DBS checks for volunteers in schools

DBS checks for volunteers in schools

The Disclosure and Barring Service defines a volunteer is a person who performs an activity which involves spending time, unpaid (except for travel and other approved out-of-pocket expenses), undertaking a role which aims to benefit a school.

Volunteers in schools, for example, in ‘specified places’, who are supervised at a reasonable level do not require a DBS Check.

Volunteers in schools who are unsupervised will require a DBS Check with Barred List Check as they are regarded as being in 'regulated activity'.  

The degree of 'supervision' will determine whether a volunteer is in regulated activity and consequently whether a Barred List Check is required.  Some factors to take into account include:

  • There must be supervision by a person who has an Enhanced DBS Check including a Children’s Barred List Check for regulated activity
  • The supervision must be regular and day to day. This means that supervision is not, for example, concentrated during the first few weeks and is then reduced. It must take place on an ongoing basis.
  • The supervision must be “reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure the protection of children”. This may depend on the individual circumstances of each school. Some considerations might include for example the ages and numbers of the children, whether or not other workers are present, the nature of the person’s work and opportunity of contact, how vulnerable the children are and how many workers would be supervised by each supervising worker.

A school may obtain an enhanced DBS Check (not including barred list), for supervised volunteers who are not engaging in 'regulated activity' but have the opportunity to come into contact with children on a regular basis.. Schools are not legally permitted to request a Barred List Check on a volunteer who, because s/he is regularly supervised, is not in 'regulated activity.'

Volunteers in schools (IE ‘specified places’) who are supervised at a reasonable level do not require a DBS Check as those volunteers are not regarded as being in “regulated activity.” Nevertheless, an Enhanced DBS Check, excluding a Children’s Barred List Check, may be obtained for those volunteers on a discretionary basis.

KCSiE 2023 states that a risk assessment should be undertaken to determine whether an Enhanced DBS Check (excluding a Barred List Check) should be obtained for volunteers not engaged in 'regulated activity' (paragraph 306).

The BC 'Safeguarding in Employment Team' has developed a 'Risk Assessment Template Form' to be completed in these circumstances. Any written risk assessment should be kept in local personnel records.

A school should undertake a risk assessment (please see attached) and use its professional judgement and experience to determine whether a role is eligible for an Enhanced DBS Check when deciding whether to seek a DBS Check for any volunteer not engaging in “regulated activity.”

Where DBS Checks are carried out on volunteers, these should be entered on a school’s Single Central Record.

Please note that the same proof of right to work checks must be carried out on volunteers as on paid employees.  Only those who have the right to work in the UK can volunteer.



Supervised volunteer

Mr Jones, a new volunteer, helps children with reading at a local school for two mornings a week. Mr Jones is generally based in the classroom, in sight of the teacher.  Sometimes Mr Jones takes some of the children to a separate room to listen to them reading, where Mr Jones is supervised by a paid classroom assistant, who is in that room most of the time. The teacher and classroom assistant are in regulated activity.

  • A person in Regulated Activity is supervising therefore, Mr Jones is not in Regulated Activity and the school is not entitled to do a Barred List Check for Mr Jones, and an enhanced DBS Check is not required. An enhanced DBS check without a barred list check can be obtained if the school wishes.

Unsupervised volunteer

Ms O’Connor volunteers at a school on a weekly basis. Every week she takes a group of children into a separate classroom and works closely with the children to produce artwork. Ms O’Connor is left unsupervised with the children for most of the time.

  • Ms O’Connor works frequently and is unsupervised therefore, Ms O’Connor is in Regulated Activity, and an enhanced DBS Check with Barred List check is required.

Volunteer parent helper

Mr Roberts is a voluntary parent helper. A few times a year he helps out on non-residential school trips. Several teachers will also be attending these trips and will be supervising Mr Roberts. Although Mr Roberts is not expected to be unsupervised, it cannot be guaranteed that a child won’t ask Mr Roberts to take him/her, for example, to the toilet.

  • A person in Regulated Activity is supervising and Mr Roberts will not be working with children frequently, intensively or overnight, therefore his role is not Regulated Activity. There is no requirement to obtain an enhanced DBS Check and no entitlement for a Barred List Check. The school should instead look at other safeguarding measures during these school trips (such as supervisory arrangements, an induction explaining the school’s Code of Conduct, toileting arrangements etc).

Volunteer parent helper - residential school trip

Mrs Newsted has offered to help out on her daughter’s school trip which will last three days. At night, the students will be staying at a hotel, and Mrs Newsted will be staying in the same hotel as the students. Although she is not expected to have contact with the students during the night, Mrs Newsted will have access to the students in case of an emergency.

  • Mrs Newsted will have the opportunity to have unsupervised access to the students overnight and as such is in Regulated Activity so an enhanced DBS Check and Barred List check is required.



Volunteer Risk Assessment Template DOCX, 19.5KB

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