In September, the Reed Screening team sent schools information about forthcoming online checks, a further layer of sophisticated protection to keep children and young people safe. These checks – which scan for adverse online content (media) produced by those who interact with vulnerable people – are now carried out as standard practice, in line with the Department for Education’s ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ statutory guidance for schools and colleges.
What is adverse media?
Adverse media is a broad term encompassing any unfavourable information found in widely available public or private content. While the focus of an adverse media check is typically on sources in the traditional news media, such as newspapers (online and print) and broadcast news (radio and TV), new media sources such as web content, blogs and unstructured data sources like forums, chat rooms and social media feeds are equally critical data points.
What are adverse media checks?
Adverse media checks are designed to unearth potentially harmful behaviour by teaching staff, which could be safeguarding/reputational issues to schools. The checks will evaluate and flag any adverse content posted by or associated with a person, focusing on several factors. These include racism, sexism, hate speech, drug use, general criminality, and any other risk categories that an organisation may deem as indicating unsuitability for the position applied for or incompatibility with the culture and values of the organisation.
The check searches through all records and can identify relevant content from various news sources such as wire reports, publication websites, and news sites, as well as additional sources like blogs and message boards.
Drawing from a range of sources, Reed’s adverse media checks will bring to light any detrimental candidate behaviour otherwise unavailable to school hiring teams. To highlight a few examples, this includes information around organised crime, financial terrorism, drug trafficking, financial threat, and money laundering.
The search will hunt through all live sites and archives, pulling any ‘adverse media’ into a report for the Reed Screening team to review. During checks of archives, however, the search tool has no control over content that may or may not have been removed from the web, and any questionable content will be subject to privacy rights by the owner/publisher.
There is no end date to the historical content searched during a typical check, which will generally cover decades’ worth of data. It’s a quick process – Reed Screening uses Comply Advantage to carry out the inspection and usually has the report back within two hours – after which it is carefully reviewed by a member of the team as part of overall standard compliance checks.
There are numerous risks presented by those with a negative media profile and employing such an individual only magnifies them. The ability to identify someone’s involvement in suspicious activity before they have entered your business is a significant safeguard from reputational, legal and commercial jeopardy.
A controversial move
It’s fair to say such checks could be seen as invasive and unreliable in terms of deciphering between real and fake news. There’s also an Orwellian aspect behind the monitoring of an individual’s flaws and failings, haunting them through the digital age regardless of how they may have since redeemed themselves.
While adverse media checks can offer a huge amount of insight, the issues around the etiquette and ethics of performing screening of this kind are likely to remain controversial. Nevertheless, the screening is so far proving effective in ensuring schools and colleges remain one step ahead in the ongoing safeguarding challenge.
For more information about how your school or college can benefit from adverse media checks, contact Reed Screening on 0161 833 8855 or firstname.lastname@example.org.