What happens during a professional conduct panel hearing?
You may be invited to attend a professional conduct panel hearing from the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) if you have been alleged of serious misconduct at your school. This will most likely be a very distressing time and you might be unsure of what professional conduct panels actually are.
This article outlines what you can expect at a professional conduct panel and where you can look for additional information on this topic.
What can happen at a professional conduct panel?
The regulation of the teaching profession in England is managed by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA). Previously, it was regulated by the National College for Teaching and Leadership which was disbanded in April 2018.
The TRA investigates cases of serious teacher misconduct and decides whether to refer a case to a professional conduct panel. The panel will then investigate whether to issue a prohibition order, (whether a teacher should be banned from the classroom).
A prohibition order is a lifetime ban from teaching, though in some circumstances you may be able to make a request to have it reviewed after a specified period of time.
Who sits on a professional conduct panel?
The Department for Education (DfE) has produced information for teachers which outlines details on professional conduct panels. It explains that panel members are recruited through a public appointments process. A panel will consist of three members and will typically include:
- One chairperson from the TRA
- One teacher with no relationship to the accused or host school
- One layperson, a person not from the teaching profession
A legal adviser will also be present, however, they will take no part in the decision-making process.
What happens before a hearing?
Upon being notified by your school or another party the TRA will decide whether to undertake an investigation or to discontinue the case and take no further action.
Once this initial decision has been made, you will be informed in writing, being notified of the allegations if the TRA has decided to conduct an investigation.
The letter will contain all of the information received to date and will invite you to respond to the allegations within four weeks.
It is your choice whether or not to respond to the allegations at this point. You can contact a legal professional or a union representative for advice. Once the deadline for a response has passed, the case will be considered by a determination panel made up of senior TRA staff.
The panel will take into account all the documentation received to date, including information from your school, yourself and any other parties the TRA has contacted to collate a full picture of the allegations, such as previous employers or the police.
If the determination panel decides that there is a case to answer and the alleged misconduct is potentially serious enough to result in prohibition, then the TRA hearings team will pass the evidence to a presenting officer. A presenting officer is a lawyer instructed by the TRA to prepare the case and then present the allegations and evidence against the teacher to a professional conduct panel.
What happens during a hearing?
Hearings are usually held in the public and may include members of the press. The TRA will call on witnesses to attend the hearing. The information provided by witnesses will assist the panel in deciding whether the allegations are proven, and whether a teacher should be allowed to teach again.
During the hearing, the panel will listen to evidence and ask the teacher and witnesses questions, and then decide whether a teacher is innocent or guilty of serious misconduct.
The evidence on TRA’s side is presented by a lawyer referred to as the presenting officer. The teacher may also have a representative, such as a lawyer, or they may represent their own case. However, the teacher does not have to attend the hearing, it is their choice.
After considering all of the evidence put before it, a professional conduct panel must make three decisions, in the order shown below:
1.) Is the panel satisfied that the facts of the case have been proved?
2.) Has there been:
- a) “Unacceptable professional conduct”
- b) “Conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute”; or
- c) “Conviction, at any time of a relevant offence”?
3.) Is a prohibition order appropriate?
If a panel decides that ‘no’ is the answer to any of these questions, it will not need to proceed to the next question. If the panel decides to issue a prohibition order you may appeal the verdict.
How can I be best prepared?
You might find it useful to look through information published by the TRA before attending your hearing:
There will be a high chance of receiving a prohibition order so be prepared for that decision. We recommend preparing statements and evidence in advance of the hearing so you can be in a position to best represent your side.
What support may I be entitled for?
As outlined above, you will be entitled to contact a legal professional or a union representative to support your during this process. In addition, Edapt will be able to support your specific case and provide you with guidance and accompaniment.
Was this article helpful?
The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.