Scores of misconduct notices will be scrubbed from the government’s website following a campaign to overturn an “irrational anomaly” in the publication of Teaching Regulation Agency decisions.
Since 2012, the Department for Education has posted documents online detailing all findings of wrongdoing indefinitely.
But in cases where teachers were banned from the profession for a finite period, they were able to have decisions removed if they were allowed to work in schools after the prohibition lapsed.
Despite this, those guilty of misconduct for less serious misdemeanours – where panels have been persuaded there is no risk of repeat offending – and not barred from classrooms couldn’t apply to have the verdicts removed from the public domain.
‘Victory for common sense’
However, the government has this week announced officials will take down these types of decisions over the next week if they are more than two years old.
Colin Henderson, of Lawyers for Teachers, argued the removal of the “irrational anomaly… is a major victory for common sense”.
“[It] was clearly unjustifiable, and we and the teaching unions had said so for years.”
The issue was raised formally in October as part of a legal challenge in the case of a member of school leaders’ union NAHT.
Henderson said the TRA’s lawyers “quickly conceded the point and agreed that the decision would be published for only two years. And now they have applied that to all decisions and all teachers.”
Andrew Faux, who works with Henderson at Lawyers for Teachers, estimated that his firm has been involved in as many as 40 such TRA cases in the last 12 years.
Old misconduct policy ‘strange’
Branding the previous arrangements “strange”, NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman stated “there is no need for cases of less serious misconduct to be public for longer than two years”.
“It can only cause reputational damage to the teacher concerned and negatively affect their employability for longer than is proportionate or reasonable.”
Faux added that the teacher regulation authority in Wales, the Education Workforce Council, publishes one-page disciplinary order notices for six months only. In Scotland, they are removed after three months after the date of publication.
According to DfE, the TRA “reviewed the policy which underpins how we publish information related to teacher misconduct cases” last year.
It promised to finish removing the decisions by Thursday, January 18. This is why some “may still be visible on Gov.uk during this period”.
Misconduct decision links could still be on Google
The department also confirmed the “details of these no prohibition order cases will no longer be accessible to employers when completing their safer recruitment checks”.
Schools Week has seen that Google still displays the link to one case that has been taken down.
DfE explained “links to the documents from search engine results are not under the control of the TRA. Individuals are able to contact search engines directly to request their name is removed from their search results.”
It was unable to confirm how many decisions will be removed over the next week.