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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