Recruitment can be challenging for any industry. You need to find the right candidate to invest in, for the betterment of the company. It can be difficult to know whether you’ve made the right decision throughout the recruitment process. Often, the first six months, or probationary period, are the best reflection of a candidate's abilities in their role.  

Recruitment in the education sector can carry even more challenges and risks. Safeguarding students is the top priority for any school, as all staff members regularly have contact with vulnerable people and those under 16.  

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The recruitment process will vary for all industries, but there are many common steps that all businesses put in place to ensure that they find the right candidate for their specific vacancy. Those working and hiring in the education sector need to find a tailored recruitment process to follow for all applicants as a best practice.  

This process needs to keep in mind the specific end goal of a school hiring journey. So, just how important is a safer recruitment process for schools? And how do you begin to build a hiring process that prioritises student safety? 

The importance of safe recruitment practices 

Protecting and safeguarding students is a top priority for any school. It’s your responsibility to ensure all children under your care are safe during their school years. Generally, when we think of safeguarding children, we might think of monitoring their behaviour, changes in performance, or big life events. But protecting children requires a pro-active approach.  

Your students interact with a number of your school staff on a daily basis. It’s critical to recognise the importance of maintaining a positive and professional body of staff, from teachers to dining staff or janitorial workers. The consequence of hiring the wrong candidates for your vacancies is a potential risk to children. 

That’s why government guidelines highlight the importance of a consistent and thorough hiring process, and extensive background checks in the education sector. It’s vital that your school meets your region’s safeguarding and child protection guidelines.  

safer recruitment in schools

In the UK, recent updates to the KCSIE (Keeping Children Safe in Education) guidance underline the importance of background checks during the hiring process, and how those safeguards look in the digital age.  

“As part of the shortlisting process, schools and colleges should consider carrying out an online search (including social media) as part of their due diligence on shortlisted candidates.”  - The Department for Education, Sept 2022. 

It’s important to always remain on top of guidelines and legislation for your region. The evolution of technology requires consistent adaptation and modernisation of recruitment practices for schools across the globe. 

Top initiatives for safer recruitment in schools 

While requirements and guidelines for recruitment will vary by region and school type, there are some clear best practices that schools need to adopt during the recruitment process. Standardising the procedure is the best way to ensure that you get accurate and comparable information throughout your recruitment process.  

Clear and communicated hiring procedure 

Before working through the details, it’s important to have a clear recruitment plan that is communicated to both your hiring staff and your candidates. All parties need to know what to expect throughout the application, interview and offer process. This ensures that all staff follow the appropriate procedure for every candidate, while also ensuring that all candidates are aware of the expectations moving forward. 

Ideally, this means that all candidates are prepared for the process and are committed to seeing it through. Primarily, this step ensures that each candidate goes through the same procedures and that staff are clear on their responsibilities from a safeguarding and recruitment perspective. 

From here, there are a few key elements to each stage that are important to note for increased child safety. 

Detailed job advertisement 

The more information that you can provide applicants, the better. You need to be clear on your requirements, desirables, and expectations from your candidates and the potential new member of staff.  

safer recruitment in schools

The job advertisement achieves two things. First, it ensures that applicants can access the information that they need about the role, responsibilities, salary, benefits, etc. This is important for later reference and to ensure there’s no miscommunication before applications are taken further.  

Secondly, ideally a detailed job advertisement deters unqualified, ill-equipped, or unsafe candidates. The clearer your requirements, the more expectations each candidate must be able to meet before consideration. Comprehensive job descriptions demonstrate how willing you are to put in the work for the right candidate.  

It’s also important for your recruitment staff to have a detailed description of your preferred candidate, so that they can narrow down the potential interviewees for maximum hiring efficiency. 

Background checks and self-disclosure 

Needless to say, background checks are a key step in the recruitment process for any role at a school. These are one of the main lines of defence in the effort to safeguard students. In the UK, DBS Checks are a service provided by a public body that allows employers to check the criminal history of a candidate.  

This service is the most commonly used of its kind in the UK, and is implemented in a variety of industries. To work in the education industry, candidates must undergo an Enhanced DBS to confirm their safety to work with children. 

It’s important to confirm and implement the background checks required for teaching staff in your region or country. However, it’s also worth offering candidates the opportunity to self-disclose during the recruitment process, alongside the required screening. This enables you to have an open discussion about any potential issues, prior to the full background report. 

Digital footprint screening 

Online background checks are becoming more commonplace in the recruitment process across industries. Typical criminal record screening isn’t enough for many employers, especially when people are more public with their information online in the digital age.  

Online profile screening is becoming a necessity in the recruitment process for many schools, as it provides a more personal look at the individual and their values. You can understand the specific candidate, rather than their professional or criminal history. This is often more valuable when evaluating a person’s suitability to work with children. 

safer recruitment in schools

Not only that, but it can help to flag any concerns and potential damage to the school’s reputation, before hiring a candidate. This isn’t necessarily about penalising the individual for their actions online (unless these are particularly concerning) but about giving them the opportunity to rectify any issues in their digital footprint. 

Many of the candidates that you will be considering today will have been online since the mid 00’s, and likely have not considered the footprint of their early online presence. Give them an opportunity to rectify any previous problematic posts before committing to a contract, thus protecting your school’s reputation without penalising a candidate that could be really positive for the role.  

Interview best practices 

There are a number of ways to approach an employment interview, as an employer, but it’s important to consider how you can conduct an interview that is fair to all candidates, while prioritising the safeguarding of your students.  

Understanding the individual’s suitability for the role, and their suitability to work with children, is the main goal of any school interview. There are a few key best practices to help you achieve this: 

  • Standardise questions: Ask each interviewee the same questions in order to conduct a fair analysis of each candidate, compared to the others. This will help you to be more efficient in your evaluation, too. 
  • Be specific to the role: The questions that you ask and the tasks that the candidates undertake should all be tailored to the role that they’ve applied for. Avoid asking typical interview questions that don’t really gather evidence of their suitability for this specific role.  
  • Interview panel: Consider using a panel of interviewers, rather than going it alone. This ensures that you’re being fair to each candidate, and they might offer different insights and opinions on your potential new staff member. 
  • Scoring system: For some employers, a simple scoring system works best to evenly evaluate each candidate. You can give a numbered score on each value or suitability for the responsibilities outlined in the job description – whatever works for your process. 

Maximise department efficiency with powerful HR and recruitment software 

A comprehensive, cloud-based HR tool can help you to strip away unnecessary admin and truly optimise the time management of your HR department. Your HR staff need to focus on what really matters – supporting your teachers, and your software needs to support your department with enhanced insights and effortless MIS integration.

iSAMS HR solutions offer a self-service, compliant HR tool that puts teachers in charge of their personal information and admin, freeing up time for the HR team. Automatic and user-friendly data visualisations provide you with an insightful overview of staff demographics, attendance, staffing levels, and more. 

Recruitment is also a key part of an HR professional's job role. It's important that they have the right software to make the process as efficient as possible, while also prioritising child safety.

The Social Media Check tool offers a detailed report on any candidate's digital footprint. The solution is completely GDPR compliant and breaks user social media content down into eight risk categories, removing unconscious bias from the background screening process. 

To learn more about the fully automated online profile checking software, you can watch a demo and find out more here:

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