More than 300 teachers were banned from the profession in the past three years – with misdemeanors ranging from exam misconduct to violence and bullying, according to new research by Tes.
Responding to a freedom of information request, the Teacher Regulation Agency (TRA) reported that 301 teachers were issued with a prohibition order between 2016 and 2019.
Of these, 86 (29 per cent) had breached their position of trust or crossed boundaries in their role, 70 (23 per cent) were guilty of sexual misconduct, and 37 (12 per cent) had acted dishonestly.
Analysis: Teacher misconduct referrals rise by 10%
Other common misdemeanors included exam misconduct, accounting for 31 bans, and offences relating to drink or drugs (15), indecent images (15) and violence (eight).
The data shows that the number of teachers barred for a breach of trust or boundaries has risen year on year – from 23 in 2016-17 to 37 in 2018-19.
Meanwhile, the number of bans for offences relating to sexual misconduct has fallen by 80 per cent – from 41 in 2016-17 to just seven in 2018-19.
The TRA has the power to recommend that the secretary of state bans teachers if a panel has found that there has been “unacceptable professional conduct”, “conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute” or a “conviction, at any time, of a relevant offence”.
A teacher ban, or prohibition order, applies for life, and means that the person cannot undertake unsupervised teaching work in any school, sixth-form college, children’s home or youth accommodation in England.
However, in some circumstances, a teacher may apply for the prohibition order to be reviewed after a period of no less than two years. This is not equivalent to an appeal against the original decision.
Top 10 reasons for teacher bans
Of the 301 prohibition orders issued between 2016 and 2019:
- 86 were relating to a breach of trust or boundaries.
- 70 were relating to sexual misconduct.
- 37 were relating to dishonesty.
- 31 were relating to exam misconduct.
- 15 were relating to drink or drugs.
- 15 were relating to ‘other’ unacceptable conduct.
- 10 were relating to indecent images.
- 8 were relating to violence.
- 7 were relating to other financial misconduct.
- 7 were relating to other serious criminal behaviour.
A handful of teachers were also banned for false representation, intolerance and undermining values, bullying, conviction (of a criminal offence), and offences relating to safeguarding.
When asked to elaborate on the scope of each category, a spokesperson for the DfE said: “The Teaching Regulation Agency does not define categories. Details of individual allegations can be found in the published decisions on gov.uk.”
Amanda Brown, deputy general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: "There are nearly 800,000 school staff in England who are subject to the Teaching Regulation Agency. The overwhelming majority of school staff are doing their jobs well and promoting the welfare of children.
"That said, the NEU is clear that any teacher who commits a sexual offence should not be able to continue teaching."
Banned for a breach of trust
As the DfE refuses to elaborate on how it categorises each offence, it is unclear exactly what is meant by a breach of trust or boundaries, as opposed to sexual misconduct or incidents involving indecent images.
It appears that the phrase "breach of trust" can been used to relate to anything from a sexual relationship with a pupil, to a breach of the "appropriate boundaries". In one case, a teacher was banned for acting like a "third parent" to one of their pupils.
One TRA ruling said: “Whilst the teaching profession is and remains a broad church where differing pedagogies can coexist, this is in part achieved through a universal acknowledgement that, regardless of the methodology adopted by the teacher, the appropriate boundaries in teacher-pupil relationships are respected at all times."
Increase in misconduct referrals
The number of teachers being referred to the disciplinary watchdog for alleged misconduct rose by more than 10 per cent last year.
According to the Teaching Regulation Agency’s annual report, published in August, the agency received 985 teacher misconduct referrals in 2018-19.
These led to 143 professional conduct panels, of which 91 (64 per cent) resulted in teachers being banned from the profession, eight (6 per cent) found no finding of fact, seven (5 per cent) found facts but no unprofessional conduct and 37 (26 per cent) found unprofessional conduct but did not result in a prohibition.
The figures represent a slight fall in the proportion of teachers being banned after appearing in front of a professional conduct panel. In 2017-18, there were 137 professional conduct panels with 91 (66 per cent) resulting in teachers being struck off.