TEACHERS sacked from school for serious professional incompetence can expect to be banned from the classroom for at least two years, a senior member of England's General Teaching Council suggested this week.
The warning came from David Cornwell, who delivered the judgment this week which resulted in the first teacher being struck off the council's register.
A GTC disciplinary panel, which he chaired, issued a two-year prohibition order on Jane Kershaw, former deputy head of Merley first school in Wimborne, Dorset.
The three-member panel, sitting in Birmingham, heard how Mrs Kershaw had been discovered in the boiler house of her school drinking vodka and Lilt. Days later, she was sacked.
The hearing was told that her drinking played no part in the governors'
decision to sack her, though alcohol may have contributed to problems which led to her dismissal.
After the hearing, Mr Cornwell told The TES he expected most incompetence cases, if upheld, to result in prohibition orders, with a minimum two-year ban. After that, teachers have to persuade the council that they should be reinstated.
A lesser sanction, of suspension, would see a teacher automatically reinstated after a maximum of two years.
He said: "I would be surprised if, given that we are finding someone guilty of serious professional incompetence, that suspension would be enough. We would need to see evidence that someone had improved."
Mr Cornwell said he expected only a few hearings of this sort every year. Teachers have to be sacked, or resign while facing the sack, before coming before the GTC.
Mrs Kershaw, a teacher for 30 years, who chose not to attend the hearing, said "fine" when told of the judgment. The school was not available for comment.
She faced three charges - failing to sustain effective teaching practices, demonstrating ineffective classroom behaviour management and failing to undertake teaching support duties.
Headteacher Sue Mussell told the hearing that Mrs Kershaw, whose mother was seriously ill, had become withdrawn in the months leading up to her sacking last June. The school, which was concerned about Mrs Kershaw's teaching, offered her time off, training courses, and other support, but without tangible results, said Mrs Mussell. Poole council adviser Jeff Hart said that Mrs Kershaw had shown little enthusiasm or energy during an art lesson he observed.
The prohibition order is the toughest of four sanctions available to the council if it decides that a school was right to sack a teacher. It means that Mrs Kershaw must convince another GTC panel, in two years' time, of renewed commitment to the job. She would have to show evidence of a changed attitude, for example, through voluntary work.