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Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) – Defence of Teachers

Unlike other professions Teachers are regulated directly by the Secretary of State for Education through the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) which is an executive agency of the Department for Education. Previously this had been the domain of the General Teaching Council (GTC) and more recently up to April 2018, the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL).

TRA operate on behalf of the Secretary of State. They are governed by The Teachers’ Disciplinary (England) Regulations 2012 as amended by The Teachers’ Disciplinary (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2014.

Section 141B of the Education Act 2002 gives the Secretary of State the power to prohibit individuals from the teaching profession in England and a requirement to hold a list of teachers who have been so prohibited from teaching.

Who are covered by the Regulatory system?

Teachers in all ‘school settings’ come within the ambit of the regulations.

School Setting’ is defined as covering:

  • All Independent Schools
  • Sixth Form Colleges,
  • Youth Custody settings,
  • Children’s Homes,
  • Academies,
  • Free Schools,
  • Local Authority Maintained Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools.

Teachers’ are defined as those who do “teaching work”, which will include “Teachers and Instructors” but not Teaching Assistants and other support staff who operate under the supervision and direction of a Teacher.

What does the TRA investigate?

Only cases of “Serious Misconduct” will be investigated and NOT cases involving incompetence or underperformance. Therefore only the most Serious Misconduct Cases should be referred. Incompetency should be dealt with at a local level by employers.

Who can refer?

  • A teacher’s employer (who have a statutory duty to do so involving cases of serious professional misconduct).
  • Members of the public who consider that misconduct warrants a prohibition order.
  • The Police, Disclosure and Barring Service and any other regulator who are aware of relevant information (safeguarding).

What action could be taken?

If the TRA considers that a Teacher may be guilty of “unacceptable conduct” or “conduct which may bring the Profession into disrepute” or has been “convicted” (at any time) of a relevant offence, the TRA will commence an investigation.

If the investigation finds that there is a case to answer they will refer it to the Professional Conduct Panel (PCP) or alternatively find there is no case to answer. The teacher must be informed of the allegations and given the opportunity to submit written representations with evidence, in reply.

In some rare cases, if the case is considered so serious, an Interim Prohibition Order may be sought to ensure that a teacher cannot continue to teach until the conclusion of the investigation and any proceedings.

Professional Conduct Panel (PCP):

This comprises of a selected Panel (minimum of 3) which will include at least one teacher or someone who has been a teacher in the previous 5 years, a layperson and a third person who may have been a teacher previously but does not meet the criteria as a teaching panellist. The Panel have access to a legal adviser, but this person can take no part in the decision -making process and must not have any connection to the Department for Education. In other words, independent and can only advise on the law and procedure.

The TRA will instruct a lawyer who will present the case on behalf of the agency. This will include all admissible evidence.

The Teacher has the right to be represented by any person or may represent him/herself. He/she can submit relevant evidence and comment on evidence presented before the Panel.

After hearing all of the evidence the Panel must determine the following questions, in sequence:

  1. Has the case been proved? (on the balance of probabilities)
  2. If so, does this amount to:
  • unacceptable professional conduct’, or
  • conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute’, or
  • has there been a ‘conviction of a relevant offence’?

       3. Decide whether to recommend to the Secretary of State the imposition of a Prohibition Order? (This is the only sanction available to the PCP).

In order to answer question 2, the Panel will need to consider whether the conduct fell significantly below that expected of a Teacher as judged by the latest Standards published on behalf of the Secretary of State by the TRA. This could be conduct both within and outside the teaching environment which brings the profession into disrepute.

Convictions before a Criminal Court are also considered but these must be for a “relevant offence”. These may be offences committed anywhere.

Prohibition Orders:

A Prohibition Order immediately stops a Teacher from being able to teach. This is the only sanction available to the Professional Conduct Panel by way of recommendation to the Secretary of State. A Prohibition Order is a lifetime ban but in certain circumstances can be subject to a Review after a stipulated period of time (minimum - 2 years).

When considering the imposition of a Prohibition Order, the Panel must take into account any mitigation put forward and also apply the principle of proportionality in balancing the interests of the Public with those of the Teacher.

There is a right of Appeal to the High Court (Queens Bench Division) under Part 52 of the Civil Procedure Rules but this must be made within 28 days of the Prohibition Order being made.

Decisions to impose a Prohibition Order are made public. The Secretary of State retains a register of all those prohibited.

Review of Prohibition Orders:

If granted the right of Review, the Teacher may apply to have the original Prohibition Order set aside. This must be in writing and specify the grounds. The Secretary of State must decide whether to allow the Review but only following the recommendation by the Professional Conduct Panel. If the Review application is refused, it must specify when a subsequent Review could be made (minimum of 1 year).

How we can help:

At Bankside Law we fully appreciate the impact that any investigation can have on a Professional whose entire career is at stake. We have significant experience in representing Teachers, gained over many years, during both Police Investigations and ancillary Regulatory Investigations. We strongly recommend that advice is sought as early as possible since this can have a fundamental impact as to how the matter progresses. We provide robust informed representation throughout for the best possible outcome.

Please contact for initial advice if:

  • You are under investigation by the Police or another prosecution authority
  • Under TRA Investigation.
  • Involved in a Professional Conduct Panel Hearing.
  • Seeking a Review Application.
  • Seeking a High Court Appeal to the imposition of a Prohibition Order.
  • Representations to the Disclosure & Barring Service.    

Bill Wilson


02 December 2019


Tel: 0207 407 2356