Article by Naomh Gibson
The Teaching Regulation Agency (‘TRA’), is an executive agency of the Department for Education (‘DfE’), responsible for regulating the teaching profession in England. The TRA investigates cases of serious teacher misconduct and decides whether to refer a case to a professional conduct panel, who may make findings and, if appropriate, recommend to the Secretary of State to impose a prohibition order.
The DfE is considering whether to broaden the scope of the TRA’s powers. They are now in the second stage of its consultation on the proposed changes.
What are the proposed changes?
The TRA is proposing the following changes:-
- The TRA may consider all referrals of serious misconduct committed by any individual who has at any time in the past been employed or engaged to undertake teaching work in a relevant setting
- The TRA may regulate Further Education colleges, Providers of post-16 education as set out in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (as amended), and online schools
- The Secretary of State may consider referrals of serious misconduct regardless of how the matter comes to their attention
How would this affect me as a Teacher?
If you are an individual who is not currently working as a teacher or is between jobs (e.g. those on a career break or teaching infrequently, or supply teachers between jobs), any alleged misconduct you engage in during this time can be referred to the TRA. There is no limit planned for the length of time that may have passed since someone last worked in schools.
There is an added difficulty by the fact there is currently no method that an ex-Teacher can ‘de register’. If someone has qualified as a Teacher, they are presumed able to return to the classroom at any time.
There is a concern that if not properly considered and implemented, those who have worked as a Teacher some time ago with no intention of returning to the classroom may be facing regulatory proceedings, with all the accompanying stress and cost.
The changes to include FE colleges and other higher education facilities is likely to be welcomed, unless you are an individual who works with adults in these facilities, not children. It remains to be seen whether the proposed changes will be drafted carefully enough to exclude people in higher education settings who don’t work with minors.
At present, the TRA has to wait for a complaint from an employer or member of the public before they can look into a referral. The DfE does not allow ‘self-referrals’ from their own agencies.
If this changes, you may also be facing a TRA referral where your conduct has been subject to scrutiny by DfE officials elsewhere other than the TRA, for example by the ESFA (the Education and Skills Funding Agency) which conducts academy audits, or the STA (the Standards and Testing Agency) which looks at examination administration.
This could result in an individual being targeted by multiple DfE agencies at one time, even where no complaint is made by your employer or pupil-parent.
What can I do about this?
If you would like to engage in the consultation, you can do so online: www.education.gov.uk/consultations
The results of the consultation and the Department’s response will be published on GOV.UK in Spring 2022.
If you are facing an investigation or a professional conduct panel and would like assistance, Naomh Gibson is available for instruction. Naomh has experience as a Presenting Officer for the TRA which gives her invaluable insight into defending Teachers. You can contact Naomh’s clerks on 0121 237 6035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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