Background checks for private tutors: the current situation
Currently, private tutors are unable to obtain DBS checks as self-employed individuals. As they work in a regulated activity with children, best practice would be for them to register with a tutoring agency or to contact their local authority to obtain a DBS check.
The NSPCC were alerted to a problem after a series of arrests occurred involving paedophiles posing as private tutors for children.
Why is this a problem?
Education charity The Sutton Trust have found that one in four children have received some form of private tutoring across England and Wales.
It is of course a serious criminal offence to seek work with children after having been barred from doing so. Therefore, it’s imperative that the correct safeguarding is in place when applying to work with children and when employing someone to do so.
I’m a private tutor. Can I get a DBS check?
While the vast majority of private tutors are safe, many tutoring websites recommend having some sort of check before working.
The law states that employers are able to enquire after spent convictions of an employee if the employee will be working in a regulated activity with vulnerable groups.
There has been some speculation that the NSPCC’s comments may force tutors to work through agencies that require compulsory background checks for private tutors. If this is not suitable for a tutor, their local council can assist with obtaining the relevant checks.
Many of these agencies have tight restrictions, such as the tutor’s level of education, which may exclude some people from working.
Shiv Raja, managing director of leading law tutoring firm The Law Tutors, told us he fully backed the NSPCC’s views:
“I think that tutors teaching children should undergo DBS checks. Whilst we tutor adults and not children, I hope that agencies specialising in tutoring children ensure that DBS checks are carried out on all tutors. Parents looking for tutors for their children should ask an agency whether DBS checks have been conducted before engaging a tutor.”
A Home Office spokesperson promised the Government would consider the NSPCC’s findings carefully.
They added: “The Disclosure and Barring Service checks play a vital role in helping to keep the public safe.
“Private tutors — like others working or volunteering with children and vulnerable adults — are able to apply for a check through a ‘registered body’ whose staff are qualified to verify a candidate’s eligibility and identity.
“This service is offered by a range of agencies used by tutors to find employment, which assess their suitability and eligibility.”
Both the Home Office and the NSPCC recommend individuals or self-employed applicants to contact Disclosure Scotland for a basic check; this will disclose just the convictions considered unspent under The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. However, an agency or a local authority will be able to request a DBS check on behalf of the applicant.
Tips and advice for parents
The NSPCC advises parents to employ tutors through reputable agencies.
Parents should also take additional steps to check a tutor is suitable, including interviewing prospective tutors, following up references and speaking to previous employers.
They also encourage talking to children and allowing them the opportunity to say if anything is wrong, as well as ensuring they’re never left home alone.
For more information on background checks for private tutors, contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.