Teachers Defence ServiceRegulatory Defence Statements by Teachers
Legal Guidance to Teachers
Guidance on the Content of Statements Submitted to Teaching Regulators
Teachers Defence Service represent teachers and lecturers in regulatory matters concerning the teaching regulators of the four countries of the UK.
Below we summarise the main issues of concern to teachers who are writing a statement in their own defence, or by way of mitigation.
Timing of the Submission of a Statement
Teachers whose cases have been referred to a conduct hearing will need to draft a statement responding to the allegations and the evidence they are facing. At earlier stages, it may or may not be in the interests of a teacher to write a statement. Each case turns on its own facts, and there are dangers in submitting a statement too soon. We recommend that teachers take legal advice before submitting a statement to their regulator.
Content of a Defence Statement (Factual Statement)
Responding to Allegations
A teacher should copy and paste each of the allegations in turn and then state whether they admit or deny each one. Care should be taken to ensure that, where admissions are being made, the full scope of the allegation is understood and replied to, where appropriate. On occasions a teacher might admit something that they later regret. Likewise, they might deny something that they later admit, so losing credit for early admissions and a demonstration of insight and remediation.
Short Summaries of the Teacher’s Case
Underneath each allegation that the respondent teacher has indicated an admission or denial to, they should also write a short paragraph summarising their position. This should be a short comment, so that the people at the regulator who are tasked with adjudicating can clearly see what the issues are, underneath each of the allegations in turn.
More Detailed Section of Statement
This part of the statement should be much more detailed. It should be given paragraph numbers and section titles. Each statement by each witness for the regulator will need to be replied to thoroughly. Bear in mind that a failure to state something that is later relied upon will be flagged up by the case presenter for the regulator, and the adjudication panel may therefore use it to form a view as to the credibility of the teacher’s statement, and the weight that can be given to it.
The statement will also need to respond to each exhibit, in turn, stating the exhibit number and then making comment on it.
Overall Statement Content Aims
Overall it is important for the teacher to respond to the alleged timeline, correcting it where appropriate while also fully explaining and evidencing their version of events in reply. Any additional evidence that is relevant should be set out. On occasions a statement will need to be extensively detailed, over many pages. A statement should not contain irrelevancies.
The Teacher’s Exhibits
A teacher may also have in their possession documents or video or audio or data that is relevant to their defence. Any evidence that supports their version of events should be attached and given an exhibit number, and be commented on. Any evidence that undermines the case against them should follow the same pattern.
Defence Evidence not in the Possession of the Teacher
It may be necessary to make third-party requests for disclosure. The regulator may be in a stronger position to obtain relevant documentation that the teacher is. A teacher should therefore identify early on the documents that other people or organisations possess and make a request for them under Freedom of Information or data disclosure provisions. If the documentation or other evidence is not forthcoming for the third party, the teacher should request that the regulator obtains it on their behalf.
Pagination and Indexation
The statement and any exhibits will need to be paginated and indexed for easy reference and reading by others.
Signing and Dating the Statement
It is important to date the statement, so that a reader can understand that the teacher held their stated position on a certain date. The statement should also be signed and carry a declaration of truth. This is so that appropriate weight can be given by the adjudication panel to the statement and exhibits. A teacher should only sign it if they can be assured that the contents are entirely true to the best of their knowledge and belief. Where information has come from a third party the teacher should explain the limits of their own knowledge and where necessary obtain a statement from the person who can comment on the topic, in the form of a formal witness statement, again following similar principles to those outlined above.
Other People’s Witness Statements (on Facts) for the Defence
Where a teacher wishes to rely on the recollections of others, in relation to factual matters, a statement would usually be required from that person in the form of a witness statement. The statement should contain paragraph numbers and comment on factual matters insofar as they can. The teacher should generally not take a statement from a witness as it could undermine the weight given to the content, by the adjudicating panel. Note that the witness might be required to attend a hearing to amplify the content of their statement.
A teacher might need to additionally comment on another defence witness’s statement, in the teacher’s own statement.
Teachers will need to obtain testimonials in support of them generally but they can also rely on testimonials as to their good character at the facts stage, in some situations. Character witnesses will need to be informed of the allegations, so that the testimonial is written by somebody who is fully informed. They should sign and date their statement and include a declaration of truth. Character statements differ between those admissible at the facts stage and those admissible at later stages. We can advise on this.
Statements from Experts
On occasions a teacher might need to instruct an expert in support of their case, particularly if there are technical elements that they can opine on that are outwith the usual knowledge and experience of the adjudicating panel. There are specific protocols that need to be adopted when instructing an expert, and the expert might also be required to give evidence at a hearing.
A teacher may need to comment in their own statement on the defence expert’s opinion in their own statement. If the regulator seeks to rely on an expert of their own’s opinion, the teacher will need to comment on that evidence in their statement, and likely need to instruct their own expert.
Teachers Defence Service can assist a teacher in identifying when an expert will be needed, on identifying a suitable expert, on instructing a suitable expert – with appropriate questions. We can also liaise with experts to ensure that they cover the factual and opinion matters needed for the teacher’s case, and to ensure that the report is in a suitable form, in accordance with the relevant court and tribunal protocols.
Separate Statement on Later History
A statement on insight and remediation is usually needed. This too should be signed with a declaration and date, and also properly cross-referenced (with pagination) and contain indexed exhibits. A reflection should be several pages long and really get to grips with the issues of concern and the analysis that the teacher has undertaken. The adjudicating panel will want to know what a teacher has been doing since the allegations arose.
Statements Demonstrating Insight
A teacher who admits fault or is found to be at fault will need to demonstrate the steps that they have taken to reflect on the history, on the changes they have made and the learning that they have undertaken. The teacher will need to consider whether to express regret or apologise. The teacher will need to give consideration to the issues that the adjudicating panel will take into account. These include the risk of repetition, the public interest, and upholding public confidence in the profession of teaching and in the regulator itself.
Demonstrating insight is an important aspect of replying to a regulator. A failure to demonstrate reflection and insight could lead to a much worse hearing outcome for the teacher. Teachers Defence Service can advise teachers on demonstrating insight, relevant to the issues in the case they are responding to. See our additional article on: Showing Insight, A Guide for Teachers
Statements Demonstrating Remediation
A teacher will often have to demonstrate that they have undertaken steps of learning to ensure that they are fully familiar with the requirements of a teacher, demonstrating a thorough understanding of the subject-matter, and evidencing wide-ranging reading. The teacher may need to do continuing professional development (CPD), and sit assessments to obtain certificates of participation. In responding to some issues of concern, a teacher may need to attend multi-participant training, to show that there has been discussion with peers about topics relevant to their own regulatory case.
Remediation is a very important step in evidencing a change in the teacher’s approach, and to show how they would deal with things differently in the future – as a consequence of study and deep-reflection. They might also need to show planning for the future, if certain scenarios were to arise in the future that in the past had caused difficulties for the teacher.
Teachers Defence Service can assist teachers by advising them on the steps of remediation that they might take in the circumstances of their particular case.
The art of writing appropriate statements is not an easy one. It should not be rushed. Relevant detail is important. A failure to deal with a subject sufficiently in a statement might be held against a teacher, by an adjudicating panel. Specialist lawyers, such as those at Teachers Defence Service, are very experienced in drafting witness statements and we can provide guidance to teachers, witnesses and experts on the recommended content of them. This article is only an outline of some of the steps a teacher might need to take in a particular case.
Teachers Defence Service can provide advice and guidance to teachers on statement writing, or advocacy services (including representation at hearings), if instructed, to assist you in dealing with your teaching regulator. 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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