are not happy with the tutor. These agencies may also offer limited training to tutors. They typically ensure clients receive lesson feedback. The bigger agencies cater to many different clients / students. They are thus unable to provide a bespoke service.
  • Bespoke agencies
    Offer a better level of service than premium agencies. This is because they provide a tailored and more personal service. Bright Heart is a bespoke tutoring agency. It offers a free in-person consultation and the first lesson free. It also provides its tutors with focused training (through nasen). This training is based on its specific, tailored student focus. These students include those lacking in motivation / confidence and those with special educational needs (SEN). They also include those not quite 'clicking' in traditional classrooms.
Should I use a tutoring agency?
Premium and bespoke tutoring agencies get to know their trained tutors personally to help provide the best match for students.

Benefits of using a tutoring agency

Hiring a tutor through a tutoring agency generally provides the following benefits:

  • Ensures your child's tutor has been properly vetted.
  • No need for awkward conversations with private tutors about DBS checks.
  • Better chance of finding a well-matched tutor.
  • Should your tutor get sick or go on holiday, the agency can find an alternative at short notice.
  • Tutors are required to meet a minimum agreed standard with the agency.
  • Agencies have contracts to govern the relationship between you and the tutor and insurance cover.

Benefits of using a premium or bespoke tutoring agency

Premium or bespoke tutoring agencies generally provide further benefits, including:

  • Higher quality tutors from personally interviewing tutors.
  • Better tuition from getting to know tutors and clients / students. This is especially so for agencies that provide in-person consultations.
  • Bespoke agencies help meet student's unique learning needs by specifically tailoring training.
  • Prevents wasting money on a poor tutor when free lessons or guarantees are provided.
  • Improved monitoring of your child's progress from regular lesson reports. Agencies can also provide tutors with parent feedback. This helps to further improve the tuition.
  • Bespoke agencies provide a tailored service to help with specific needs. Bright Heart, for example, aims to improve tuition for students with SEN. It is therefore able to recruit experienced SEN tutors with a desire to work with SEN students. Tutors are also provided with specific SEN training.
  • Quality agencies have detailed policies and procedures in place. They also belong to member organisations. They can help resolve any disputes with tutors.

So, should I use a tutoring agency?

A drawback of using an agency is that it typically costs more. Many parents feel this is justified by the  peace of mind a good agency brings. A parent will need to make their own judgement, however. They should consider the specific needs of their child and their personal circumstances in making this important decision. They should also consider the specific benefits a particular agency provides.

At Bright Heart, we are always happy to discuss what is best for parents. We offer a free, no obligation in-person consultation. Please feel free to get in touch with us. We plan to write more on the topic of DBS checks in a future blog.


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