The Importance of Safeguarding and Knowing Your Agency

At Axcis, we are very proud of our vetting procedures. We conform to all DfE guidelines and ensure our staff are fully compliant before sending them to your school. But how does that make us any different to any other agency out there?

 

Many schools regard agencies as a necessary evil. They’d rather not have to source staffing solutions from external companies, but the time, resources and manpower required to ensure there are people ready to step in at a moments notice mean that agencies are not just necessary, but essential for the effective running of most schools in the UK.

 

Compliance managers in schools will be fully aware of the requirements in terms of vetting staff to a suitable standard. HR departments will know how long and arduous a recruitment process can be. Agencies bring the two together to ensure when emergency vacancies arise, there are people on hand to step in who are not only suitable but have all the correct vetting already in order for them to start immediately.

 

 

Many schools seem to regard agencies with a cautious eye. There is often a huge focus on cost – which is understandable when you have to carefully manage a budget. However, at Axcis, we feel that our charges reflect our desire to be fair in terms of how we pay our staff, as well as covering the surprisingly high costs involved in recruiting and vetting a steady stream of candidates.

 

What is our vetting process? 

 

  1. We start off by advertising and attracting a huge range of candidates to register with us via our website. The vetting process starts when their consultant calls them for an initial telephone interview. This involves a discussion around their work history, gaps in CV, qualifications, skills and what they are looking for. As well as their DBS situation, whether they can provide suitable references and their suitability for working in SEND schools.
  2. You’d be surprised to hear that only a fraction of those who register with us make it to a face to face interview. For those who do, we perform a more detailed discussion around the points mentioned above. At the face to face interview there are also our application forms and declarations to complete before we start to check documents and references. Our application forms include essentials such as; health declaration, criminal record declaration, providing next of kin details and all the personal details we are required to hold on file.
  3. After an interview, we take a photograph for use on vetting sheets which are sent to schools when staff are booked. We also carry out confidential reference checks, DBS checks, qualifications, visa status, proof of address and ID, name change where appropriate as well as any other checks which are relevant to that candidate, such as registration with professional bodies or overseas police checks. It is essential that all documentation checked is original and not tampered with, and is date stamped and signed off so we know exactly when those originals were seen by our staff and that they are reliable documents.
  4. Once a candidate has been fully interviewed, checked and cleared for work, we invite them to an Induction Evening, which will provide them with further training and advice for working on a supply basis. This Induction includes advice on child protection, behaviour management and guidelines for being an effective member of supply staff. And of course it’s a great opportunity to meet some of the other staff who have registered with Axcis for work. Although this information is all provided at interview, we find that having an Induction Evening provides a fantastic forum for discussing concerns or sharing ideas in a group setting.

 

What makes any of this different to other agencies? 

 

Although it’s true that all agencies should be following these processes, or something very similar, it is a sad fact that this is an industry riddled with shortcuts and poor practice. It would not be professional to name and shame other agencies, but I have had calls in the past from candidates who had doubts about other agencies they had registered with for a whole host of reasons. In one case, a candidate contacted me and said they didn’t know what to do because they’d been offered a job they really wanted, but the agency in question had not met them face to face, seen any original documents or done a CRB check (as it was then). They had also not completed any application forms or declarations. The candidate knew she should not therefore be working for that company so faced a dilemma. Take the job she really wanted in a school she loved, or turn it down because she knew the agency were participating in practice that was not just “in a grey area” but was downright illegal. I am pleased to say she decided to walk away from that company and inform the school of the poor practice. But in a job market which is increasingly competitive, I do wander how many candidates out there are accepting jobs on these terms and working without the correct compliance being performed. What made this situation worse was that the candidate had been asked to simply photocopy her CRB (which had been done elsewhere and she should therefore not have been using with a new company without portability checks being done) and along with her other documents just send them to the office in the post. This would have allowed the agency in question to send copies to the school and assure them that checks had been done and original documents seen when in this case it was entirely untrue.

 

That’s not to say that this sort of practice is commonplace. Most agencies do their best to conform to the high standards set by the DfE (and formerly the Quality Mark) but schools should be aware that there is a minority of agencies out there who do not put compliance at the top of their agenda and as such schools and students could be put at risk.

 

At Axcis, we are very proud of the high standards we maintain in our safeguarding procedures and welcome our clients to inspect the vetting we hold on file for any candidate we send for an interview, trial day or work.

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