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These FAQs set out the common questions and pitfalls faced by employers when dealing with  issues in recruitment. The additional documents referred to are designed to assist you further. Please note that some documents are available to all readers whilst others are locked and only accessible to HR Protect clients. To become a retainer client or to find out further information please click here.

Does the type of school you are, and the role I am recruiting for, impact the recruitment process?

Yes, very much so, and taking specific advice is recommended.

In maintained schools, responsibility for decisions relating to appointments are set out in the School Staffing Regulations.


  • A panel (of at least three governors) is responsible for appointing the head and deputy headteacher;
  • The Governing body (or a committee or headteacher to which / whom the Governing body has delegated responsibility) is responsible for appointing other teachers and support staff;
  • The Local Authority (unless otherwise agreed) is responsible for appointing school meals staff.

In community, voluntary controlled, community special and maintained nursery schools, the local authority (as the employer) is then responsible for actually making the appointment.

For maintained schools, the School Staffing Regulation also prescribe the process, which varies depending on whether you are recruiting a headteacher or deputy headteacher, other teachers or support staff.

On the other hand, the proprietor of an independent school or academy is responsible for appointing staff in the same way in which any employer may appoint staff, and the process, which can usually be found in an academy’s articles of association, can be less prescribed.

Do I need to document the recruitment process?

Schools which properly document the recruitment process to establish a paper trail will be better placed to demonstrate compliance with the School Staffing Regulations (where they apply) and consideration of the public sector equality duty.

More generally, the paper trail can help justify decisions taken, to show that a selection decision was based on objective evidence of an applicant’s ability to do the job (rather than on assumptions or prejudices) and to show that they took reasonably practicable steps to prevent unlawful discrimination or harassment.

Can you discriminate against someone during the recruitment process?

Protection from discrimination applies to job applicants in the same way as it does actual employees so, from a risk point of view it is essential that employers avoid any form of discrimination during the recruitment and appointment process, even if this is done advertently.

 For further information on discrimination see:

DIS1 How to Guide: Avoiding Discrimination

What should be included in a recruitment job description?

Before advertising a vacancy, a written job description for the role should be compiled. The job description should cover:

  • the main purpose and objectives of the job;
  • the place of the job holder in the organisational structure;
  • the main tasks and responsibilities of the job holder; and
  • any associated tasks.

When compiling a job description, ensure that an appropriate job title is used that does not show any premeditated bias and that the job is accurately described.


You may also wish to prepare a person specification detailing the experience, know-how and qualifications, skills, abilities and behavioural attributes necessary to perform the duties in the job description. Criteria in the job description or specification must not be discriminatory and employers should be able to justify any necessary or desirable criteria against the job in question.

Do I need to advertise job vacancies externally?

It is generally considered best equal opportunities practice to advertise all vacancies externally as this will ensure that as wide a pool of candidates as possible is reached. This will not always be appropriate however, for example, in a redundancy situation, where an employer is obliged to consider what alternative employment is available within the organisation for employees who are at risk of redundancy.

For further information on redundancy see:

R1 – How to Guide – Redundancy.

What should be considered for job applications?

You should consider the format in which applications should be submitted. Adopting a standardised process, whether through using an application form or requesting CVs is recommended so that applicants can compete on equal terms and to help the School show that applicants have been assessed objectively.

Be prepared to react where reasonable adjustments need to be made for disabled candidates, e.g. providing information in large print, braille etc. so they are not disadvantaged in the recruitment process. For further information on reasonable adjustments see

DIS3 – Guidance – Disability Discrimination.

What should a School consider when selecting and interviewing job candidates?

Firstly, you should consider whether the School Staffing Regulations apply to you and, if they do, you should ensure that the prescribed process set out is followed.

Independent schools and academies should also check their articles to determine what process they should follow (if prescribed).

Generally, there are a number of processes available to you when assessing and selecting the ideal candidate for the job advertised for example, shortlisting, selection tests, assessment centres and interviews.

There are however important nuances in the recruitment process within the education sector, such as where a vacancy is for a headteacher or deputy headteacher.  In that situation, the board of a maintained school will need to put in place a selection panel of at least three governors – one of whom must have completed safer recruitment training – to select candidates for interview (and, for most types of maintained schools, notify the local authority of the names of the candidates), interview applicants and, if the interviews are successful, recommend a candidate for appointment as headteacher to the board of governors.  This is also good practice in academies, and academies should review their articles of association to determine the process, including the size of any selection panel, that might be prescribed by their articles.

All selection processes undertaken must be fair, consistent and result in the appointment of the best person for the job.

You should ensure that, as far as possible, arrangements for holding tests or interviews, or using assessment centres, do not put any candidates at a disadvantage in connection with a protected characteristic. For example, where the dates or times coincide with religious festivals.

Schools are not required to make changes to recruitment processes in anticipation of applications from disabled people. However, if a School knows, or could be reasonably expected to know that a particular disabled person is, or may be, applying for a role and is likely to be substantially disadvantaged by the premises or arrangements, then reasonable adjustments must be made. For example, if an applicant is a wheelchair user you should make sure that the premises where the interview is being held are accessible in order to remove any disadvantage that individual may suffer because of their disability.

Schools should also consider whether any tests could be indirectly discriminatory.

What data protection issues arise during the recruitment process?

All documents collected in the recruitment process which include the personal data of applicants must be processed in accordance with data protection legislation, in the same way as is necessary for the personal data of current employees within the School.

Job applicants should be made aware of how the School will process the information they supply, for example via a statement in the job advert and how long it will be held for. For a template privacy notice, please see:

REC11: GDPR candidate privacy notice.

For further details on handling data during the recruitment process, please see:

REC6: Guidance: retention and erasure of employment records.

Can a School use pre-employment health questionnaires in recruitment?

Generally, employers are not permitted to ask about the health of a job applicant before offering a job to them, except in a limited number of situations.

When a job offer has been made, it can be made conditional on satisfactory health checks, but schools must not discriminate against job applicants having received the results of such checks. Health checks would usually only be appropriate where relevant to the job or where reasonable adjustments need to be considered for disabled applicants.

However, as a School, you need to verify an applicant’s mental and physical fitness for the role before appointing them.  A job applicant can be asked relevant questions about disability and health in order to establish whether they have the physical and mental capacity for the specific role, but this should be done with caution, to reduce the risk of a claim of discrimination.

For more information on pre-employment health questionnaires, please see:

REC3: Guidance: pre-employment health questionnaires.

What should be included in a job offer?

After identifying the applicant who is to be offered a job, a written job offer should be sent to the person, see:

  • REC7: example offer letter – permanent post
  • REC8: example offer letter – fixed term post

You should ensure that offer letter is consistent with the contract of employment subsequently provided. You should also make the job offer conditional on matters such as references, DBS checks, proof of right to work and qualifications.

When should references be obtained in the recruitment process?

References should not be obtained until after a selection decision has been reached. This is to ensure that the selection decision is based strictly on objective criteria and is not influenced by other factors, such as potentially subjective judgments about a candidate by referees. It is also good practice to send a referee copies of the job description and person specification, requesting evidence of the applicant’s ability to meet the specific requirements of the job.

The information requested in a reference can vary. It is common to ask for information such as the applicant’s dates of employment, current role and past roles, salary and disciplinary record. However, employers may be unwilling to give all of this information and some will have a policy of only confirming factual information such as dates of employment and role.

References should always be obtained from the candidate’s current employer. Where a candidate is not currently employed, verification of their most recent period of employment and reasons for leaving should be obtained from the school, college, local authority or organisation at which they were employed.

Any information about past disciplinary action or allegations that are disclosed should be considered carefully when assessing the applicant’s suitability for the post.

For full guidance on receiving references, see:

REC4: Guidance: providing and receiving employment references.

Is a school required to provide a reference?

Generally (aside from some very specific exceptions) there is no legal obligation on schools to provide a reference for a current or former employee. However, a consistent approach (whether or not to give references and what to include in them) is recommended, particularly to avoid allegations of discrimination.

If a reference is provided, the school owes a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that it is true, accurate and fair and does not give a misleading impression. Failure to do so could give rise to claims against the reference provider.

Are all schools required to perform right to work checks?

All schools have a duty to prevent illegal working by carrying out prescribed document checks on candidates before employing them to ensure they have the right to work in the UK.

You are expected to keep a record that they have been carried out and repeat them in respect of any individuals who have time-limited permission to work in the UK, prior to the expiration of that permission.

It is a criminal offence if a school employs an illegal worker and knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that the person has no right to do the work in question in the UK.  It is a civil offence if you employ someone who does not have the right to carry out the work in question, which can be punished by a penalty of up to £20,000 for each individual who does not have the right to work.

A school will be excused from paying a civil penalty if they are able to show that they complied with the prescribed right to work checks and retained records to prove that those checks were completed correctly. For further information, see:

REC5: Guidance: right to work checks.

In order to avoid claims for discrimination, Schools should carry out the same checks on all prospective employees and not just those who appear to be non-British.

What other pre-appointment checks are necessary in the School sector?

Part three of the Department for Education’s statutory guidance for schools and colleges, “Keeping Children Safe in Education” addresses “Safer recruitment” in the education setting.

Additional to your usual right to work checks, when appointing new staff, schools and colleges must usually:

  • obtain (via the applicant) an enhanced DBS certificate (including barred list information, for those who will be engaging in regulated activity)
  • obtain a separate barred list check if an individual will start work in regulated activity before the DBS certificate is available
  • verify the candidate’s mental and physical fitness to carry out their work responsibilities
  • if the person has lived or worked outside the UK, make any further checks the school or college consider appropriate
  • verify professional qualifications, as appropriate. The Teacher Services’ system should be used to verify any award of qualified teacher status (QTS), and the completion of teacher induction or probation.
What is the "Single Central Record"?

Schools and colleges must maintain a single central record of pre-appointment checks on all staff, including teacher trainees on salaried routes, agency and third party supply staff who work at the school and, (for independent schools), all members of the proprietor body. In the case of academies and free schools, pre-appointment checks need to be maintained on a single central record for members and trustees of the academy trust.

For further information on recruitment see:

REC1 How to Guide: Recruitment


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