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The NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union is calling on the Department for Education to provide criteria and clarity over the use of online searches for shortlisted candidates for teaching posts to ensure searches are ethical, legal and non-discriminatory.

The recommendation for schools to consider conducting online searches of shortlisted candidates has been in place following its inclusion in the DfE’s Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance published in 2022. An update to the guidance, which comes into force on 1 September 2023, advises schools to inform shortlisted candidates that online searches may be carried out as part of the job application process.​

However, in the absence of any framework or criteria from the DfE to guide schools in how to undertake such searches in a reasonable manner, the NASUWT has concerns that candidates may be unfairly penalised or discriminated against when applying for teaching jobs.

NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said:

“The use of online searches is not a substitute to effective and robust systems for safeguarding in schools. Their inappropriate use leaves individuals vulnerable to risk and places schools at risk of legal challenge.

“The Government needs to ensure that recruitment practices used by schools are fair and transparent. There needs to be clear criteria to ensure that schools do not inadvertently or knowingly penalise candidates unfairly based on subjective views about what online presence is and is not acceptable.

“Despite several representations we’ve made to the DfE and the Secretary of State, there is still no supporting framework for the conduct of these searches. This is a glaring omission which could have potentially serious consequences for both employers and teachers. 

“The DfE should act now to provide the clarity needed.”

The NASUWT has published guidance for members on online searches of shortlisted candidates which can be found here.

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