MPs and peers say licence to teach will breach human rights

5th March 2010 at 00:00
Influential parliamentary committee alleges ministers at risk of breaching European law

The government's plan to introduce a licence to teach will breach teachers' human rights, an influential committee of MPs and Lords has said.

In its report on the Children, Schools and Families Bill, the joint committee on human rights demanded that the Government amend the bill or risk breaking the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The committee dismissed claims in a government impact assessment on the introduction of a licence to teach that it would not "interfere" with a teacher's human rights, stating that the removal of the licence would constitute a "material right" being taken away from them.

The committee's report said: "qualified teacher status ... gives teachers the right to practise their profession as a teacher. That is clearly a right which qualifies as a 'possession' ...

"The proposed licensing scheme, which the Government accepts may impose significant restrictions on a qualified teacher's right to practise ... clearly constitutes an interference with that possession."

The committee also takes issue with the Government's current plan to make the General Teaching Council for England the independent appeals body as well as the body providing the original licence.

The report said: "We do not accept that a right of appeal to a committee of the very same body as makes the original licensing decision satisfies the requirement of Article 6 of the ECHR that there be access to an independent and impartial tribunal."

The NUT said it intends to lobby the Government to amend the bill to incorporate the joint committee's findings, but added that its overall aim would be to see the licence to teach scrapped altogether.

John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said: "It shows the Government's impact assessment into the licence to teach claiming it does not affect a teacher's human rights is rubbish.

"The Government was wrong, and if they are to continue along these lines that allow for the material right to be taken away from a teacher, then they must have a separate appeals process. But that doesn't mean to say we accept the licence. We want to see it dropped."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "The Government does not accept that a teacher's right to earn a living practising their profession should be regarded as a possession and the case law cited in the ECHR report is not directly comparable to the situation with teachers in England."

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