Memorandum submitted by The General Teaching
Council for England (GTCE)
The General Teaching Council for
England (GTCE) is aware of the very considerable distress associated
with the processes for dealing with allegations against school
The GTCE receives a small number
of complaints about teachers directly from the public but these
are rarely at a threshold serious enough to raise doubts about
the teacher's registration status and thus to require a hearing
To date, only three such referrals have resulted in a sanction.
The GTCE does not consider complaints
or referrals that raise child protection issues. These are dealt
with by the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).
The GTCE believes that referral and
investigation procedures are not universally well understood.
Local authorities and personnel providers should provide more
high quality training and support in this area.
The GTCE does not believe that the
public interest requires the teacher or other staff member to
be named at the point the allegation is made.
1. The General Teaching Council for England
(GTCE) is the professional and regulatory body for teachers teaching
in maintained schools, maintained and non-maintained special schools
and pupil referral units in England. Under the Teaching and Higher
Education Act 1998, we have a responsibility for regulating the
professional behaviour of registered teachers in England and may
consider cases referred to us for reasons of misconduct, incompetence
or criminal offending.
2. Teacher employers, whether local authorities,
individual schools with legal employer status or supply teaching
agencies, are required to refer a case to us where a teacher is
dismissed for a reason relating to misconduct, incompetence or
criminal offending or where they resign in circumstances where
dismissal was possible.
3. Members of the public may also refer
complaints of misconduct (but not of incompetence) directly to
the GTCE. We have powers to investigate and hold public hearings
and may issue a reprimand, apply conditions to continuing registration,
suspend registration or prohibit from teaching, with or without
the option to reapply for registration. Sanctions are recorded
on the Register, which is available through online checking by
employers. Members of the public may also check whether a teacher
is registered. The GTCE does not consider cases where the teacher
may represent a risk of harm to children, which is a matter for
the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).
4. Allegations against school staff may
be made by a range of parties and cover a wide range of issues.
Schools are required to have complaints procedures in place whereby
parents and others who are dissatisfied by a matter relating to
the school may make complaint. The GTCE believe the normal expectation
is that complainants about an individual teacher should initially
raise the matter with the head teacher and thereafter, if not
satisfied, with the governing body. Where the school is under
local authority control, the local authority may also be approached
but we understand that its role is confined to reviewing the adequacy
and of the procedures followed in considering the complaint rather
than the substance of the matters at issue. Our expectation is
that the great majority of complaints raised against teachers
will be successfully addressed at school level. The GTCE recently
responded to a government consultation on the adequacy of the
arrangements for considering parental complaints: A New Way of
Considering Parents' Complaints About School IssuesNovember
5. Where the allegation is a serious one
involving abuse, our expectation would be that the school would
address the matter under the relevant procedures, which are contained
in the guidance: Safeguarding Children in Education: Dealing
With Allegations of Abuse Against Teachers and Other Staff
6. The GTC does not have data about the
level and nature of complaints about teacher conduct which we
assume could only be collected from schools and local authorities
7. As stated above, it is possible for a member
of the public to make a complaint of improper conduct by a teacher
directly to the GTCE. The GTCE has published information about
its role which is widely available. Specific guidance on how to
make a complaint of misconduct against a teacher is available
on our website at http://www.gtce.org.uk/parents/howto/#express_concern.
8. The role of the GTCE is to consider allegations
which are sufficiently serious to meet the threshold of matters
capable of affecting the registration status of the teacher. At
the same time, we must also make it clear that our role is not
to consider cases where the teacher may represent a risk of harm
to children nor are we a general complaints body or ombudsman
for all complaints about the education system or the performance
9. The table below shows the numbers of
public complaints against teachers received by the GTCE since
10. We consider the pattern of increase in such referrals
reflects an increasing level of awareness of the GTCE's role rather
than any decrease in the standards of behaviour by teachers.
11. The great majority of such referrals to the GTCE
are matters which are more appropriate for resolution at school
or otherwise at local level or are matters for other bodies in
the education system: eg Ofsted. Very few such referrals reach
the threshold of seriousness that would be relevant to registration
status and in the period covered only three cases have resulted
in a sanction at hearing.
12. In relation to allegations of abuse, the GTCE has
previously commented on this matter, in response to a previous
consultation on a revision to the guidance: Safeguarding Children
in Education: Dealing with Allegations of Abuse against Teachers
and Other Staff (DfES/2044/2005).
13. On 4 May 2007, in response to a report from the National
Association of Head Teachers, the GTCE's Chief Executive Keith
"I have huge sympathy for all teachers facing an unfounded
or vexatious allegation of misconduct or abuse. I strongly support
Mick Brooke's statement this morning that everyone's primary concern
must be the safety and protection of children but I also feel
that these allegations could and should be dealt with more fairly
and effectively. The public interest does not require that the
teacher or head teacher be named at the point when an allegation
is first raised. That should wait until the point that an adult
is actually charged with an offence. I also think that more should
be done to challenge those who make false accusations, because
they currently face no consequences for the distress and anxiety
they bring down on a teacher and on the whole school.
14. The guidance: Safeguarding Children in Education:
Dealing With Allegations of Abuse Against Teachers and Other Staff
(DfES/2044/2005) contains carefully considered guidance on the
procedures for dealing with allegations where a teacher may have:
behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may
have harmed a child;
possibly committed a criminal offence against
or related to a child; or,
behaved towards a child or children in a way that
indicates s/he is unsuitable to work with children.
15. This guidance has been produced with the advice of
the national network of Investigation and Referral Support Co-ordinators
Network established by government in 2001, with a view to establishing
and disseminating best practice in this area and was previously
agreed with a wide range of stakeholder bodies. It covers the
role of the school in following disciplinary procedures, the circumstances
where suspension is appropriate, police involvement and record
keeping in some detail. The GTCE does not have evidence which
it can draw upon of the extent to which the current guidance has
been successful in supporting the effective management of allegations
in this area.
16. Where the allegations do not fall within this category,
guidance for schools is available through the personnel provider
to the school, whether the local authority or a private company.
General advice and guidance on the formation and operation of
procedures in these areas is provided through NEOST.
17. The GTCE is aware of the very high levels of concern
expressed by teacher associations about the protracted nature
of these proceedings and how stressful these are for the affected
teacher and the wider school community. We recognise that there
is the potential for teachers to face the further prospect of
a referral to the GTCeither because the allegation has
resulted in dismissal or resignation by the teacher or because
complaints may be raised by the teacher against other teachers
or school leaders involved in the process. To date, however, this
has not arisen as an issue.
18. The GTCE has concerns that the new arrangements for
referring cases either to the ISA where they raise child protection
issues, or to the GTC on other conduct issues, may not yet be
fully understood by employers and that this has the potential
to introduce a further layer of complexity and difficulty.
19. We believe that local authorities and personnel providers
should be considering an extensive programme of support and training
to ensure that schools operate all the relevant procedures in
relation to allegations against school staff effectively, promptly