Safer Recruitment and Child Protection in an International Setting

Safer recruitment is the first vital step in protecting children from harm and is essential for effective safeguarding in any setting. In this blog, we cover the safer recruitment process for international schools as well as specific concerns from the international sector. Continue reading to find out the three stages of safer recruitment, the importance of digital safer recruitment system, and eight practical guidelines that you can embed into the recruitment procedures within your establishment. 

Safer Recruitment – an Entire Organisation Mindset

Child protection is not just the job of the teaching staff at a school or organisation. All members of staff should have received child protection or safeguarding training and understand the organisation’s policies and procedures. Even staff members in non-teaching roles such a catering, groundskeeping, or maintenance roles should be aware of their role in protecting students.

Most of the following advice on safer recruitment comes from the lessons learned from serious case reviews. These reviews show the need for information sharing on a global scale, between organisations and within schools. The advice highlights how schools are in a good position to proactively deter individuals from applying for positions in the first place by having safer recruitment policies and processes in place, requiring proof of identity, criminal records checks, and contacting authorities in other countries they have lived in to ensure there is no criminal history.

You can read more on serious case reviews here.

International Child Protection Concerns?

Below are some key findings from the UK NSPCC research into the prevalence of severe child maltreatment, abuse at home, in school, and the community, from adults and peers:

  • 1 in 5 children in Europe are victims of some form of sexual violence. It is estimated that in 70% to 85% of cases, the abuser is somebody the child knows and trusts.
  • It is estimated that at least 1 in 7 children in the US has experienced child abuse and/or neglect in the past year.
  • In West and Central Africa nearly 1 in 3 teenage girls have been beaten or hit since the age of 15, and one in 10 raped or sexually abused.
  • From 68 studies it was estimated that in Asia 26.6% of children under 18 years have suffered physical abuse, 19.6% emotional abuse, 8.7% sexual abuse, and 26.0% neglect.

Shockingly only 15% of countries worldwide have sex offender registry laws and, in the UK, the minimum time offenders are listed on the registry is only 2 years. These statistics reveal the need for safer recruitment practices worldwide to ensure organisations are doing everything possible to protect children, young people, and vulnerable adults.

3 Stages to Safer Recruitment

  1. Deter- stop unsuitable people applying for a position. Sending out clear messages in job applicants and advertisements and ensuring your proactive culture of safeguarding is clear through your website, should make it clear to anyone prospective employees where you stand on safeguarding and how committed you are to ensuring safer recruitment processes are followed.
  2. Identify and Reject- Unsuitable people lie to get close to children, details given must be checked, cross-referenced and applicants screened. Previous cases show that would be abusers are incredibly determined and can be accomplished liars, so it is important to obtain and scrutinise references. References should be obtained directly from the source and ideally, a phone call should be made to the school to follow up. Pre-prepared written references provided by the applicant should not be relied upon. A minimum of two questions relating specifically to safeguarding should be asked at the interview stage as well.
  3. Prevent and Reject- Follow up with a rigorous induction and probation period to check the right person has been appointed.

The process of keeping children safe is never-ending, you should be promoting a safe culture within your organisation, following rigorous safeguarding policies and procedures, and maintaining awareness through staff training.

The Single Central Record

The SCR is a register that records all the essential recruitment checks that are undertaken before a person being appointed to a role.

These would include checks on the following:

  • The applicant’s identity, the original passport should be seen and verified.
  • Criminal background checks.
  • Prohibition from teaching and other sanctions that may have been imposed.
  • The visa details and/or evidence of the right to work in the country where the school is located.
  • Original copies of professional qualifications.

International schools’ communities can include cleaners, kitchen staff, medical staff, gardeners, security guards, maintenance staff, teaching assistants, bus drivers, and many others, all of which should undergo the safer recruitment process. Both paid employees and volunteers e.g. parent chaperones should be included in the SCR with checks appropriate to their respective roles applied. This requires a wide range of criminal records and background checks from various and numerous sources. Many of these can be complex depending on the country and region.

Best Practice for Safer Recruitment

While the three stages to safer recruitment are extremely important, there is a consensus amongst international education bodies that best practice is wider than just the three stages. Safer recruitment begins when you first start thinking about recruitment and it informs the job adverts that are written at the start of the recruitment process.

Here is an 8-step guide for recruiting staff suggested by the British Schools in the Middle East (BSME).

Step 1 - writing the job advertisement, ensuring you send clear signals about safeguarding to deter those who are not suitable to work with children and young people.

Step 2 - ID checks of applicants, photocopy of license or passport, etc.

Step 3 - CV/Application Form Review. Ensure the same standards are applied throughout the entire process, look for gaps in employment, names, and address, contact authorities, x2/3 references, internet, and social media search. 

Step 4 - The Interview. Include questions on child protection during the interview, allow applicants to expand on their answers, all references should have been received before the interview takes place. If any applicants do have criminal offences from a different country need to be checked.

Step 5 - Offer of employment.

Step 6 - The job offer.

Step 7 - Hired stage. Loading of candidates' details onto information/SCR system.

Step 8 - Upon Arrival in the Country, or before if appointed locally, further verification of identification, including checking original copies of passports and qualifications.

Step 9 - Induction, Observation, and Supervision. Including staff training. Take steps to address any concerns immediately and check to see if they have been met.

If you use an agency for recruitment, ensure they are providing you with the candidates' full employment history with no gaps and all relevant police checks are done.

The Benefits of a Digital Safer Recruitment System

As the safer recruitment process becomes more robust, the dangers increase and individual country’s legislation develops, more and more schools are realising that paper records or excel spreadsheets just are not good enough. Purpose-built digital systems provide peace of mind, help to reduce admin time with streamlined processes, and provide a secure central vault where all elements of the safer recruitment checks can be stored.

A digital system, such as Sentry for Safer Recruitment, enables those responsible for recruitment to easily record all safer recruitment checks and to closely track every step of that process. The system has been designed to guide you through the recruitment process, to monitor the progress of outstanding checks and to ensure compliance with the relevant legislation.

Sentry ensures that your recruitment processes are robust and acts as a critical first line of defence against those individuals who may present significant risks to children and young people. Other benefits of using Sentry as your single central record software include:

  • Step by step guided workflows
  • Saves significant time and makes the safer recruitment process more robust
  • Fully customisable roles and checks enables you to tailor Sentry to your establishment’s needs
  • Expiry dates allow users to see when checks are due for renewal, e.g., DSL or first aid training
  • Provides users with up-to-date advice on relevant guidance and best practice
  • Document vault provides a secure, centralised view of all documents collated for an individual
  • Minimises risk and facilitates joined up safeguarding, whilst helping you to remain compliant with your local and/or Government guidance or legislation

This article was written and submitted by the MyConcern team (One Team Logic), and this topic will feature in the Wellbeing & Inclusion stream at the flagship Outstanding Schools Middle East Conference in October. Click below to find out more...

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