ID verification in schools

Written by: Dave Verma | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

ID verification for safer recruitment and to prevent other criminal activities is an essential responsibility in schools. Dave Verma offers some quick advice

According to the saying, you are only as strong as your weakest link. While this is a something of a cliché, it pertains very accurately to the sphere of safeguarding.

I have had the dubious honour of investigating far too many cases where the ID verification phase of recruitment has completely failed and bad things have happened as a result. This motivated me to develop some “to the point” training for people in HR and anyone else who might check IDs as part of their responsibilities.

While delegates might often be nominated for my training and turn up with the same nonchalant expressions one would expect for any corporate training, this soon changes after the first 15 minutes.

Instead of death by PowerPoint, I grab people’s attention through a caricatured role-play exercise, where I play the part of a lovely, well-meaning human resources officer or admin person checking a new employee’s identity.

What starts off as entertainment soon becomes serious when the penny drops and delegates realise that I have not actually properly checked the identity of my role-playing assistant at all. I exaggerate the parts when I fail to conduct a photograph check, fail to scrutinise security features within the passport, and fail to use a UV light as a basic check of authenticity.

Further role-plays involve me becoming the future employee being checked and managing to easily dupe and distract the person checking my passport. This is normally achieved by keeping my hand over the photograph, being somewhat belligerent and railroading through the check by huffing and puffing and complaining about the process.

I then pause for effect before launching into the correct, assertive, yet highly professional and polite way in which to conduct an ID check of a prospective employee’s passport. Interestingly, of the hundreds of people that I have trained, I am yet to come across a single person who is offended by the correct way of doing things. No-one has ever said they thought it to be inappropriate or unprofessional. Everyone realises that this is the only way to go.

Here are some essential elements of best practice which are often neglected:


Notifying prospective employees about the ID verification element of recruitment is crucial. Nothing says you are serious about ID verification like a bespoke letter attached to any application form or other formal materials sent out during recruitment or the offer stage. Further explaining how the ID verification process operates within your school serves to heighten awareness about how serious you are and also prepares individuals for how you will check their documents.

The ID verification

Once an individual presents themselves for verification, it is important to again explain to them how you intend to carry out the check. This should be a rerun of what’s in the letter that you have already sent to them and should seek their consent in the process. I personally know of several places where individuals have simply walked away once the ID process has been explained to them – they would rather not partake. What did they have to hide?

Conducting a photograph check

After the process has been explained and consent has been given, the ID check should commence with a photograph check. This is done by holding up the passport or scrutinising it in a way whereby the individual is required to look forwards while significant features on the photograph are checked. This stage of the recruitment process and ID verification is often neglected altogether.

Special security features in passports

Make sure that you understand how to check the watermarks, font, paper quality, holograms, laminate and other security features within a passport. There are too many security features to list in this article, the aforementioned are very simple to check, others include the passport number and how it is embossed through the entire document and how this is done in a conical and graduated fashion.

At its simplest level, ensure that the photograph page has not been tampered with and that the photograph in modern passports has been printed twice, once in colour and also in a slightly more granular black-and-white format.

Procuring and using UV lights

One of the simplest ways is to ascertain the authenticity of any passport is through the use of UV lights. All countries use UV technology in the form of special ink. This is normally applied liberally to the photo page, other pages, the thread used to bind the passport and also on visas stamped or stuck into documents. It’s important to note that photograph paper is specially treated to not be fluorescent as normal white paper is. Only the security ink fluoresces.

How to flag concerns

Normally there will be a council audit and investigations unit that could assist you if you find someone trying to submit a fake document. The Home Office, immigration authorities and the police can also play their part in helping you.

It is clear that when letters are sent out warning prospective staff about ID verification and when this is again stipulated when prospective staff attend, it is very unlikely that criminals with the wrong documents will actually have the gall to try their luck.

  • Dave Verma was one of the UK’s first anti-fraud managers and lectured at the Metropolitan Police Detective Training School for 12 years. He is currently a consultant working with headteachers and schools to identify their financial risks and prevent fraud. Visit


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