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Category: DBA

Unlock comment: Government announces scrapping of ‘disqualification by association’ in schools

Commenting on today’s news of changes to the childcare disqualification arrangements, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said:

“Today’s announcement to scrap the ‘disqualification by association’ rule from schools is long overdue but very welcomed. We’ve been calling for it to be scrapped for nearly 4 years because it did nothing to contribute towards safeguarding in schools. The arrangements were disproportionate, unfair and ineffective.


Yet the fallout should not be underestimated – we know significant numbers of people have been unnecessarily suspended and some have lost their jobs as a result. Only two weeks ago we featured the story of Donna, whose conviction meant her children lost their jobs in schools. These changes will make a huge difference to the families and loved ones of people with convictions.”

In draft guidance published by the Department of Education, it states that “schools should not ask their staff questions about cautions or convictions of someone living or working in their household.” In response to the change, schools should “review their staffing policies and safer recruitment procedures, and make changes accordingly”.

The changes will come into force on the 31st August 2018. The ‘disqualification by association’ element will be removed from schools and other non-domestic settings; it will remain in place for roles such as home-based childminding. We will be updating our practical guidance for individuals and supporting schools to ensure that they properly implement the changes.


  1. Read our submission to the government consultation in 2016
  2. More information about our policy work on ‘disqualification by association’, including case studies of people affected.
  3. 78% of respondents to the government’s consultation felt that the current ‘disqualification by association’ arrangements were unfair and disproportionate to the risk to children. Read the government’s consultation response.

Help us to scrap ‘disqualification by association’: The government are consulting on changes to the childcare disqualification arrangements

Ever since ‘disqualification by association’ (DbA) hit the headlines about 18 months ago, we have been working to try and scrap the regulations that have had a significant and unnecessary impact on the partners of those with a criminal record.

Earlier this month, the Department for Education (DfE) published a consultation with proposals for change. The deadline for responses to the consultation is 1st July 2016.

Find out more about the consultation, details of what we’re doing and how you can help on our information site.

Press Release: New guidance for primary schools welcomed, but regulations still need to be scrapped

Following the introduction yesterday of statutory guidance by the Department of Education yesterday on disqualifications under the Childcare Act 2006, Christopher Stacey, Co-Director at Unlock, said:

“We very much welcome the new guidance. The Government has responded to a number of the issues that we, and others, had raised following their initial advice in October 2014.”

“In particular, we’re pleased that the statutory guidance makes it clear that schools should not be requiring employees covered by the regulations to disclose any spent convictions or cautions of those that live or work in the same household as them. Since the original advice, we have been inundated with people affected by confusion around this. It’s a genuine tragedy that hundreds of people have been unnecessarily suspended from their jobs because they’d been forced to disclose information that they didn’t need to. In one case, an experienced teacher was suspended from her job simply because she disclosed a theft conviction of her husband from nearly 30 years ago.”

“However, the statutory guidance is only one small step forward. How schools now apply this guidance will be important, to ensure that they treat people fairly and make it clear what they do and don’t need to disclose.”

“More importantly, serious questions still remain about the necessity of these regulations and what value they genuinely add to the protection of children. There is no reliable evidence showing that the system of ‘disqualification by association’ adds any value whatsoever, and we continue to campaign for the regulations to be scrapped from primary schools altogether.”


Notes to editors

  2. Unlock is an independent award-winning charity, providing trusted information, advice and support for people with criminal convictions. Our staff and volunteers combine professional training with personal experience to help others overcome the long-term problems that having a conviction can bring. Our knowledge and insight helps us to work with government, employers and others, to change policies and practices to create a fairer and more inclusive society so that people with convictions can move on in their lives.
  3. Our website is
  4. For more information on our policy work on this, click here.
  5. For practical self-help information on this, we’ve updated a brief guide here.
  6. To discuss this issue on our online forum, click here to read and share your thoughts.

Department for Education agree concessions on their guidance to schools

The NUT are reporting that the Department for Education has agreed concessions on their guidance about the childcare disqualification requirements. On the Nottingham City NUT website, it states:

“The Union’s threat to challenge the DfE’s supplementary advice on the Childcare Disqualification legislation and its application to schools in the High Court has successfully drawn concessions from the Government who are now proposing changes to the guidance.

The supplementary advice was published on www.Gov.UK in October last year, with no warning and no consultation with the relevant trade unions, causing widespread confusion and concern. Despite this, the Union was able to initiate legal proceedings before the Christmas break, challenging the DfE’s interpretation of the legislation.

As a result of the NUT’s challenge, the DfE conceded last week that:

  • the legislation applies only to those who work in nursery and reception, or who supervise activities outside school hours involving children under 8 years old;
  • enquiries about individuals living in a teacher’s household should be restricted only to those falling within the scope of the legislation
  • teachers correctly identified as falling within the scope of the legislation should not be asked to disclose the ‘spent’ convictions or cautions of people in their household.

We have agreed not to pursue the Judicial Review if these concessions are included in revised guidance to schools and local authorities. The DfE has now agreed to a specific meeting with the Union in addition to a round of stakeholder discussions, the last of which will be held on 27 January 2015. We have brought together other organisations who are supporting our position, and it is intended that a common position will be put forward on the content of updated guidance.

Our aim in the long run is to seek to change the relevant legislation. In the meantime, we are seeking that the Government amends the guidance to advise schools how to implement the legislation in a proportionate way, placing lowest level of burden possible on schools and teachers and providing advice and assistance to enable members return to work where they have been wrongly identified as ‘disqualified’ and suspended as a consequence.”

As soon as revised guidance is available, we will publish a link as a further update to the section about this in the policy area of our website.

Primary school teachers/staff ‘disqualified by association’ – does this affect you?

In October 2014, the Department for Education (DoE) published supplementary advice to schools on what are called the ‘childcare disqualification requirements’.

The requirements have been around for a number of years, and apply to registered childcare provision outside of schools, but it’s only since October 2014 that the DoE has made it clear that these also apply to primary schools, and one aspect that’s received the most attention has been the ‘disqualification by association’ part, as it includes the cautions/convictions of those that you live with.

According to the DoE, these requirements relate to people who are working in early years and later years’ childcare – essentially, childcare up to the age of 8. The requirements apply on top of what schools do in relation to enhanced DBS checks and checks against the barred lists.

This has led to primary schools asking their staff about the criminal records of those that they live with – and those that declare are often being suspended and their case being referred to Ofsted. Although there are rules around which offences this covers, there is a lot of confusion about what this means in practice, as well as what the justification is for such a system.

What we’re doing

As this is fairly new, there are a lot of unanswered questions. We’re still building a picture of how this is working in practice, and how it might be challenged. In the meantime:

  • Practical self-help information – We’ve published a brief guide which summarises how we understand this system to work
  • Policy work – We’ve put a call out for individuals who this has affected. If you’ve been directly affected by the ‘disqualification by association’ element, please let us know what’s happened to you. More details can be found in the policy section of our main website.
  • Discuss this issue – There’s an interesting discussion on our online forum about this – read and share your thoughts.

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