We’re all used to “Health and Safety” being used as a catch all for banning everything from climbing ladders to playing with conkers in autumn. Could it be that DBS checking is the next thing which people are latching on to as a reason why people can or cannot do things? This certainly seemed to be the case recently when parents at a school in Kent were told that they were not even allowed to accompany their children into the playground without a DBS check.

Teachers, Staff and DBS

It’s common knowledge that everyone who works in a school, from the Head Teacher to the cleaning staff, have to be thoroughly checked to ensure that there is nothing in their past which might mean that they are a risk to children in their care. This level of checking is essential, but where does it end? What about parents coming into school as volunteers to hear children read, or parents who agree to help out on school trips? Or as in the Kent case, parents who want to take their children to the door of the school in the morning rather than leaving them at the gate?

Frequency and Intensity test

Schools should be employing the “frequency and intensity” test in order to work out whether someone coming into school should be DBS checked or not. The rule of thumb is that anyone in school on average once a week or more should be DBS checked. Therefore, a parent who offers to help out once a term on a school trip doesn’t need a DBS certificate, whereas someone who comes in every week to hear reading practice probably does. In that respect also, schools could argue that a parent who is taking her child into school every day is in school frequently, and therefore needs checking. There is also a lot of misunderstanding around DBS in schools and it is a commonly held belief that anyone who has any contact with children, however infrequent, needs checking. So perhaps it’s understandable that schools are erring on the side of caution.

School Premises

What this row all boils down to is the definition of school grounds. The Head Teacher who wanted to ban parents from the playground defines school grounds as within the perimeter of the playground. Other people might take it to mean inside school buildings only. On the face of it, it seems somewhat excessive to require parents to be DBS checked to walk through a playground, surrounded with other parents and their children, to see their own child safely into school.

If You Don’t Need Checking

Parents helping on trips or on an ad-hoc basis can’t just be left to get on with it though as there are various sensible guidelines as to how they should behave. These include things like pairing up parents wherever possible so that they are working with another adult, reminding them never to put themselves in the position of being alone with a child, and not going into bathrooms with children.