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Safeguarding Across Borders: The ICPC vs DBS for UK Teachers Abroad

Updated: Jan 15

Navigating the landscape of child protection checks can be tricky, especially when crossing borders. For UK teachers venturing overseas, understanding the nuances of the International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC) and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is crucial. Both play vital roles in safeguarding children, but their functionalities and target audiences differ.

The DBS Check: Safeguarding at Home

The DBS check, widely known within the UK, screens individuals for past offenses and police intelligence relevant to child protection and vulnerable adult roles. It comes in three levels: basic, standard, and enhanced, with the latter providing the most comprehensive report. This check is mandatory for working with children and vulnerable adults within the UK, covering teachers in both state and private schools.

The ICPC: Reaching Beyond UK Borders

The ICPC, specifically designed for UK citizens heading overseas to work with children, serves as an equivalent to the DBS check for foreign employers. Issued by ACRO Criminal Records Office, it delves into an applicant's criminal history, including spent convictions and police non-conviction information, similar to an enhanced DBS check. Unlike the DBS, the ICPC has no expiry date and is accepted by most countries worldwide.

Key Differences to Consider:

  • Target Audience: DBS serves UK roles involving children and vulnerable adults, while the ICPC caters specifically to UK citizens working with children abroad.

  • Issuing Authority: DBS checks are conducted by registered bodies in the UK, while the ICPC is issued by ACRO.

  • Content: Both provide details of relevant convictions and police intelligence, but the ICPC may include spent convictions not disclosed in a standard DBS check.

  • Validity: DBS checks have a limited validity period, while the ICPC is perpetual.

  • Accessibility: DBS checks are readily available within the UK, while the ICPC requires specific applications for overseas work.

Choosing the Right Check:

For UK teachers working abroad, the ICPC is the de facto standard:

  • Foreign employers recognize and accept it, making it essential for securing teaching jobs overseas.

  • Its comprehensiveness provides peace of mind for both teachers and schools regarding child protection.

  • The perpetual validity saves applicants from repeated checks, reducing inconvenience and cost.


While the DBS safeguards children within the UK, the ICPC extends this critical protection across borders. For UK teachers seeking international opportunities, understanding the distinctions between these checks ensures a smooth transition and upholds the highest standards of child protection wherever they teach.

Remember, both checks play crucial roles in safeguarding children, and choosing the right one depends on your specific circumstances. Prioritize child safety and research the requirements of your destination country to ensure you have the appropriate check in hand.

Happy and safe teaching, wherever your journey takes you!

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