Child protection and safeguarding is the priority for any school. It’s important to make sure that your students and parents can always rely on your school to provide a safe environment 

There are a variety of factors that contribute to effective safeguarding and child protection, but your staff are a constant for your students on a daily basis. Your recruitment process ensures that every staff member has your students’ best interests at heart and will protect them during their time at school.  

In the past, a variety of background checks have been customary before employing a new staff member. However, in the digital age, there are more variables to be assessed than ever before. People are much more public with their thoughts and opinions thanks to the rise of social media, and their public profiles are accessible to both your school and your community of parents. 

One staff member’s profile has the potential to impact both your school’s brand image and the safety and security of your students, especially if it’s publicly available. Today’s school recruitment strategy needs to include a thorough check of candidate social media backgrounds to ensure that your school is making the best recruitment decisions. 

So how do you integrate these new checks into an already extensive and time-consuming recruitment process? And what are your obligations regarding staff social media and child protection? 

What is the KCSIE guidance? 

The KCSIE guidance is provided by the UK government to help schools and colleges better protect their students. Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) is statutory guidance from the Department for Education and is regularly updated in order to best support the schools of today. 

In September 2022, the Department for Education updated their guidance to include assessing social media as part of a school’s recruitment process: 

“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.” 

While many schools had been carrying out similar searches during their due diligence on candidates, this is the first time that specific mention has been made in official guidance documents.  

This update demonstrates the importance that social media now has in the school environment and in each school’s role in the safeguarding of children. As a result, your school now needs to take new steps in checking the background and online presence of each potential staff member. For many schools, this guidance now indicates a need to further check existing staff members, too.  

The importance of social media in school recruitment 

Social media and technology that examines social media profile content can be an invaluable tool during the recruitment process for schools. Ultimately, it’s likely that every potential candidate that your school interviews will have a social media account of some kind. They might even have multiple online social presences, particularly as the age of candidates becomes younger.  

In the majority of cases, this isn’t a problem. Social media accounts are perfectly safe when used appropriately and needn’t necessarily be a great cause for concern for your school. However, it’s critical to confirm this for all potential recruits.  

KCSIE guidance

There are two main reasons to carry out detailed social media checks on your candidates. The first goes without saying. You need to ensure that anyone that interacts with your students is safe to do so. Often people use social media to post their opinions or other details of their life. It’s important to check an individual's background to ensure there’s nothing that indicates a threat to children. Any concerning posts need to be addressed before considering taking an application further. 

In many cases there are fair reasons for one or two concerning posts. As we have had access to social media for many years now, people often forget what they posted in their early use of the technology. However, it remains important to take these background checks seriously and use them as a fair gauge of your potential recruit's mindset where concerns are flagged.  

The second primary reason for carrying out social media checks is to protect your school’s brand image. What is accessible to you online is also accessible to your community of parents and potential applicants. Offensive or inappropriate posts by your staff members, no matter how old, could impact your school’s reputation.  

Parents want to send their children to schools that they feel are safe and have their child’s best interests at heart. Your staff are also representative of your school’s values, so you need to ensure that there’s nothing of concern in your recruits' online history. 

How to check your candidate’s online background 

For many schools, background checking each candidate is a time-consuming but vital task. In the case of social media, many checks are carried out by HR or recruiters manually. Not only is this extremely inefficient, but is likely to result in missed concerns or errors.  

When carrying out these checks, schools typically identify a selection of criteria to look out for when analysing social media presences that best suit their school. These could include specific keywords, profanity or hate speech, as a few examples. Ultimately, the more criteria, the more time-consuming the task becomes. 

So, what really is the best way to tackle these background checks? Technology can make most manual tasks much easier, and the same can be said in this instance.  

KCSIE guidance

The latest software can help you to automate the social screening process. Technologies like Social Media Check enable you to complete candidate screening in a matter of minutes, rather than hours. They also review all the factors that you would expect, including hate speech, profanity, nudity, violent images, and more. You can also set specific keywords that are relevant to your institution.  

Tools like this enable you to quickly and securely carry out online background checks for as many candidates as you need, with each individual’s consent. This enables your HR and recruitment team to focus on what they do best and removes the need for time-consuming manual screens. 

iSAMS and Social Media Check 

iSAMS understands the importance of safeguarding students for our schools. That’s why we have partnered with online screening tool, Social Media Check. They offer a comprehensive screening tool and provide users with a clear report to allow recruiters to make the best decisions.  

Potential candidates must give their consent for checks to be carried out and log in to their accounts themselves, ensuring the tool is compliant with GDPR. The report for each candidate is delivered to your inbox in minutes, and identifies risk based on eight categories: 

  • Extremist groups 
  • Swearing and profanity 
  • Negative sentiment 
  • Hate speech 
  • Violent images 
  • Potential nudity 
  • Toxic language 
  • Individually chosen keywords 

Many candidates find Social Media Check helpful too, as it enables them to identify posts that they may have forgotten about and address them.  

Protect your school’s reputation and improve your safeguarding efforts with Social Media Check and iSAMS. If you’d like to learn more, click below to watch a demo.