Disciplinary cases climb by 50%
The General Teaching Council for England (GTC) has seen a 50 per cent spike in disciplinary cases as schools rush to have cases dealt with before the regulatory body is abolished next spring.
Total referrals for teachers' conduct and competency soared from 1,238 in the 200910 academic year to 1,850 in 201011.
At the same time the number of hearings more than doubled from 176 to 408, with teams of outside lawyers brought in to help push cases through quickly.
Teachers' leaders said the figures showed a welcome renewed focus on the GTC's core regulatory function - but it has come too late to save it from the axe.
Education secretary Michael Gove hoped to please the teaching profession last year when he announced he was scrapping the watchdog in favour of more self-regulation in schools.
He said the quango was "not earning its keep" and claimed unions had been crying out for it to be abolished - which they denied.
The GTC said that in past years many teachers who should have been referred to it were not, and the dramatic increase in its caseload was a result of greater awareness among schools and local authorities of their legal duty to make such referrals. There were also more complaints from members of the public, it said.
But the flood of hearings this year was partly thanks to a desire to complete "unfinished business", union leaders told The TES.
John Rimmer, national president of the NASUWT and a member of the GTC council, said: "It's a combination of things. One is that the GTC wants to get its house in order, to get through as many cases as possible before it closes in April.
"They want to be seen to have completed their function efficiently and effectively. It might be seen as a signal to the secretary of state: `Look how we've done this role and you're closing us down'.
"In the past 12 months they have not been concentrating on advocacy as much and have been focusing more on investigatory and regulatory work."
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "I suspect a lot of it would be to do with them closing and the fact they have got lots of cases to complete within a timescale.
"There was a view from Government that not enough referrals were being made and that has improved.
"Now there is an enormous amount of effort going into completing unfinished business before it closes down. We have had a very heavy workload of things being pushed through. But there is still enormous uncertainty about will replace it (the GTC)."
Ministers want schools to deal with most disciplinary matters internally but heads have warned it is "vital" to maintain a central register of qualified teachers.