Fine line to judge public interest

21st May 2004 at 01:00
The General Teaching Council has a statutory duty to regulate the conduct and competence of teachers in the public interest. Cases are referred to the GTC by employers where a teacher has been dismissed or has resigned.

The public also make referrals and some cases are referred by the DfES.

In conduct cases, including criminal cases, the DfES may decide to bar or restrict a teacher where the safety of children is at risk, or public confidence in the profession would be compromised. However, in practice the DfES refers many of these and other conduct cases to the GTC.

Identifying where the public interest lies can be complex. When the public interest in retribution has already been achieved through the judicial process, the panel must then consider whether it serves the public interest to give a competent teacher the chance to serve society in a job they do well, or whether overriding considerations of safety and public confidence mean this is impossible.

The GTC has a rigorous process to hear cases. Each panel has two teachers and one lay member, so the public can be assured that the profession is regulating in partnership with people representing children and parents.

The GTC's hearings are held in public, a further assurance to the wider community that these serious cases are being examined with rigour and transparency.

Each GTC panel has an independent legal adviser and has an ascending range of sanctions from reprimand to prohibition. Thorough, professional training is a requirement before council members hear cases. Our procedures were developed in consultation with other regulators, employers and the teacher unions and are reviewed with them regularly.

A prohibition order, which bars the teacher from practice, is the most severe sanction. The GTC has used this sanction on 11 occasions to date.

Panels can suspend a teacher from practice and can also impose strict conditions before they can return to school.

The GTC is constantly building on its experience of hearing cases to refine its procedures. Our professional standards committee meets quarterly to review our regulatory work. It is developing indicative sanctions guidance to support decisions made by hearing panels. We issue a registrar's letter to employers summarising the lessons of regulation to date.

The council is committed to delivering this important work as effectively as possible.

Carol Adams is chief executive of the GTC for England

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