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Parent volunteers asked for 2 safeguarding references - anyone know why?

(34 Posts)
Wigeon Mon 07-Nov-16 18:50:14

So my DDs schools (2 schools) have now asked every parent volunteer for two safeguarding references (in addition to a DBS check which they'd already required). They say this is because of new Department of Education regulations. However, I can't find any information on the web about this. This guidance document seems to be one of the main things from the DfE but doesn't say anything about references for volunteers.

The form the referee has to fill in asks if they have any concern about the parent volunteer's suitability for working with children, or if there is any record of misconduct or capability that concerns the welfare or safety of children. One school doesn't stipulate who the referees can be. The other school says it should be a professional, e.g. doctor, teacher.

Can anyone link me to where this has come from? I'm surprised I can't find anything at all on the web because presumably it affects thousands of parents who volunteer in schools in England (and Wales?).

LadyPenelope68 Mon 07-Nov-16 19:11:16

That's been normal procedure in the School I'm in for a while to ask for one reference for parent volunteers. Not sure if there's any "official" guidelines, but personally, I don't see any issue with it. If people have nothing to hide them it's not an issue.

Wigeon Mon 07-Nov-16 19:37:32

What kind of reference did you get asked for? I am absolutely going to get the references, but I am really not sure it gives the school any more assurance that I'm not a safeguarding risk if I get DH's colleague (teacher) and a friend (teacher) to sign a form. They have no idea whether I'm a risk to children - they both think I'm a nice person, but then most people who are a risk to children aren't evil looking old men in dirty macs.

Would also just like to know where these new regulations are. If it's from the DfE there must be a whole industry of parents getting these references and someone must have done an impact assessment to weigh up the costs (to parents, and schools) of getting all these thousands of references versus the benefits.

KERALA1 Mon 07-Nov-16 19:40:18

Detest the word "safeguarding" it's the new trendy jargon like "data protection" employed by the clueless to enforce more and more frustrating pointless rules.

user1471521456 Mon 07-Nov-16 19:48:22

They probably mean "safeguarding" in a broader sense. They aren't looking at whether you are a perve with a dirty mac, as you rightly say, references won't help with this. They are more interested in whether you follow rules and guidelines, whether you are reckless about health and safety...things that could potentially put a child in danger.

irvineoneohone Mon 07-Nov-16 19:50:42

I can see it can be difficult for some people to get two professional's references. I have nothing to hide, but being a foreigner, I don't have any professional friends! I can get through my dh, but they don't really know me.
Also if you ask your doctor, don't they normally charge you for that?
Can you get it from your dc's teacher in the same school? If so, not so bad, but otherwise, what should you do if they don't know any professional people? Why DBS isn't enough?

Witchend Mon 07-Nov-16 19:50:58

Asking for references for such a thing is a complete waste of everyone's time. If anyone knows anything the person in question won't ask them.
I'll bet Myra Hindley could have got friends who would have done character references saying she'd be fine even after she'd been convicted.

Wigeon Mon 07-Nov-16 19:55:35

User - the form says

"How long have you known the candidate and in what capacity?"

"Is there any significant record of misconduct or capability particularly that concerns the welfare or safety of children, then please give details here:"

"If you have any concerns about the candidate's suitability for working with children and young people thenlmease give details here:"

"Any further comments"

So it really is focussed on safety, not on whether you are a good obedient volunteer. But I'm just surprised that the DfE would issue a requirement for every parent to get references of this kind, considering they don't have to be from people who have experience of seeing you in contact with children. And would quite like to see something official about this. Is getting my friend to sign my form really going to reduce the risk of my being a danger to children?

sirfredfredgeorge Mon 07-Nov-16 19:56:22

And like all references to an organisation, because they cannot be private, no-one will write anything negative because the person they're writing about can both see the information and have to actually be able to justify it if it's in anyway incorrect.

It's possibly just a hoop to weed out uncommitted people.

Wigeon Mon 07-Nov-16 19:58:36

irvine - agree getting professional references is hard for some. Yes, doctors charge, and frankly if I was a doctor I wouldn't provide this kind of reference because I would have very little idea whether my patients posed a risk to children or not.

I do actually have several professional people I could ask, but I am not sure on what basis they can assert that I'm not a risk to children, other than that I appear a decent sort.

EmmaGellerGreen Mon 07-Nov-16 20:03:09

I've volunteered in school for years and we've all been asked to do this. The literacy coordinator said shed be one and then longstanding volunteers were each other's second one. Ticked thed box but nothing else!

domesticslattern Mon 07-Nov-16 20:09:40

At our school it has the effect of meaning that they use the same three parents for every class trip.
No-one else ever gets a look in as there is never "enough time to run the necessary checks mrs slattern".
I am not sure quite why I am so irked that I never get to spend one of my precious days off accompanying Year 5s round the local nature reserve or whatever. But it certainly means that schools rely on a small and highly used band of volunteers and are disinclined to open it up to others.

Lalsy Mon 07-Nov-16 20:41:21

OP, my son has been asked to provide three references answering those sorts of questions. He is 17 and this is for a part-time paid job connected to his school and on its site (events). He has already done the job for a year and has an enhanced DBS check. The form was clearly aimed at adult staff. So I don't think it is to do with volunteering per se? Between me, my dd and my ds, we have had various checks (dd currently has three enhanced DBS checks I think!) - none of them or the reference-gathering seemed determined by whether the post is voluntary but, I think, what risk you pose whether you have are on your own with children or vulnerable adults, what the setting is, etc etc.

Balletgirlmum Mon 07-Nov-16 20:43:54

I've always had to provide this when applying for my local authority chaperone licence.

admission Mon 07-Nov-16 20:47:46

These references and the questions are what you would normally be getting when you are appointing staff to the school. The questions confirm that it is meant for people who are already in the education field when they are asking "whether there is any significant record of misconduct or capability particularly that concerns the welfare or safety of children, then please give details here:"
So the reality is that the school have decided to apply the same criteria to all their volunteers.
There is definitely no national guidelines that I know of that require this but it would not surprise me if some Local Authority has decided to put it in their local safer recruitment process.

Okkitokkiunga Mon 07-Nov-16 20:55:48

I've not been asked yet. All I've done is DBS and every year sign a form to say that no one in my household has been convicted of a crime. Today I was given a leaflet about safeguarding and that we could go in and chat about it if we had any concerns about spotting it/ reporting procedure. We were all given safeguarding training a few months ago.

Wigeon Mon 07-Nov-16 21:03:04

Yes, they've clearly just copied the recruitment checks for paid staff who will have referees who will have experience of the candidate's work with children. It just seems pretty nonsensical to so the same questions of parents.

That's interesting you think it might be a country policy, not a national one, admission. The letter says "The DfE has released updated regulations that contain guidelines for volunteers in school. These guidelines now state that any volunteer including parents who would like to help out on school now require a DBS check and two safeguarding references... if you have helped in school in the past you will not be able to do so in the future without references".

For the avoidance of doubt, I am very keen that school is a safe place for my and others' DC and support the school in ensuring this is the case. But it's hard to see how this bureaucratic exercise is going to make a jot of difference. And it's hard to challenge this to the school (considering I can't find anything online about these new DfE regulations, and would be interested to read them) without it looking like I have something to hide or am trying to be difficult.

Wigeon Mon 07-Nov-16 21:04:25

Gah - nonsensical to ASK

COUNTY not country

user1471521456 Mon 07-Nov-16 21:36:22

The questions they ask give plenty of scope for referees to talk about volunteers general suitability. Silly, careless or even malicious ignoring of rules and procedures can cause safeguarding issues - things like not believing in allergies, ignoring requests not to post photos on social media.

prh47bridge Tue 08-Nov-16 00:06:11

The relevant guidance is Keeping Children Safe in Education which was updated in September this year. This does NOT require references for volunteers, only for employees.

Having said that, getting references as well as a DBS check is considered good practice when recruiting volunteers to work with children or vulnerable adults. You certainly should not rely on DBS checks as the only form of vetting.

garlicandsapphire Tue 08-Nov-16 00:20:00

There is no difference between staff and volunteers if a child or other vulnerable person is harmed - the liability to the organisation is the same. Its a legal responsibility and an insurance issue.

Hersetta427 Tue 08-Nov-16 09:38:45

My daughter school asked for this for the first time this year. my dh has been a volunteer for 4 years and has been on safeguarding courses and put the deputy head and the head of KS2 as he has worked with both their classes. His application was approved within a week !

irvineoneohone Tue 08-Nov-16 10:45:35

I really don't have problem needing references. But what confuse me is 2 professionals. I asked my dh and he said, someone like doctors, solicitor, etc.
Why can it be your boss at work? Or shop owners? Aren't they professional person?
Up thread someone said they refer each other as long term volunteers.
Are they considered professionals even if they are sahp?
Sure I have acquaintances who are doctors or teachers, but I would hesitate to ask them because they don't really know me properly.
I can see it's a good thing, but it would complicate things for someone like me..... , I am a decent person, just living in the foreign country.

MiaowTheCat Tue 08-Nov-16 15:52:24

I've been asked for the same when volunteering at DD1's school this term - application form on the level that you'd be filling in for an actual teaching job, full work history and two references. I may actually not be able to volunteer there since the reason for doing so is to start to rebuild my work history and references after a career break - the heads I've worked for have retired or died (not my fault!) and I've left it with the volunteer coordinator to see what she can chase up in terms of factual references from supply agencies I've worked with in the past to tick her safeguarding boxes.

Considering I've got QTS, DBS checks out of the eyeballs and am there with time on my hands wanting to help - and even I've looked at the form mountain and got discouraged and considered not even bothering trying - and it's not 100% I can get enough references together to satisfy them, they're going to run very short of parent volunteers in a few years!

Wigeon Tue 08-Nov-16 22:20:13

I think my issue with it is that it's not even asking about my general suitability as a volunteer (time-keeping, ability to follow instructions, other appropriate behaviour etc) but asks two "professional" people whether they have any concern about my ability to work with children. All the professional people I know are frankly my personal friends, who will fill in the bloody form as a favour to me. I can't see how this is providing any kind of assurance to the school that I am not a safeguarding risk to children.

Another parent has asked my DH to fill in her form, because he's in a profession, but frankly he has no real idea whether she poses a risk to children - she seems perfectly nice, we're very happy for our DC to spend time at her house playing with her DC, but to be honest he only knows her as the mum of a friend of our DC. But he's one of the only "professional" people she could think to ask.

The kind of things the schools get parents to volunteer with are: helping at the Christmas /Easter fundraising fair, accompanying children on school trips (with several teachers), helping at a book sale. All of which involve no unsupervised contact with children at all, and in all cases being with a large group of children and other adults. They don't get parents to do individual reading with children, or other close contact with children.

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