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School and nursery staff no longer have to disclose association with sex offenders

October 2018

The disqualification by association rules no longer apply to those working in schools and nurseries.

However, it is likely that new statutory guidance will encourage school employers to set out more clearly expectations about staff relationships outside school.

Under the disqualification by association rules, someone working with children in the early years age range (i.e. birth to 5) or in childcare provided by a school outside of school hours for children under 8, and who lived in a household where a disqualified person lived or was employed, had a statutory duty to disclose this to their employer.

Concerns were raised with the Department for Education that this was a disproportionate measure when weighed against the potential risks to children and that it led to significant unfairness for school and nursery staff working with young children.

The Government began its consultation on changes to the disqualification regime in May 2016. Out of 440 respondents, 78% viewed the disqualification by association rules as unfair and 58% stated a preference for the abolition of the duty to disclose. Those working in schools, academies and nurseries made up the majority of respondents.

On 31 August this year, the Government brought in the amending legislation which removes disqualification by association in schools and registered non-domestic childcare settings. The change also applies to headteachers of schools and the registered person in non-domestic childcare settings. The rules continue to apply to registered childcare provided on domestic premises.

Chris Billington, head of the education team at Wrigleys comments: "The removal of this statutory duty to disclose an association with a disqualified person may bring relief to many school staff and employers. However, the duty to safeguard children includes taking a broad view of risks to children within and without the school. Schools should be aware that, in order to ensure that children continue to be safeguarded, the Government intends to amend statutory safeguarding guidance to encourage schools to have in place policies which make clear the expectations they place on staff, including where their relationships and associations outside the workplace may have implications for the safeguarding of children."

The response to the consultation is available here.

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