Teacher Misconduct and referrals to the Teacher Regulation Agency

Employers of teachers are under a statutory duty to consider referral of cases involving serious professional misconduct to the Teaching Regulation Authority (‘TRA’), with such a referral being appropriate if the (alleged) misconduct is so serious that it warrants a decision on whether the teacher should be prevented from teaching. The Teachers’ Disciplinary (England) Regulations 2012 outlines the framework for disciplining teachers and apply to anyone undertaking teaching work. What are the kinds of offences that should be reported? How should they be reported?  And which offences usually result in a prohibition?

A referral to the TRA must include details of the relevant conduct by the teacher with evidence. An investigation will then be carried out on behalf of the TRA to gather evidence from affected parties and take evidence submitted by the teacher. A hearing is then held by a panel of teachers and lay members to recommend to the Secretary of State whether or not the teacher should be issued with a Prohibition Order. This is a lifetime ban from teaching, although, depending on the circumstances the recommendation may be that the teacher may make a request to have it reviewed after a specified period of time.

A prohibition order may be ordered where a teacher is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and/or conduct that may bring the profession in to disrepute. Conduct that has commonly resulted in prohibition orders include engaging in a relationship with a person under the age of 16, inappropriate sexually motivated behaviour, conviction of a ‘relevant offence’ (commonly offences for violence, sexual misconduct or gross dishonesty), financial misconduct and failing to maintain appropriate professional boundaries with a pupil.

School employers should note that prohibition orders have also been used for teachers employed in school management, where their behaviour has amounted to unacceptable professional conduct or conduct that may bring the profession in to disrepute. For example, a recent case saw a prohibition order against a Headteacher who was to found to have bullied members of staff, treated staff unfairly and used inappropriate language to describe staff. (It was also found that that he had tried to influence a disciplinary investigation and had misled the Governing Body for reasons relating to low attendance figures and results from a staff survey.

We would recommend that when facing challenging management scenarios that you seek HR or legal advice to make sure the school is following proper procedures and to consider whether or not a TRA referral is necessary.

Allegations of serious misconduct against a teacher may also be referred to the TRA by members of the public, the police, the Disclosure and Barring Service or any other concerned third party. If a member of your staff is the subject of a TRA investigation as a result of a reference by another body or an individual you will need to decide if the school will support the member of staff or whether the member of staff should seek legal assistance from another source, usually their trades union.

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