References for Support Staff - and lack of......

Hi, can I please ask those in the School community how they deal with those people who are unable to supply 2 references.  We have a number of applicants who have been out of the work place for a number of years bringing up their children.

I have a case currently where an individual is able to provide me with one referee where she worked until 2016 (for about 3 years) but nothing prior to that as she has been out of the workplace for 15 years.

I need to confirm a start date as we are so short-staffed  and have everything else in place but our SR policy dictates that we must have 2 references from previous employers.  Can you please let me know what you do in your own Schools.


  • In reply to David:

    Local police check aka overseas police check, it is illegal to use any other police information other DBS (incl Disclosure Scotalnd) or Overseas Police check for the purposes of an employment check. say someone is 45 and is a British national who have lived in the UK all their life and applying to work in a nursery, but they were convicted at age 20 of serious sexual offences, this would show up in their DBS. If the same situation occurs with an overseas national then if an overseas check was not underatken you would never know what they had done previously. Remember if the offence is serious enough and has a custodial sentence over a set time then the offender can't be considered to be rehabilitated. You need to apply this same level of checking to overseas national which is why we use require them to provide an overseas police check which has been legalised by Hague Apostille.
  • In reply to Kimberly:

    There are two ways to look at this, I have a friend (Brit ex pat) who has worked as a private contractor in southern Iraq before moving on to a big contract as HSE Director at a US navy base in the Middle East for both jobs she needed security clearance, so even if she can't get a police check from Iraq she will have references from her employer and her security check. In the case of refugees it seems harder but the truth is refugees have a complicated set of circumstances and the normal conventions do not apply. Just because someone is a refugee doesn't make them a good person who is down on their luck, in fact people escaping from warzones can come from allsorts of backgrounds and all sides, even war criminals who have comiited some really horrible acts of violence on innocent people, it would be extremely naive to think otherwise. You could use this approach www.sia.homeoffice.gov.uk/.../licensing-sources-unavailable.aspx but at the end of the day, if you are involved with safeguarding there can never ever be any excuse to let your guard down. I don't want my daughter at nursery or school where there is an element of doubt over who is working there. Take a look at the most wanted pages of the National Crime Agency and also any police force and see how many foreign nationals are on the run who have committed serious offences. Capita have produced this useful document about how and where OPC's can be obtained from www.cpni.gov.uk/.../how-to-obtain-an-overseas-criminal-records-check.pdf
  • Hello Sharon

    I am the HR lead in our MAT her and yes our policy is two reference also however, we use the approach that if we can only obtain one personal recommendation and the Enhanced DBS is clear then we take a calculated risk. We also use our school community for verification where possible including facebook and other social media. Hope this helps.
  • In reply to Lynne:

    Thank you all for your advice so far, really helpful.

    Can those of you who do ask for the local police check for individuals who have lived or worked in another country, do your schools pay for the process. One employee I had recently had to travel to London at her own cost and apply for the certificate which was relatively expensive. The role is not highly paid and currently we don't offer any compensation but it is something I am keen to explore further. thanks again
  • In reply to Sharon :

    We ask the successful candidate to produce their overseas check as part of our pre-employment screening process - the view is if they are coming from a vetted industry e.g. education, the check should already have been done. The reason you do not need to re-run it is, if they were abroad 10 years ago, and have not been back since, then there is no "new" record to ask for. We did have an employee where the check was completed a while before coming to the UK, so we had to ask for another check to be done. Also, the need for an overseas check is only known if the candidate declares they have ever lived or worked abroad.

    If they do not have one, we do ask that they obtain one at their cost. The price does vary, the most expensive being USA and Canada as they have to pay for fingerprinting etc. If the perosn is working for us under an RA, we do allow paid time off if they need to attend the Embassy.

    Also, one more thing to bear in mind is the need to have the check translated by an approved translator if not in English for it to be valid.
  • Hi Sharon

    We always make a judgement call /risk assessment too. Our baseline is 2 references, but what we really look for is the source of the reference. For colleagues that have previously worked in the Education sector, we would expect that one of their reference comes from there, even if not one of the last two employers.

    If they were in their last place of employment for a very long time, then the "2nd" reference could reasonably be a character reference (not from a family member etc), and if the last places of employment were for short periods of time, we may ask for more than 2 to cover a reasonable period of time.

    No very comprehensive (sorry), but we are always looking for those things that just don't feel right, and ferreting them out. It is particularly suspicious to us if the last place of employment was Education, and they do not put them as a reference.

    Also, keep an eye out for candidates who have come from education, and put a Head of Department or Line Manager, but not their Principal/Headteacher. More often than not this is innocent, but we always make a point to ask if we can also seek a reference from HR or equivalent in these circumstances, as it is less likely that the HoD/LM will have disciplinary etc information.

    Also, anyone looking for overseas checks. Gov. have a really useful document with contact and process details for each country www.gov.uk/.../criminal-records-checks-for-overseas-applicants
  • In reply to Sharon :

    Hi, I am the recruitment lead in a maintained school. We always try and get 2 references when recruiting but this is not always possible. If the candidate gave a good interview and their DBS is clear we go ahead. Just check with your Head that they are happy with your decision and document it.
  • Hi Sharon
    I think they say what is reasonable, and if you can show you've tried several avenues I would say your 1 reference, a character reference and a full enhanced DBS is sufficient; this is what we do.
  • In reply to Fiona Maclachlan-Morris:

    Could I possibly have the risk assessment template?
  • I live and work in Canada sometimes and have had to get police checks from them when I worked for BT - got it back the same time as my UK one so if commonwealth hopefully not a huge problem?
  • A policy is only that, it is not an unbreakable rule so there can be exceptions. Obviously safeguarding requirements include a DBS check