In November 2014, the Department for Education (DfE) published Keeping children safe in education: childcare disqualification requirements – supplementary advice available from gov.uk.
The guidance reminded schools that, as well as their other safeguarding children duties, they must also comply with additional requirements under the Childcare Act 2006 and the Childcare (Disqualification) Regulations 2009. This includes obligations to enforce requirements around childcare disqualification and what is referred to as “disqualification by association.”
Prior to the supplementary advice being published by the DfE, the requirements had been applied to providers such as childminders and childcare centres, but not to schools. However, the disqualification requirements now cover any childcare or education settings featuring children under the age of eight, including schools and early years services.
Disqualification refers to powers under the Childcare Act 2006 for Ofsted to disqualify certain people from working with young children if they have committed one of a number of “specified” offences. “disqualification by association” raises the possibility of staff being disqualified due to offences committed by people who live in the same household as them.
Implementation of the DfE guidance has had a huge impact. It has led to serious concerns, particularly from teachers’ unions, with many teachers, heads and other staff being suspended under the new rules. Teaching unions have called for a rethink and for greater clarity.
Affected staff may apply for a disqualification waiver from Ofsted.
Kathy James, director of education at the National Association of Head Teachers, said:
“It’s probably fair to say that this has not been something that has been known as being relevant to schools. There needs to be a lot more detailed and clear guidance as to what should be happening.”
A DfE spokesperson said:
“These are not new requirements and the law has not changed. The disqualification criteria apply to all staff in schools who work in early years and childcare provision, such as breakfast clubs and after-school care, for children up to the age of 8.
“Schools and governing bodies should use their judgment when deciding which school staff are covered, and we have recently provided further information to help them understand the requirements.”
Further guidance is included in Compliance, investigation and enforcement handbook childminding and childcare, published by Ofsted in December 2013 and available at gov.uk. The DfE state that their supplementary guidance will be incorporated in the main Keeping children safe in educationstatutory document and in the early years statutory framework when they are revised in 2015.
Martin Hodgson discusses this issue further within his Disqualification by association article.
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