Contact our team today
Is your organisation verified?


Enhancing Child Safety: The Role of Automation and Challenges in School Referencing Practices

10k Schools

Author: 10k Schools

For more information or to Book a Call today, please click below:


Ask any educator, and they will tell you that child safety is non-negotiable in educational and care settings. But when we scratch beneath the surface of the guidance schools follow, and the standards upon which they are inspected, this position starts to raise some very challenging questions.

In the course of our research at 10k Schools, we continually find bizarre contradictions in regulations around what schools are expected to do to validate a potential employee’s career history.

Every educator I’ve worked with has talked the talk about being deeply committed to ensuring the safety of children, yet I’ve never worked with any who have used their undoubted critical thinking skills to observe the absurdity of the guidance they follow around ‘Safer Recruitment’.

When regulators and government authorities are setting such a low bar, and when education leaders are conditioned to perform to inspection standards, have we spent an entire generation sleepwalking into a safeguarding disaster, and what are the steps needed to pull ourselves out of this malaise?


International Standards in Education Referencing

Thousands of international schools follow the guidance provided by the International Task Force on Child Protection. ITFCP recommended collecting references covering the last 6 years for school employees.

However, this recommendation is fundamentally misaligned with the reality that incidences of inappropriate conduct or sexual misconduct towards students by school employees, are generally reported many years after they occur.

Therefore it stands to reason that referencing employers from just the last 6 years, is fundamentally ineffective in preventing unsuitable individuals from obtaining employment with children and vulnerable people.

We’re not picking on ITFCP here – the exact same contradiction exists for schools governed by every single inspection standard we’ve researched from US, Europe and the UK.

So how did we get ourselves in this mess, where regulators and policy-makers set the bar so low?

The Psychology of Perceived Effort:


The challenges of retrieving historical employment references, lets say from 15 years ago, lead to a hesitancy to pursue these checks fully if the perception is that a proportion of references may be unobtainable. The human mind tends to fixate on obstacles, especially when a task seems arduous or requires diving into historical records.

The perceived difficulty of obtaining an employment reference from a decade or more ago creates a mental barrier, often leading to the assumption that the task is insurmountable or not worth the effort. We hear this perspective so often at the outset of our clients’ 10k Schools journey, and its hard to come to any other conclusion than that educators and policy-makers, have collectively become conditioned to a ‘group-think’, which in a child protection context simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

A prevailing notion emphasizes the negative outcomes of a lack of response to reference requests or the perceived effort as acceptable reasons to set low standards. This notion is in itself abhorrent in the context of child protection,

Risk of Zeroing In on the Unattainable
Lets use a straw man assumption, that 30% of references from 15 years ago are unattainable.

A human fixation on the minority of references that might be unobtainable, overshadows the potential of acquiring information from the 70% that are feasible. The fear of failure or the misconception that if a few references cannot be obtained, the entire endeavor is futile, often prevents a full exploration into the obtainable historical data.

Where this becomes dangerous, is where governments, regulators and inspection bodies themselves zero in on the unattainable, and therefore set standards which if followed, are guaranteed to let a sizeable proportion of those unsuitable to work in schools, slip through the net.

It’s imperative to challenge this psychology. While it’s acknowledged that not all references from 15 years ago will be accessible due to a range of reasons such as school closures or records misplacement, the pursuit of the available 70% or even if we could achieve 40%, it’s is still immensely valuable.

The obtainable historical data, even if not complete, can provide crucial insights into an individual’s past, potentially uncovering valuable information about their conduct.

In education today, the sad reality is that nobody really knows how many years’ references are actually obtainable, because it’s just come to be the case that nobody bothers to make the effort to find out.

When this approach benefits school administrators and individuals with dubious histories, but not the children, this misplaced priority of convenience over child safety underlines the need for a mindset shift.

Candidate Experience Over Child Protection?
When we talk of the concept of ‘whole career validation’, its beyond most educators’ comprehension that it’s is even possible, let alone required as part of keeping children safe.

There could be several barriers or challenges faced from candidates or employees who are reluctant or unwilling to provide contact information from previous schools or employers. But ultimately schools have the right to ask to be put in contact with all former employers – and by that we mean the holders of the employee records (eg, HR, not just someone the person used to work with).

Lets be honest, the vast majority of schools DO still exist, and even those which have closed, guidance almost always exists to identify their successor organisations where employee records are held.

Our position is that if ultimately the information can’t be obtained, that’s ok provided best efforts can be evidenced – but it’s not ok to just not bother asking!

When it comes to implementing a more thorough referencing process, if we consider Principals’ fears that making a process more thorough may be to the detriment of candidate experience, are the candidates who walk away any great loss, or are they walking away specifically because something may appear in this enhanced standard of checks?

The Transformative Role of Automation in Background Checking:
Automation stands as a powerful solution to streamline and expedite background checks. It has the capacity to address the perceived ‘wasted’ human effort. By automating these processes, ongoing evaluation becomes a practical reality rather than a labor-intensive challenge.




Automation in referencing offers several benefits in the context of background checks and employment verification:

  • Efficiency: Automated systems significantly expedite the referencing process. They swiftly collect and verify information, reducing the time and effort required compared to manual methods. This efficiency accelerates the overall hiring process.
  • Accuracy: Automation minimizes the chances of human error in referencing. It ensures consistency and precision in data collection, leading to more accurate background checks.
  • Comprehensive Data Collection: Automated systems can easily access and collate information from various sources. They can efficiently retrieve data from numerous previous employers or educational institutions, providing a more comprehensive view of an individual’s background.
  • Standardization and Compliance: Automated processes adhere to standardized protocols and regulatory compliance. They ensure that the referencing process is in line with legal and industry standards, reducing the risk of oversight or non-compliance.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: It reduces the need for extensive manual labour, minimizes the chances of rework due to errors, and streamlines the entire referencing process.
  • Streamlined Communication: Automation facilitates consistent and standardized communication with previous employers or educational institutions. It manages the interaction and correspondence efficiently, reducing the need for manual follow-ups.
  • Enhanced Security and Privacy: Automated systems often come with built-in security measures to protect sensitive information. They can ensure the confidentiality of data during the referencing process.
  • Ongoing Monitoring and Updates: Automation enables ongoing monitoring or periodic checks for updated information, ensuring that records remain current and relevant.
  • Scalability: Automated systems are easily scalable, allowing organizations to handle large volumes of references efficiently without compromising on quality or speed.
  • Improved Candidate Experience: Automation can streamline the overall hiring experience for candidates. Faster processes and reduced administrative burden on applicants contribute to a more positive candidate experience.


Advocating for Ongoing Safety Measures:
The essential advocacy lies in prioritizing child safety when setting guidelines for employers. The reluctance of regulators to implement more rigorous standards due to perceived effort seems contradictory when automation offers a viable solution.

Ensuring ongoing safety measures, including revisiting prior declarations, isn’t an added burden but must be seen as a fundamental step in upholding child protection.

At the core of stringent background checks is the need for ongoing evaluation. Checks at the point of hiring are important, but we have to remember that misconduct can emerge over a very long timeline, therefore only focusing on employee background checks at the point of hire, potentially leave critical risks unaddressed.

Once an automation tool has established a connection with previous employers, it is no difficulty at all to periodically ask for a simple re-declaration of validity of previous statements around suitability to work with children. This simple act alone, will begin to close the net on those whose historic conduct only comes to light many years down the line, which ALL regulatory methods currently in force in ALL developed countries fails to address.

Automation facilitates this continual evaluation without exerting excessive pressure on human resources.

Enhancing Child Safety without Compromise:
The belief that any effort or resource allocation is too much when it comes to safeguarding children is a troubling misconception.

Strict regulations that prioritize child safety, even if demanding additional resources and leveraging automation, are crucial. Seeking validation of the entire career history, and revisiting safeguarding declarations from prior employment shouldn’t be optional; it should be a mandatory practice.

The assurance of a safe and nurturing environment for children should never be compromised. The hesitancy in implementing more rigorous standards due to perceived effort is contradictory when child protection should always remain the paramount consideration.

Automation offers a transformative solution, and revisiting declarations from previous employers must be an integral part of background checks, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation. Upholding stringent regulations to prioritize child safety is non-negotiable, even if it demands a more dedicated and resourceful approach.

About 10k Schools
Know Your People by 10k Schools is foundational to keeping children safe in education. KYP is a new era in continuous assessment of safeguarding compliance across a school workforce.

The KYP concept of continuous evaluation of workforce risk, reflects that at any time before or during employment, new information may emerge about an individual’s continued suitability to work in a controlled function. In doing so, KYP addresses a critical defect in legacy guidance for Safer Recruitment and the Single Central Register, concepts which create unacceptable risk by only encouraging safeguarding checks at the point of entry to your team.

10k Schools provides organisations with unparalleled visibility, by automating the collection, analysis and reporting of defects in biodata, references and criminal record checks from candidates, employees, contractors and volunteers throughout their relationship with a school.


Privacy Policy   |   Terms and Conditions   |   Cookie Policy


Copyright 2024