Teachers Defence ServiceReflective Writing for Teachers Facing Regulatory Investigation
How to Show Insight
Reflective Writing Guidance for Teachers
Teachers Defence Service represents teachers in regulatory cases at the GTCS, TRA England, GTCNI Northern Ireland, EWC Wales.
Showing Insight During Teaching Regulator Investigations and Hearings
If a teacher is to remain on the teaching register or to be able to practise unsupervised teaching by avoiding the imposition of a prohibiton order (the terminology changes depending which country the teacher is regulated in) they will need to show the regulator tasked with investigating them that the teacher has reflected in any poor practice and learned from it, such that repetition is a negligible risk. This is not straightforward and if a teacher does not demonstrate that they have thought things through and genuinely undertaken personal change for the better, they may well be found to be paying mere lip-service to the process, in a contrived and insincere way.
Below, we set out in headline terms, in a flow chart, our take on the process of demonstrating insight in regulatory proceedings. It is often not enough for a teacher to merely copy the headlines and write a few words. A reflection should be detailed and extensive, over several pages of A4. It should be typed and talk in detail about any failings and how they have remedied them (where they can), the training they have done, and any recompense they have arranged or apology that they have sent. Because misconduct and the impact of other matters on teachers, each case will require a different response. We can advise in more detail on specific circumstances, if instructed.
Working through the Flow Chart
Starting at the top, showing embedded insight is the key. How does one do that? A teacher needs to reflect on the allegations. If admitted, it is easier to go through the process of showing insight. Where the allegations are not admitted, there may still be surrounding circumstances that could be commented on and reflected upon, to show that the teacher has not sat on their laurels, in preparation for a hearing or response to the investigatory stage.
It is important to bear in mind that the regulatory disciplinary process is there to principally protect children and young people, and to uphold public confidence (more broadly) in the teaching professions, the teaching regulators, and in individual teachers.
Therefore, in applying that policy to the reflection, each of the outside boxes within the flowchart should be given consideration through the prism of the factors set out in the central box. Those factors weigh heavily when the regulators assess the fitness or suitability of a teacher to practise teaching or lecturing or working in similar teaching roles.
Below is a flowchart to guide teachers through the reflection process:
The Circumstances the Teacher was in
It is better to be the one to raise the more difficult aspects of the history of events rather than ignore it or pay only a little attention to it. Explaining how the matters of concern came about, and why they lasted as long as they did (if they occurred over a long period) are important matters to consider.
The personal circumstances of the teacher may also be relevant to some allegations. This aspect of the reflection can of course cover many aspects: the teacher’s financial position, their mental health, physical health, burn-out, lack of training, pressure of work, poor managerial support, family or home circumstances, other pressures. This is not an exhaustive list.
Effect on Others
The impact on others, of the teachers’ acts or omissions that led to concerns being raised, or matters arising from their ill-health, or which led to a conviction or police warning or caution, all need to be considered. The impact on victims is an essential component of the reflection, as is understanding any long lasting impact and harm that have have been caused. Victims might be children or young people or schools or other learning establishments.
Harm can be personal and direct, or indirect and reputationally damaging to other teaching staff, schools or educational establishments, where the teacher of concern had worked. Some examples might include: where there has been fraud committed against school funds, the other staff (and students) and the educational organisation could be harmed due to a diminishment of available funds (that may be unrecoverable); reputational damage to head teachers and governors, and to the school. Direct harm may have occurred to children or young people who were impacted by a teacher’s misconduct. Full or sufficiently emerging insight must be shown in relation to the impact on others, to increase the prospects of success. Misconduct can take so many different forms that it is not possible to set out every facet that a teacher would need to reflect on, but we can provide bespoke advice, if we are instructed to advise. On other pages within this website we set out some of the common areas of complaint against teachers.
Lessons Learned by the Teacher
What has the teacher learned from what has occurred? Have they truly analysed the history such that they understand what led them to that point? Have they taken steps to undertake training or continuing professional development to be able to rectify any shortcomings? Remediation is an important factor that is taken into consideration. If the teacher has been dishonest they will need to attend a number of probity courses, not just do online self-study. Courses where there are peers can help to explore professional values and how to maintain better standards in the future, to identify in the future the hazards and the risks, so as to avoid the risk of repetition.
What of Future Risk?
Analysing one’s future risk of repetition is an important aspect of showing insight. It is not enough to state that one would never do it again. A teacher must ensure that they have looked at the history to look at the triggers, so as to prevent such triggers leading to the same adverse outcome as before. We can discuss and advise teachers on this aspect, as it is not an easy one to explore and evidence.
Regret and Remorse?
The regulator will look at the teacher’s conduct after the incident or events that are of concern, to see whether they truly regret what has occurred. If the case goes to a hearing, the barrister or case presenter for the regulator will explore this in some detail. It is important to have given thought to all such aspects, rather than being caught without an considered answer. Being unable to answer any of the questions put to them could undermine the teacher’s assurances that their reflections are complete.
Whether to Apologise
In some instances, it may be necessary to consider sending a letter of apology to a child (through proper channels), or their parents or guardian, or a school or university. This again needs to be done with great care and is not justified in all cases. On occasions, a letter of apology can cause more harm than good. A teacher should not jump in and write a letter of apology before thinking the matter through.
Is it futile in some cases to go through the process of showing insight?
It should be noted that there are a few classes of cases where removal from the register (or the imposition of a prohibition order) are inevitable. However, a teacher might still wish to go through the process of showing insight, for their own peace of mind and for closure – that no more could have been done, in all of the circumstances.
In any event, should the teacher wish to work in a teaching role again in the future, it is better to have gone through the process of showing insight or demonstrating emerging insight, even if it is only the very beginning of such a process. To evidence where a teacher is in their thinking at the point of sanction can be of assistance to them years later when they re-apply to become a registered teacher (or apply for the prohibition order to be lifted).
About this article
The above article is a summary of the issues a teacher will need to consider when replying to a regulator. Not all of the steps will require the same amount of detail as others. But each regulatory case turns on its own facts and on the unique circumstances of the teacher or lecturer.
The above guidance is not a substitute for legal advice. We can assist teachers to focus on what is needed in a given case, if we are instructed to assist them. See also our guidance on writing statements generally: Statement Writing in Regulatory Cases
We can provide advice and guidance on reflective pieces of writing, or advise generally and provide advocacy services (including representation at hearings), if instructed, to assist you in dealing with teaching regulators. Our fees are competitive. Give us a call on 020 3012 0402 without obligation and in strict confidence to see how we can assist you. Or, use our Contact Form.
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