On 17 January 2014, the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) published their updated ‘Teacher misconduct: the prohibition of teachers’ advice following an eight-week consultation period.
The NCTL stated that the majority of respondents expressed support for their proposals to amend the existing teacher prohibition advice. The consultation began following a Department for Education announcement in June 2013 stating that “the guidance would be revised to clarify the department’s expectation that any sexual misconduct and any criminal conviction or caution involving indecent images of children will lead to prohibition.”
Under the new guidance, a teacher found guilty of any sexual misconduct will be prohibited from teaching, which differs from the previous standard of “serious sexual misconduct.” The NCTL’s tougher stance on cases involving sexual misconduct stems directly from the responses they received to the consultation. Meanwhile the Department for Education has emphasised the importance of ensuring pupil protection in schools.
In addition to the revisions regarding sexual misconduct, the amended guidance has also clarified the position regarding teachers cautioned or convicted for offences relating to indecent images of children. A teacher with any such caution or conviction will now face automatic prohibition from the classroom.
The stricter stance taken on this will be welcomed by many after one decision last year which allowed a teacher back in the classroom despite him downloading child abuse images, for which he received a caution. The NCTL panel who heard the case stated the images were “not at the most serious end” of the scale. However, this will no longer be a consideration for professional conduct panels.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “High standards are expected of all teachers, and when making decisions panels should always take into account the need to maintain high levels of public confidence in the profession.”
By Geoff May, graduate paralegal in the professional discipline team
If you are a teacher facing proceedings before a professional conduct panel of the NCTL or would like some advice as to the revised guidance, our specialist lawyers can help. Please call 0333 344 4772 to find out more.