Schools should use their “professional curiosity” when recruiting new teachers and staff members and use search engines as “another tool” to find out whether candidates are suitable, the Government has said.
In a response to a consultation on safeguarding in schools, the Government said this would boost procedures in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard.
It said that “on the back of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard” as well as an “increasing prevalence of online issues” in cases where teachers were banned by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), the Government wanted to see whether schools agreed they should carry out “online due diligence checks” on shortlisted candidates.
This practice is about checking for information that could build a picture which along with other information will help schools and colleges make a judgment on an individual’s suitability
The Government said that schools’ responses showed there were many schools and colleges that already carried out online searches as part of safer recruitment processes “and have done so for some time”.
It added that some schools felt this was “an invasion of privacy and felt uncomfortable with doing searches of social media”.
“However, this practice is about checking for information that could build a picture whichalong with other information will help schools and colleges make a judgment on an individual’s suitability,” the Government said.
It added that while the reference to social media had been removed, schools should “use their professional curiosity and use a search engine as another tool which provides more information about the suitability of an individual to work with children”, and that recruiters should use their professional judgment about any information that came to light.
A number of recent cases where teachers have been banned were because of predatory behaviour on social media.
In January, a school rugby coach at a school in Wales was banned from teaching after a fitness to practise panel found he asked girls as young as 13 years old for “nude pictures” on apps such as Instagram and Snapchat.
And in 2018, a supply teacher who referred to his pupils as “c****” and posted “racist” pictures on Facebook was banned from the profession for life by the TRA.