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Teachers - what can you do if the NCTL is investigating allegations of professional misconduct?

Teachers - what can you do if the NCTL is investigating allegations of professional misconduct?

We pride ourselves on our record when acting for Teachers where the National College for Teaching and Leadership (‘the NCTL’) is investigating allegations of professional misconduct.

The NCTL is an executive agency of the Department for Education whose purpose is to improve the quality of the education workforce, supporting the quality and status of the teaching profession by ensuring that in cases of serious professional misconduct, teachers are prohibited from teaching.

From the outset, as a Teacher, you can be issued with an Interim Prohibition Order (‘ICO’), pending investigations and issuing of any Prohibition Order in respect of which there is an independent right to request a review.

The NCTL receives referrals from bodies such as the Disclosure & Barring Service, parents or Schools themselves, often at the conclusion of internal disciplinary proceedings. It investigates cases which could result in the Secretary of State issuing the Teacher with a Prohibition Order (this prohibits the Teacher from practising for either an indefinite period or for the minimum period of two years, following which there is a right to request a review). The Teacher can appeal to the Queen’s Bench division of the High Court against a decision to issue a Prohibition Order.

Where the NCTL decides that there is a case to answer, the Teacher will have an opportunity to formally confirm what allegations, if any, are accepted. A meeting can be convened where the Panel considers the evidence in the absence of parties and any witnesses. This is only available if the Teacher admits to each of the allegations and accepts that his/her behaviour falls below that expected of a Teacher.

Otherwise, the matter will proceed to a hearing which is usually in public; however, even if the proceedings themselves proceed in private, the announcement of the Panel’s decision is announced in public and recorded.

The Panel has to be persuaded that, on the balance of probabilities, the allegation/(s) is/are made out; it must then determine if the Teacher is thereby guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and/or conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.

We have an experienced team of Solicitors who have acted for Teachers in such cases, working closely with specialist Counsels where necessary. We have successfully persuaded Professional Conduct Panels that the NCTL has not made out its case which had resulted in no finding being made.

Where cases are chosen to progress to a hearing, the NCTL refers the case to a Presenting Officer to deal with the pre-hearing case preparation. The period of time from when the NCTL receives a referral, to the date when the Panel hears the case and makes its recommendation to the Secretary of State, to the date of the decision can vary depending on the complexities of the case. It is imperative for teachers to fully comply with requests and deadlines set by the NCTL.

Thorough case preparation and early action is key; for example, this may involve requesting personal information from a data controller who has a statutory timescale of 40 days within which to comply with a request under the Provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998, as amended. Character references can also be of great importance and there is no room for delay when third parties are being approached for assistance.

Our experience as leading practitioners in this area enables us to ensure that your case is prepared to the highest level to ensure the best possibility of defeating a case brought by the NCTL.

If you have a situation that you would like to discuss with us in confidence, please do not hesitate to contact us at anita.chopra@matchsolicitors.com or on 020 7353 6881.

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