During my thirteen years in the tutoring industry I have seen an enormous change in the way private tuition is perceived. In the last five to ten years having your child tutored has moved from a dark art to a badge of honour. Granted, my experience is very London-centric, but from what I read this seems to be the case right across the UK – and indeed the rest of the world. Back in the early years of the new century when I founded K & C Tutors there was an element of secrecy and possibly a little embarrassment connected to engaging a tutor. Is your child stupid? Nowadays having a tutor is seen as a strong support mechanism rather than a lifeboat. Because tutoring has become so mainstream many new agencies have been established and inevitably, with the light speed growth of the internet, so have a myriad of websites offering lists of tutors and providing a shop window for individual ‘tutors’ to place themselves in. Be careful when choosing a tutor. Now I’m bound to say this, but using an agency is by far the best way to choose the right tutor as long as correct procedures are in place. Does the agency interview EVERY tutor they offer? Does the agency carry out Enhanced Disclosure background checks through the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS)? Does the agency check tutors’ academic backgrounds and experience? Does the agency understand the ever changing education system in which they exist? At K & C the answer to all these questions is a categorical YES and it has been since day one. However, this misses one crucial point, our years of experience mean that we have insight and empathy – a CV only tells one superficial side of the story. Much depends on personality and match. Only experience gives you this and we have lots of it. Cost is also a critical factor. An industry that is talked of as ‘booming’ will inevitably attract individuals and organisations keen to get their pound of flesh. One very important thing to remember is that within certain geographical areas (for us it is London) the best tutors will be signed on with several agencies but those agencies will charge them out at different rates. At K & C we charge NO REGISTRATION FEE which makes us very unusual and our prices remain lower than all our immediate competitors. And these are competitors with far less experience.
Schools and teachers are not to blame for social immobility, disadvantage and poverty. This is a grass roots social problem, so blame can really only be apportioned in one direction – towards the Government; past, present and future.
There is an implication here that schools and teachers carry a bias. Teachers want to teach and they want ALL their pupils to succeed regardless of their social status. The suggestion that they can and should ‘do more’ for those with less is insulting to the profession.
The government needs to cut the red tape, unify the system and support teachers better instead of always making them the scapegoats for problems which are totally unconnected to the classroom.
We need PROPER vocational skills taught in schools alongside core subjects. Help the less academic gain vocational skills whilst still having the opportunity to study mainstream academic subjects.
THE DBS AND ENHANCED DISCLOSURE CHECKS
At Kensington & Chelsea Tutors Ltd we have been carrying out Enhanced Disclosure criminal background checks through the Criminal Records Bureau for approaching a decade.
Recently the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has merged with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) to form the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
Following the creation of the DBS some of the rules for applying for Enhanced Disclosure checks have changed.
Historically an employer who wished to carry out Disclosures could apply to the CRB to become a Registered Body. Once thoroughly vetted, and after a mountain of paperwork, this status could be achieved. From that day forward the Registered Body was empowered to carry out checks under strict guidelines – this is still the case.
After a form had been completed by both the applicant and the Registered Body it was submitted by post to the CRB. When the relevant checks were completed the CRB issued a copy of the Enhanced Disclosure to both the applicant and the Registered Body – THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE.
NOW ONLY THE APPLICANT receives a copy of the Enhanced Disclosure certificate.
THIS IS ABSOLUTE MADNESS.
The DBS says that Registered Bodies must ask the applicants to bring back their Certificates once completed. This is impractical, wrong and dangerous in so many ways:
- The length of time the application takes to process is random and unknown depending on the applicant.
- Applicants’ prospects of employment are delayed because they are forced to wait for the certificate and then take it back to the Registered Body.
- The onus is on the applicants (NOT THE REGISTERED BODY) to be forthcoming with their certificates.
- The applicant may live a long distance from the Registered Body’s offices.
- The applicant has paid £44 (unless a volunteer) for the check and may be quite rightly unwilling to send it in the post.
- The Registered Body has no guarantee that the certificate is genuine no matter what watermarking etc. the DBS says should be present.
- The Registered Body should not be put in the position of authenticating certificates provided to them by the INDIVIDUAL BEING CHECKED – IF AN INDIVIDUAL ACTIVELY WANTED TO GAIN ACCESS TO CHILDREN (in our agency’s case) ASKING THEM TO PROVIDE THEIR OWN PAPERWORK IS FRAUGHT WITH THE POSSIBLY OF FORGERY AND IS ULTIMATELY ENDANGERING THE PEOPLE THE DBS IS DESIGNED TO PROTECT
The newly formed DBS has also launched an Update Service where theoretically future warnings or convictions etc. are uploaded onto their database and both applicants and Registered Bodies have the ability to log in and check – on paper a very good idea and one which in principle would make multiple applications by an individual a thing of the past. The DBS implies that the Updating Service removes the need for Registered Bodies to receive copies of the certification.
To quote from the DBS’s information:
‘To coincide with the launch of the Update Service the DBS will no longer automatically issue a copy of your DBS Certificate to the Registered Body who countersigned your DBS application form. Employers and recruiting organisations will need to ask you for sight of your DBS Certificate. This is to give you greater control over your information.’
UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS CURRENTLY A HOWLING FLAW IN THIS PROCESS. An applicant’s subscription to the Updating Service is NOT MANDATORY! In fact there are a set of criteria:
- The applicant must pay an ANNUAL fee of £13 for the pleasure of being part of this scheme – an enormous disincentive.
- They need the application form reference number in order to apply before their registration; this is easily forgotten as it was not part of the process previously.
- If they fail to register before their certificate is issued they have 14 days from THE DATE ON THE CERTIFICATE to apply or they will no longer be eligible. They have to be relied upon to do this.
Given these criteria there is ample scope for applicants not to register.
- In many cases the applicants won’t care whether their status is updated or not and so why pay?
- PEOPLE WITH AN INTENTION TO OFFEND WHO MAY HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE IN THE FUTURE WILL CLEARLY NOT APPLY.
- It may be a one-off application because they are applying for a job. The onus to check is on the new employer, the applicant has no personal obligation.
- They may assume that future applications will be paid for on their behalf which is often the case; this is the case in the teaching profession. In which case, why bother? AND WHY PAY?
This is what the DBS says about this new system:
‘These checks are to assist employers in making safer recruitment and licensing decisions.’
Well, let’s look at that. Let’s see where that leaves Kensington and Chelsea Tutors; we do up to 30 or 40 checks a month. IT IS WORTH NOTING HERE THAT ALL WE WANT IS THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN. WE WANT A SAFE EFFICIENT WAY OF VETTING APPLICANTS WHOM WE MIGHT GIVE ACCESS TO CHILDREN.
Here are the scenarios we find ourselves up against:
- An applicant is interviewed and has no previous Disclosure. We will carry out a check and encourage the applicant to subscribe to the Update Service. We will have to rely on the applicant to show us their certificate and to subscribe. We obviously would not consider an application until we have seen a certificate; this process is much more prolonged as we no longer receive certification. IF the applicant subscribes to the Update Service we can log in and check. If the applicant DOES NOT subscribe to the Update Service the Disclosure becomes a one-off as before and neither we nor any other potential employer has access to updated information. At least before we had physical evidence that we had carried out the check, now we just have photocopies or letters and numbers on a piece of paper.
- An applicant is interviewed and has a previous Disclosure but has not subscribed to the Updating Service. The first thing is to establish when the Disclosure took place; this is crucial to its credibility. It is an impossibility for any background check to have any forward moving absolute validity; THE APPLICANT MAY HAVE COMMITTED A CRIME THE DAY AFTER THE DATE ON THE CERTIFICATE but prior to the interview. The Updating Service could have solved this problem notwithstanding the omissions outlined above – IT IS NOT COMPULSORY. Unless a check is very recent we normally insist on a fresh one being carried out. We then run into the same problems outlined above; will they sign up? We can’t force them.
- An applicant is interviewed and has a previous Disclosure and HAS subscribed to the Updating Service. In this case we can view the original document, go online and check for updates and given that we take it as read that the DBS have done their checks correctly everybody is happy. The future problem is if the applicant fails to continue to pay their annual fee then updates are no longer available. They cannot re-subscribe as many more than 14 days will have elapsed from the date on the original Disclosure. In this case we will have to check them again.
TNE SYSTEM IS OVER-COMPLICATED, OPEN TO POTENTIAL FRAUD AND THEREFORE POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS. IT IS ALSO UNHELPFUL TO THE REGISTERED BODIES WHO ARE JUST TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING.
IT WOULD BE SO SIMPLE TO MAKE THIS AN EFFICIENT, SAFER SYSTEM.
- NO PAPER FORMS – THESE CONTAIN VIRTUALLY THE ENTIRE GAMET OF AN INDIVIDUAL’S CRUCIAL PERSONAL DETAILS – THEY CAN GET LOST IN THE POST OR STOLEN. IDENTITY THEFT IS A REAL POSSIBILITY. WE ARE IN A DIGITAL AGE. REGISTERED BODIES SHOULD HAVE A SECURE ENCRYPTED LOG-IN WITH A GADGET SIMILAR TO THOSE USED FOR ON LINE BANKING. FORMS CAN BE FILLED IN ON LINE.
- INDIVIDUALS, UPON THEIR ELECTRONIC FORM REACHING THE DBS, SHOULD BE ISSUED A USER ID.
- ONCE THE CHECKS HAVE BEEN CARRIED OUT AND THE DISCLOSURE ISSUED BOTH THE REGISTERED BODY AND THE APPLICANT SHOULD BE SEPARATELY ALERTED BY EMAIL. THEY CAN THEN LOG IN AND PERUSE THE RESULTS.
- EACH APPLICANT SHOULD BE AUTOMATICALLY PUT ON AN UPDATING SERVICE. IF THERE IS A CHANGE IN STATUS BOTH THE REGISTERED BODY AND THE APPLICANT SHOULD BE AUTOMATICALLY INFORMED BY EMAIL THAT A CHANGE HAS OCCURED. EACH CAN THEN LOG IN AND SEE WHAT THAT CHANGE IS.
- IF A REGISTERED BODY WANTS TO VET AN APPLICANT WHO SAYS HE OR SHE HAS HAD A DISCLOSURE CARRIED OUT ALREADY (WHICH WILL BY DEFINITION BE UP-TO-DATE) THE REGISTERED BODY SHOULD CARRY OUT IDENTITY CHECKS AS IS THE CASE WITH FULL APPLICATIONS AT PRESENT. ONCE SATISFIED AND UPON RECEIPT OF THE APPLICANT’S CERTIFICATE NUMBER FROM THE APPLICANT THE REGISTERED BODY CAN LOG IN AND CHECK THAT THE DETAILS MATCH AND THAT THERE ARE NO UPDATES.
- IN THE CASE OF 5 (ABOVE) THE NEW REGISTERED BODY WILL ALSO RECEIVE UPDATES REGARDING THE APPLICANT DESPITE NOT HAVING ACTUALLY CARRIED OUT THE ORIGINAL DISCLOSURE.
- THERE SHOULD BE NO CHARGE FOR THE UPDATE SERVICE. REALLY THERE SHOULD BE NO CHARGE FOR THE CHECKS THEMSELVES; IT SHOULD BE A PUBLIC SERVICE HELPING TO KEEP CHILDREN AND VULNERABLE ADULTS SAFE. HOWEVER, IN A WORLD OF AUSTERITY MEASURES BOTH APPLICANTS AND REGISTERED BODIES ARE RESIGNED TO THE COST. THIS SHOULD REMAIN AT £44. IN THE FUTURE IMPROVED DIGITAL METHODS WILL REDUCE COSTS.
Research suggests the poorest children are twice as likely to struggle at maths than their classmates.