Why teachers are banned

The BBC has published an interesting analysis of the number of teachers barred from the profession over the past few years. You can read Laurence Cawley’s story at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-44643267

Creating such a story has been on the list for future posts on this blog, after I commented in December 2016 about the trends in hearing for misconduct by teachers that year. You can read that blog at https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2016/12/

As I pointed out in 2016, men outnumber women in terms of those coming before the Teaching Regulation Agency and also in being barred from teaching and work with young people either for a fixed period or for life. Those barred for a fixed period do not automatically regain the right to teach but, as teaching is still not a reserved occupational term, may presumably still call themselves a teacher if they want to do so. Whether they can work in the less regulated markets of teaching language students or tutoring is an interesting question and how they would be found out if they do so is also a potential issue for debate.

The rules on conduct between teachers and pupils are now very strict and what was acceptable when I started in teaching in the 1970s would now in some cases almost certainly be grounds for being barred for life from the profession. The BBC story says sexually motivated, inappropriate conduct is the reason for a third of teaching bans and goes into some details that you can read on their site by following the link above.

London has the lowest rate of barring per 10,000 teachers. This is possibly because there are a higher percentage of young and more recently trained teachers in London and they are aware of the tightening of the rules, especially in relation to conduct between teachers and their pupils.

I believe that the police still have the responsibility to report anyone who states their occupation as a teacher, if they are involved in a criminal act.  Some of the alcohol cases will have come about because of a drink driving charge, sometimes during the Christmas holiday period.

The BBC story doesn’t look into the trends in severity of outcomes in terms of length or bans received. There is a study to be undertaken to ensure that panels are consistent in their general approach even after acknowledging that the facts of each case are unique.

Requiring high standards of those that are teachers is obviously important and I hope that rigorous checks at the application stage prevent some from entering the profession. That’s one reason why I have always believed that interviews of potential applicants to teaching is a critical part of the process: mere study of a form is not good enough.

A number of the cases in the BBC story were historical in nature when dealt with and it is to be hoped that the caseload of the Agency will fall as more teachers recognise the requirement laid upon them and the standards they need to uphold. However, if an MP can only be banned for 30 days for a failure to declare two holidays, we need to ensure that teachers are not being punished more severely for their transgressions than our lawmakers.

 

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Banning teachers from work

In the light of the NCTL still seemingly not having published the overall targets for ITT numbers to be recruited for the 2017 entry into the profession, I thought would look at what was on their web site. The ITT data will, I assume, eventually have to come from a parliamentary question at some point in 2017.

Another aspect of the NCTL’s work is to conduct the hearings into misconduct by teachers and report the findings on their web site. If you like, the potential for ending a teacher’s professional life, at least in the United Kingdom. I estimate that there were just over 130 hearings reported so far for 2016; not bad for a profession with 500,000+ active members and a lot more with the right to teach in state funded schools. As a percentage of the profession, the figure is so small as to not be worth calculating.

However, one aspect worth recording is a large discrepancy in the gender of those facing misconduct hearings. Although the teaching profession is now predominantly female, in terms of the active population, misconduct hearings in 2016 related to close to three men for every women summonded in front of a panel. Many hearings are in absentia as the teacher doesn’t bother to attend to learn their fate. In these cases, they often seem to have left the profession, at least in this country. There have been some worryingly ill-prepared statements of facts in a small number of cases. In one case, even a court record didn’t really make sense, although whether that was the fault of the Magistrates’ Court or the case officer wasn’t clear from the judgement.

In two cases, both relating to male teachers, no finding was made as the facts were not proved. In the case of 14 male teachers and 5 women teachers where cases were taken out, the facts were proved, but no Prohibition order was made. In all other case Prohibition Orders were made. Sexual conduct or the viewing of pornography amounted to over a third of the reasons for issuing a Prohibition Order, although in a small number of cases, some historical in nature, no Order was made. The second most frequent reason for issuing a Prohibition Order was as a result of a successful conviction in a criminal case of a teacher. In some instances, this related to matters taking place at a school, in other not. There were a small number of cases resulting from actions to do with tests or examinations, that breached the standards required of teachers. The remaining cases were accounted for as a result of a variety of matters, including misuse of school funds.

Teachers from across the country were issued with Prohibition Orders, although relatively few from the midlands. All the cases relating to alcohol concerned teachers from the same region. Although most cases were of teachers that had worked in state-funded schools, some cases involved teachers that had worked in the private sector.

Clearly, head teachers under pressure and in charge of challenging schools need to be mindful of the extra risks associated with their role, as it is too easy to let the paperwork and attention to detail slip.

Young teachers, need to be aware of the need for appropriate professional boundaries with any pupil, of any age, especially in high risk situations. Beware the School Prom.

No doubt, these cases heard in public are the most extreme in nature and there may be others where a teacher has been warned of their conduct and it has stopped. By publishing the cases, the NCTL allows a body of case law to emerge and also a debate about issues such as where boundaries should be drawn. In all cases the Secretary of State, through a civil servant, has the final say in the outcome.