Teachers in further education colleges and training providers could soon be in scope for teacher misconduct regulations that can result in lifetime bans from the profession.
The Department for Education is consulting on broadening the rules which allow for the Teacher Regulation Agency (TRA) to issue prohibition orders to anyone “employed or engaged” in teaching work in post-16 settings that is found guilty of serious misconduct.
The agency currently only has the power to take actions against teachers in schools, academies, sixth form colleges and certain forms of youth accommodation and children’s homes.
The move would mean that the employers of thousands of teachers, assessors, tutors and lecturers in post-16 education and training would have a statutory duty to decide whether to refer serious cases of misconduct for the TRA to investigate.
Those in scope would be further education colleges, special post-16 institutions and independent training providers. Providers of online education are also proposed to be added.
According to the consultation, published today, this proposal would keep the teacher misconduct regime in line with the statutory ‘keeping children safe in education’ safeguarding guidance which was recently updated to include requirements across broader range of education settings.
“It is important that the teacher misconduct regime keeps step with current policy and practice in the different ways that young people are being education, and enables the secretary of state to consider misconduct across a broad range of education settings,” the consultation states.
Only cases of serious misconduct can be referred to the TRA. This is broadly defined as “unacceptable professional conduct”, “conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute” or “conviction, at any time, of a relevant offence”. TRA guidance documents go in to these in more detail to aid employers.
Once the TRA receives a referral, a professional conduct panel is formed which makes a recommendation on whether or not to issue a prohibition order. This would ban the individual from carrying out teaching work, usually for life. Their name would also appear on the “prohibited list” for employers, local authorities and teacher supply agencies to be able to check.
The expansion of the providers in scope would mean that a banned teacher from the post-16 sector could not be reappointed in the pre-16 sector, and vice versa.
Powers to bar former teachers from returning
Another proposal in the consultation would give the TRA powers to investigate referrals of individuals that commit serious misconduct while not employed as a teacher.
The secretary of state doesn’t currently have the powers to ban someone from teaching if the person is not currently employed as a teacher. The new proposal would close this loop-hole and allow the TRA to consider all referrals involving serious misconduct by individuals who have at any time been employed or engaged to undertake teaching work in a relevant setting.
This would allow the regulator to probe more cases involving staff only working infrequently in teaching and those on career breaks.
No cap is planned for the length of time that may have passed since someone last worked in teaching.
“An artificial time limit may prevent consideration of extremely unsuitable people,” the consultation documents state.
“Our guidance will allow TRA caseworkers to carefully consider each case on its merits, by weighing up the length of time a person has been away from the profession, any child protection considerations and the likelihood of them trying to return to the classroom.”
The consultation opened today and closes on March 14, 2022.