Education news

Teachers will soon face public misconduct hearings

As many as 13 teachers are facing the possibility of public misconduct hearings which could see them struck off permanently.

Police and employers have been referring teachers to the profession's independent oversight body since it was granted new powers to remove staff from the register.

Those found guilty of misconduct could face tribunal-style hearings as early as next year.

The Department of Education conferred limited powers on the General Teaching Council (GTCNI) on April 1 to enable it to consider cases of serious teacher misconduct, but not incompetence.

It was originally envisaged that the council would investigate incompetence but the required legislation was shelved.

Never before has there been a public hearing into misconduct involving the teaching profession in the north.

Prior to GTCNI's establishment, the Department of Education had the power to withdraw recognition to teach.

Eligibility was removed in just 25 cases relating to conduct between 2002 and April this year.

Since April, the council has had the power to explore claims of misconduct in public.

The GTCNI has confirmed it is now looking at 13 separate cases. Details of individual cases have not been disclosed.

"GTCNI, like the Teaching Council Ireland, has only now been granted limited regulatory powers," the council said.

"These relate to conduct, not competence. These allow only for teachers to be removed from the register on the grounds of gross misconduct.

"Legislation by the NI assembly is required before the council can operate fully as a regulator and and administer a range of sanctions, for example, in relation to issues of competence.

"The council is currently dealing with a number of referrals from the PSNI and employers and, if appropriate, these referrals will be fully considered in accordance with the GTCNI conduct rules."

There have been 13 referrals in total - seven from the PSNI, three from employers and three from the Disclosure and Barring Service.

"All referrals are at the preliminary screening stage to determine if the referrals fall within the scope of the council's limited regulatory remit," the GTCNI said.

"Conduct rules have been developed for the regulatory process including screening, investigatory and independent hearing processes."

The GTCNI has come under recent pressure after an independent review criticised it as "fractured and dysfunctional".

Earlier this year the NASUWT union passed a motion at its annual conference calling on the Northern Ireland assembly to abolish GTCNI.

A sister body in England was scrapped and union claimed abolishing GTCNI would "not produce any adverse effect on the educational system in Northern Ireland".

However, in a joint statement, four other unions - the INTO, ATL, UTU and NAHT - all distanced themselves from the NASUWT position.

"We acknowledge that there are significant difficulties facing GTCNI as an organisation which must, and we believe can, be addressed," the statement read.

"We wish to put on public record that have welcomed and endorsed insightful research and consultation undertaken by the GTCNI on several matters of deep concern to teachers, in particular in relation to statutory assessment and inspection, both of which have professional/education - as well as workload - dimensions."

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