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Last reviewed on 17 July 2020
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You must carry out specific checks on trustees, members and local governors when they join your trust, including DBS and section 128 checks. And, a newly appointed chair of trustees must complete a suitability check with the ESFA. Find out the checks you need to make across different roles.

We updated this article on 17 July 2020 to include new information about how a newly appointed chair of trustees must complete a suitability check with the ESFA. All the rest remains unchanged.


All academy trustees, local governors and members require: 

  • An enhanced DBS check, and barred list check where they're engaging in regulated activity
  • Section 128 direction check
  • Checks to confirm their identity (including as a part of the DBS check)
  • Checks to confirm their right to work in the UK
  • Any other checks deemed necessary where the trustee has lived or worked outside the UK

This is outlined in paragraph 176 to 179 of Keeping Children Safe in Education. The right to work check requirement is set out in paragraph 20(6)(b) of The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014

A newly appointed chair of trustees must complete suitability checks themselves, through the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). We cover this below. 

What do DBS checks include?

An enhanced DBS check

  • Checks for spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings
  • Asks local police for any additional information that is reasonably considered relevant to the workforce being applied for

An enhanced DBS and barred list check

  • Includes the same enhanced DBS checks as above
  • Also checks whether the person is included on the national DBS ‘barred lists’ of individuals unsuitable for working with children or adults

How to get the checks


The general application process is:

  • You, the academy trust, gets an application form from DBS or an umbrella body (a registered body that gives access to DBS checks)
  • You give the applicant the form to fill in 
  • You send the completed application form to DBS or their umbrella body
  • DBS sends a certificate to the applicant. You then ask the applicant to see the certificate

This is explained on the GOV.UK website.

DBS webpage sets out which identification documents it accepts. At least one of the documents must show the applicant's current address

For local governing bodies, the actual process of applying for checks is usually done by the school. 

Section 128

If you carry out an enhanced DBS check with barred list information on an individual (see above), with 'children's workforce independent schools' specified in the parameters, the certificate will detail whether they're subject to a section 128 direction.

If you're not carrying out a barred list check, you can carry out section 128 direction checks through the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA). You can do this by logging onto the DfE sign-in service.

Chair of trustees must complete a suitability check with the ESFA

When you appoint a chair of trustees, they must complete a suitability check with the ESFA, which includes:

  • An identity check
  • Confirmation of the right to work in the UK
  • An enhanced DBS check
  • Providing additional information if they've lived outside the UK for a period of 12 months of longer

Before carrying this out, you must update your governance information on the DfE's get information about schools (GIAS) register within 14 days of the appointment. See paragraphs 2.51 to 2.56 of the Academies Financial Handbook.

Within 14 days of updating your information on GIAS, ask your new chair of trustees to complete the suitability check process described on the ESFA's website. As part of the process they'll need to have their identity checked by a 'verified professional'.  

Will an existing DBS check be accepted?

As the employer, you decide whether to accept DBS checks from other employers and establishments. The DfE explained this to us.

For a newly appointed chair, as described above, they must complete the suitability checks themselves with the ESFA, even if they may not need a new DBS - see exceptions here.

Failure to obtain a DBS may result in disqualification

Trustees and local governors are disqualified from holding office if they fail to obtain a DBS check. This is outlined in articles 78 and 80 of the model articles of association published by the DfE - but check your own in case these differ from the model. 

But, if an individual is disqualified, they can reapply in the future. The DfE told us this.

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