A Guide To DBS Checks For School Exchange Host Families
A school exchange is a good way for children and students to enjoy visiting different countries and cultures (or different parts of the UK) and for families to host them in their home. It is enriching for everybody and a valuable experience for many people.
However, as hosting school exchange students involves direct supervision of children, there are safeguarding issues to consider. One of the most important things when it comes to child safeguarding is that the host family gets the necessary DBS Checks carried out.
Back in September 2016, the UK government released some guidance on “Keeping Children Safe in Education”. Part of the guidance covered how to keep children safe during school exchanges.
In this article, we’ll look at the government guidance and what it means for school exchange host families in terms of getting DBS Checks.
What is the DBS Check guidance for host families?
The government guidance suggests that the host family should get Enhanced DBS Checks done to help demonstrate that they are suitable to host school exchange students before anything gets formally arranged.
However, the Department for Education (DfE) says that this is only a suggestion, not a requirement. In other words, schools are not legally required to make sure that host families have a DBS Check, but it is recommended.
If the school has been directly involved in making a plan for a student to stay and live in a host family’s home, then this is considered to be a regulated activity, and usually the family should be subject to a DBS Check. But in this case, the regulated activity takes place in a family home, not a ‘specified place’, so the regulatory rules for DBS checking may not be applicable.
If the arrangements for hosting a student exchange are made privately between families, without any input from the school, then it is not counted as a regulated activity and the families will not need to get a DBS Check by law, although it is recommended in the government guidelines.
What are the school rules surrounding DBS Checks for exchange students?
Schools must decide for themselves whether they should get DBS Checks carried out on host families for school exchange visits. Child safeguarding is very important for schools and colleges, so this needs to be given priority consideration when deciding whether to request DBS Checks or not.
Schools should be aware that host families are eligible for Enhanced DBS Checks, given the nature of the role, but they are not a legal requirement. The school may consider that they have an obligation to protect children that goes beyond what the regulations state is necessary.
The DfE released a statement not so long ago saying, “If schools decide not to carry out these checks, they should satisfy themselves that they are not putting a child at risk and be able to justify the decision if challenged.”
How about overseas student exchanges?
So far, we have only discussed UK-based school exchanges. But what about school exchanges that involve UK students travelling and visiting overseas locations?
In the case of overseas student exchange visits, the school needs to make sure that they get guarantees from the overseas schools that they have done checks to determine the suitability of the host families and that they are safe for the role.
If possible, the UK based school should suggest that the overseas school runs criminal record checks for the relevant country on any members of the host family. Although DBS Checks are only available in the UK, there are equivalent criminal record checks in most countries around the world, especially in Europe.
Schools can also put things in place to make sure that safety precautions are taken to monitor the safety of children when they are on an exchange visit abroad. For instance, they can insist that the students check in with a staff member each day and have a mobile phone with them, so that they can reach out for help if there are problems.
A summary of DBS Checks for host families
DBS Checks for school exchange host families aren’t a legal requirement in the UK.
The UK government, in their guidelines, do suggest that Enhanced DBS Checks should be carried out on UK-based host families to make sure they are safe and suitable for the role.
If you have any questions related to DBS Checks, get in touch with one of our advisors today.