Registration of independent schools: guidance for proprietors overseeing child protection and safeguarding arrangements

Guidance for proprietors who are obliged to ensure that their school is appropriately resourced and structured to safeguard the welfare of learners. This guidance has been developed in consultation with a number of stakeholders to support good practice in schools.

5. Referrals to the General Teaching Council for Scotland, Disclosure Scotland, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, the Scottish Social Services Council and Registrar of Independent Schools

While the disciplinary process is separate from the means by which child protection and safeguarding concerns must to be reported, it is considered appropriate to re-iterate here the need for proprietors to make referrals to the GTCS and Disclosure Scotland in certain circumstances.

5.1 Referrals to the General Teaching Council for Scotland

At the end of a disciplinary process, and at other stages, referrals may need to be made to the General Teaching Council for Scotland (‘GTCS’) or Disclosure Scotland.

The GTCS is the body responsible for the regulation of the teaching profession. All teachers in the independent sector must be registered with the GTCS. There are circumstances under which a proprietor must refer a teacher to the GTCS; those circumstances being:

  • a teacher is dismissed on grounds of misconduct or incompetence; or
  • a teacher resigns, or otherwise stops working at the school, and – were it not for leaving – the teacher would have, or might have, been dismissed on grounds of misconduct or incompetence.

Referrals may be made to the GTCS online, at: Making a Referral or Recommendation - The General Teaching Council for Scotland (; of course, proprietors and school leaders may wish to engage with the GTCS at an earlier stage for advice if necessary.

GTC Scotland would also expect early referrals made by proprietors by exception in cases where it is considered that the risk is so serious that immediate action needs to be taken by GTC Scotland to restrict the teacher’s registration in the interests of public protection. This would apply in cases where the allegations involved represent conduct that is fundamentally incompatible with being a teacher (for example sexual abuse, violence or child protection matters). In such circumstances, proprietors are unlikely to wait for employer disciplinary procedures to conclude before referring to GTC Scotland

5.2 Referrals to Disclosure Scotland

Disclosure Scotland maintains the lists of person barred from regulated work with children and / or protected adults in Scotland and operate the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (‘PVG’) Scheme.

Disclosure Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Ministers, also receive and consider referrals made to them in a number of prescribed circumstances (such as referrals made by Courts where an individual is convicted of a particular offence).

Proprietors of independent schools must make referrals to Disclosure Scotland when an employee has been found to have carried out harmful behaviour which:

  • led to that employee being dismissed;
  • would have led to dismissal but the employee left prior to dismissal; or
  • led to the employee being transferred away from work with children or protected adults.

Examples of harmful behaviour which must be referred: harming a child or protected adult; placing a child or protected adult at risk of harm; inappropriate behaviour involving pornography; inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature involving a child or protected adult; or giving inappropriate medical treatment to a child or protected adult.

A referral must be made within three months of any of the outcomes listed above occurring. Referrals to Disclosure Scotland may be made, online, at: Make a referral to Disclosure Scotland -

5.3 Referrals to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR)

Many independent schools in Scotland are also registered charities and, therefore, are subject to regulation by OSCR; OSCR’s role is to ensure that all charities in Scotland comply with the Charities and Trustees Investment (Scotland) Act 2005.

As with the Care Inspectorate, there are specific circumstances in which an independent school must make a referral to OSCR; these are known as notifiable events.

5.4 Referrals to the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)

The SSSC is the regulator for social work, social care and early years employees in Scotland. While not all independent schools will have such staff, many do and schools that do have such staff must be aware of the need to have such staff appropriately registered with the SSSC in the same way that teaching staff are registered with the GTCS.

The SSSC, as regulator, considers fitness to practice (similar to a teacher’s fitness to teach) and referrals must be made to the SSSC where a member of care staff has been: suspended, dismissed or demoted; or resigned during a disciplinary investigation and the employer would have considered dismissal; or charged or convicted with a criminal offence. Additionally, a referral to the SSSC must be made when a school has referred an individual to Disclosure Scotland or the employer is otherwise concerned about an individual’s fitness to practice.

More detail on the referral process, and when to refer, is available on the SSSC website at: Guidance for employers, the police or other public bodies for making a referral - Scottish Social Services Council (

5.5 Referrals to the Registrar of Independent Schools

Whenever a proprietor makes a referral to a regulatory body (such as the GTCS), it is good practice to also inform the Registrar of Independent Schools who can inform and advise the Scottish Ministers accordingly.



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