Legal Representation at the TRA
Teachers Defence Service represents teachers in Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) Professional Conduct Inquiries, and QTS applications.
Below we summarise the main legislative provisions relating to regulatory breaches. This article is not exhaustive. On other pages, we provide additional summary guidance on how you might prepare your defence or mitigation case. If you would like assistance with the preparation of your case, either purely advisory or to also include representation at TRA Professional Conduct hearings, do get in touch with us.
About the TRA
The Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) is responsible for regulating the teaching profession in England. It acts as an executive agent of the Department of Education. The Secretary of State for Education is currently The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE who was appointed on 24 July 2019.
The Education Act 2011 gives the Secretary of State for Education the power to regulate teachers in England. It also gives the Secretary a power to hold a list of teachers who have been prohibited from teaching, now knows as the ‘prohibition list.’
The Teaching Regulation Authority also operates on behalf of the Secretary of State, as an agency. Certain regulations provide direction to the agency about how to operate the regulatory scheme, including the Teachers Disciplinary (England) Regulations 2012, as amended.
The Regulations apply to all people carrying out teaching in England. They cover matters of serious misconduct. The TRA does not investigate minor misconduct, incompetence or under-performance, which are dealt with at a local level. We can advise teachers, tutors, instructors and lecturers governed by the TRA on how to reply to allegations or concerns.
Teachers must comply with Standards set by the Department of Education. The standards define the minimum level of practice expected of trainees and teachers from the point of being awarded qualified teacher status (QTS).
Allegations of ‘Serious Misconduct’
The TRA investigates cases of serious teacher misconduct and decides whether to refer a case to a professional conduct panel.
Serious misconduct is considered to be:
- unacceptable professional conduct;
- conduct that could bring the profession into disrepute; or
- a conviction for a relevant offence.
TRA Panel Guidance
The TRA’s guidance to panels, Teacher Misconduct: the Prohibition of Teachers 2018 states that:
(a) ‘ “Unacceptable professional conduct” is misconduct of a serious nature, falling significantly short of the standard of behaviour expected of a teacher. Misconduct outside of the education setting will only amount to “unacceptable professional conduct” if it affects the way the person fulfils their teaching role or if it may lead to pupils being exposed to or influenced by the behaviour in a harmful way.’
(b) ‘ “Conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute” should be judged by a panel in a similar way. Misconduct outside of the education setting may be considered to be relevant if it is serious and the conduct displayed would likely have a negative impact on the individual’s status as a teacher, potentially damaging the public’s perception of them, therefore bringing the profession into disrepute. Panel members should use their knowledge and experience to take into account how the teaching profession is viewed by others, and the influence that teachers may have on pupils, parents and others in the community. Panels should take account of the uniquely influential role that teachers can hold in pupils’ lives and that pupils must be able to view teachers as role models in the way they behave.’
(c ) ‘ “Conviction, at any time, of a relevant offence” refers to a conviction of an offence that is relevant to a person’s fitness to be a teacher, either by a British criminal court or by an overseas court where the offence would have constituted a relevant offence had it been committed in England and Wales.
Referrals about a teacher’s misconduct can be made to the TRA by schools, employers, the police, via the Disclosure and Barring Services, other regulating bodies or the public.
Once a referral is received the TRA must investigate. The reason for this is that the main function of the TRA is to protect pupils/students, uphold the reputation of the profession and maintain high standards.
The TRA will initially screen the referral and decide whether to investigate or discontinue without any further action.
Responding to Concerns – Teachers’ Replies
If the TRA decide to investigate the teacher will be asked to make a response and send any relevant information.
Once the documents are received from both sides and the deadline has passed the case will be considered by a Determination Panel to decide whether there is a case to answer.
Determination Panel (first stage of the investigation)
If the determination panel decides there is a case to answer and there is a real prospect that it may result on a prohibition order, the case will be passed to a presenting officer to present the case to a professional conduct panel.
If the teacher admits all the facts of the case and admits that there was serious misconduct it is possible for the case to be heard at a meeting rather than a hearing. The teacher will prepare a written statement which is presented to the Panel without the need to attend and give evidence. (See paragraphs 5.129 – 5.141 of the Teacher Misconduct: Disciplinary procedures for the Teaching Profession, May 2020)
If the teacher does not agree the facts and/or serious misconduct, or a statement cannot be agreed, or the teacher fails to respond to a request for a statement, or the TRA feel it is in the public interest for the case to be heard in public, it will proceed to a hearing.
Interim Orders (Interim Prohibitions)
At any time during the investigation period, the TRA may recommend an interim prohibition order up until the case is concluded. This prohibits the teacher from teaching in the interim, while the investigation is undertaken. (See paragraph 3.1 of the Teacher Misconduct: Disciplinary Procedures for the Teaching Profession, May 2020.)
There is no right of appeal against an interim prohibition order but the order can be reviewed by the TRA after 6 months and thereafter, every 6 months on an application by the teacher (see paragraphs 3.15 and 3.16 of the Teacher Misconduct: Disciplinary procedures for the teaching profession, May 2020).
TRA Professional Conduct Hearings against Teachers
At a hearing evidence will be called by both parties. Once all the evidence has been concluded, closing speeches and legal advice has been received, the panel will decide whether the facts have been proved and whether serious misconduct has been found.
The standard of proof in these proceedings is the civil standard, the balance of probabilities (which is lower than the criminal standard of proof) and the burden is on the TRA to prove the case to the relevant standard. See para graphs 5.31 and 5.32 of the Teacher Misconduct: Disciplinary procedures for the teaching profession, May 2020.
If both the facts and serious misconduct are proved, the teacher may offer any mitigation to assist the panel before the panel retires to decide whether to recommend a Prohibition Order. A senior member of the TRA, on behalf of the Secretary of State, will decide whether to act upon the recommendation of the panel and notify the teacher accordingly.
If serious misconduct is found, the person concerned may be banned from teaching for life or be granted a review period whereby the teacher can request that the prohibition order is set aside.
The TRA panel hearing the case makes a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who determines whether or not to impose a prohibition order.
The decision to make a prohibition order can be appealed under Regulation 17 of The Teachers Disciplinary (England) Regulations 2012, within 28 calendar days. The application is made directly to the High Court (see paragraph 6.1 of the Teacher Misconduct: Disciplinary procedures for the teaching profession, May 2020).
After a set period of time (a minimum of two years) a teacher may apply for a review of a prohibition order.
If a review is granted, a teacher may apply to the Secretary of State to set aside the prohibition order under regulation 16 (2) of The Teachers Disciplinary (England) Regulations 2012. The procedure usually follows that of a professional conduct panel unless it is decided without a hearing, see paragraph 6.8 of the Teacher Misconduct: Disciplinary procedures for the teaching profession, May 2020. If the application is refused then there no further application is permitted within 12 months, see paragraph 6.15.
The burden to prove material facts is on the teacher, at a review hearing.
The panel can make a recommendation to the Secretary of State to lift the prohibition, if satisfied of the teacher’s suitability to return to practise. The Secretary of State has a discretion whether or not to remove the prohibition.
Orders made by the previous regulator for teaching, The General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) can be reviewed by the Secretary of State (see paragraphs 6.18 –6.31 of the Teacher Misconduct: Disciplinary procedures for the teaching profession, May 2020).
TRA Case Law I –
Ms Reilly was a head teacher who had been in a relationship with a man convicted of making and processing indecent images of children. She was dismissed from her post for failing to declare her relationship. On behalf of the Secretary of State the matter was investigated by Teaching Regulation Authority and referred to a Panel who recommended a Prohibition Order with a provision for review after two years.
Ms Reilly appealed the decision on the grounds that the case should not have proceeded in her absence and that the decision was wrong.
In dismissing the appeal, the Judge criticised the complex drafting of the allegations and the drafting of the reasons for the decision of the Panel. However, he considered the decision to proceed in absence was correct as the appellant had not given sufficient reason as to why she could not attend and that the findings based on the facts proved were correctly reasoned and the Prohibition Order was appropriate. Read the: Detailed Case Law Digest
We can provide advice and guidance, or advocacy services (including representation at hearings), if instructed, to assist you in dealing with this 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.
Teachers Defence Service
Who can represent a teacher at the Teaching Regulatory Authority?
- 5.21. The teacher may be self-represented before the panel or be represented by any person of the teacher’s choice, including a legal representative.
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We also represent teachers in disciplinary hearings, criminal prosecutions, DBS matters, barring challenges, appeals, civil and employment law. Read More
Who can represent a teacher at the Teaching Regulatory Authority?
- “5.21. The teacher may be self-represented before the panel or be represented by any person of the teacher’s choice, including a legal representative.”
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Legal Representation in Teaching Regulation Authority Cases