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Do I Need any Background Checks to Become a Tutor?

Blog > Tutoring > Advice for Tutors > Obtaining a DBS Check for Private Tutoring Jobs

It is not a legal requirement for self-employed private tutors to obtain a DBS check in the UK. However, many tutors working with children or vulnerable people often wish to have one anyway.

As of 17th June 2013, The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) have merged to become the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

A DBS certificate is an official document proving that there is no known reason why an individual may not work with children or vulnerable adults. You must be 16 or over to have a DBS check.

For qualified teachers, it is obviously mandatory to have a background check. Because tutors also often work with children or vulnerable people, they usually like obtain some sort of background check. Some tutoring jobs or agencies require a DBS check of their tutors.

The benefits of having a DBS certificate, as with other certifications or qualifications, include making students, parents and tutors feel safe and secure, and consequently attracting more students to your service.

Which checks are available for private tutors? Some tutoring agencies require DBS checks for tutors working with children. Source: Visualhunt

Am I Eligible to Apply for a DBS Check as a Tutor?

Not everyone can apply for a DBS check. Only employers and licensing bodies can request them.

Tutoring jobs provide attractive jobs for ex teachers, and if you work for a tutoring agency, it is up to them to decide whether you will need a DBS check or not to work for their company. If they do require a DBS check, this can be organised and applied for through the agency.

However, if you are self-employed, you are unable to apply for a DBS certificate yourself. There are therefore a few ways to obtain a DBS check if you are self-employed:

  • Through an organisation that has contracted your services, for example a private tutoring agency that takes on freelance and self-employed tutors. Most tutoring agencies are legally required to have their employees DBS certified if they work with children.
  • Disclosure Scotland is the sister organisation to the Disclosure and Barring Service, and checks all the same databases. You can apply for a basic disclosure through Disclosure Scotland if you live in Scotland, England or Wales. This is the closest option to a DBS check for a self-employed private tutor in the UK.
  • You can also apply for a Subject Access Request from your local police station. For only about £10, the police can provide you with a certificate similar to a DBS, and will give a lot of the same information. To apply or learn more about the process of Subject Access Requests, get in touch with your local police and speak with the Data Protection team.

If you do obtain a DBS check, whether through your agency or an umbrella body, it might be pre-determined which checks you will need. If not, you might have to choose yourself which type of DBS check you wish to have.

An umbrella body is a registered company which can apply for and give access to DBS checks on behalf of your business or organisation.

You can find umbrella bodies to match your requirements and business circumstances on the government website.

How Can I Obtain a DBS Check for Tutor Jobs?

To obtain a DBS check, there are a few simple steps:

  1. The employer must get an application form from DBS or an umbrella body.
  2. This form will be filled out by the applicant and returned to the employer, along with the appropriate documents which provide proof of identity.
  3. The employer will then send off the completed application to DBS or the umbrella body.
  4. DBS will then finally send the official certificate to the applicant. The employer must ask the applicant to see this certificate once it has been obtained. The employer can check the applicant’s DBS certificate online if the applicant has subscribed to the DBS update service.

What Types of Criminal Records Checks Exist?

There are three types of check:

  • Standard (£26), which checks for spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings;
  • Enhanced (£44), which contains the same as that standard check and also includes any additional information held by local police that is considered relevant to the role being applied for;
  • Enhanced with list checks (£44), which is the same as the enhanced check with an additional check of the DBS barred lists.

It generally takes around eight weeks to get a DBS check; the time it takes to process the check depends on the level of the check required, the accuracy of the details provided, and the police forces that need to be involved in the check.

An employer can only apply for a barred list check for specific roles; it is a criminal offence to ask for a check of the barred list for any other roles.

For tutors working with children under 18 outside of a school on a regular basis, an employer can request an enhanced check with a children’s barred list check.

Be sure to mention if you have purchased a DBS check as part of your marketing efforts to find students.

What Documents Are Required for a DBS Check?

There are three different routes to applying for a DBS check, but applicants must try to provide all the necessary documents for Route 1 first.

There are also different groups of documents required for each route. For Route 1, the applicant must provide one document from Group 1, and two documents from Group 2a or 2b. At least one of these documents must show the applicant’s current address.

Group 1 is primary identity documents, such as a passport, driving license, birth certificate. Group 2a is trusted government documents, such as a driving license, birth certificate, marriage certificate or a HM forces ID card, for example. Group 2b is financial and social history documents, such as a mortgage statement, bank statement, credit card statement, P45 or P60, for example.

A DBS certificate applicant must provide original documents, not copies, to prove their identity.

For more information on which documents you must provide and how to build your application, visit the government DBS website.

Also, read more about how to prepare for a Private Tutoring Sessions and how to provide successful, lively classes.

How Long is a DBS Check Valid?

DBS checks have no official expiry dates. All the information included in a DBS check will be accurate at the time of the check being carried out, which means that information can change since a certificate has been obtained. Employers therefore might decide to have new checks performed.

DBS update service is an ongoing service to keep your DBS check up to date. Applicants and employers can use this service to keep their certificates up to date. Employers can also use this service to carry out checks on a potential employee’s certificate.

If you have a certificate from CRB, the former service from the Criminal Records Bureau, then this is still valid under the new Disclosure and Barring Service. You may nonetheless wish to update this to a DBS check, although it is not necessary.

Employers can accept a previously issued DBS certificate, but they must be sure to check the applicant’s identity against the details on the certificate, and they must check that it is the right type and level certificate for the role.

DBS checks have specific security features so that you can verify that they are genuine and valid. They will have a ‘crown seal’ watermark repeated along the right side, ink and paper that changes colour when wet, and a background design with the word ‘disclosure’.

All checks may not always be necasary but they offer credibility and security to parents and students. There are different types of checks available for private tutors. Source: StockSnap

How Can I Obtain a Check for Tutor Jobs from Disclosure Scotland?

If you are self-employed and wish to obtain a background or criminal record check, you can use the services such as Disclosure Scotland and Subject Access Requests as mentioned above.

This can be done directly through the organizations, and you do not need to go through an agency or umbrella body to access these checks.

Disclosure Scotland is a government service from which you can apply for criminal records checks very similar to DBS. Disclosure Scotland has access to the same databases and information as DBS, which is why it is considered DBS’s sister organization.

There are different types of checks that can be provided by Disclosure Scotland, depending on the type of work you’re doing. These include:

  • Basic disclosure
  • Standard disclosure
  • Enhanced disclosure
  • Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme

A basic disclosure is the most common, and can be obtained by anyone. It is the lowest level of disclosure available, including information on any ‘unspent’ convictions that a person might have.

If you are self-employed, you are eligible apply for a basic disclosure from disclosure Scotland. You are unable, however, to apply for any of the other checks.

Standard and enhanced disclosures involve higher level checks, and can only be applied for by an employer. They are aimed at people in roles such as law enforcement, firearms licences or adoption applicants, for example.

An employer might, however, wish to apply for a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme, which is aimed at people who do ‘regulated work’ with children and vulnerable adults.

Regulated work includes teaching, instructing, training or supervising children, unsupervised contact with children, and providing advice or education to children, for example.

A PVG certificate contains all information on unspent and certain spent convictions, and any other information that the police or other government bodies think is relevant. As a tutor, it is unlikely that an employer will require this check of you.

Now you’re up to speed on DBS checks read more about the legalities of giving 1 to 1 tuition, how to report you income as a home-tutor and whether you should obtain insurance for your tutoring business


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Ruth Davies

very helpful, thank you.