NCTL: how to prepare for and challenge an investigation

If you are a teacher in England in this ever increasingly litigious world, you will be aware that you could be referred to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (“NCTL”) if you are accused of serious misconduct.

Referrals to the NCTL can come from your employers, members of the public, the Disclosure and Barring Service, the police and other interested parties; so, pretty much anyone.

But what do you do if you face such an investigation? How do you challenge it?

Firstly, an initial assessment is carried out by the NCTL to see if the allegations are sufficiently serious to result in a Prohibition Order. If they are not then you will be notified that the case is to be closed with no further action.

If, however, it is decided at this stage that the allegations are potentially serious enough to result in a Prohibition Order then the NCTL will look to see whether an interim Prohibition Order is necessary. This is an Order prohibiting you from teaching, whilst the NCTL investigates and before it has come to any conclusions about the veracity or otherwise of the allegations.

If this happens you will be given 7 days notice to provide any evidence in support of your case to try to convince the NCTL not to impose an interim Prohibition Order. It’s important to get this evidence right as an interim Prohibition Order could mean that you are unable to work for months whilst the investigation is ongoing. Our specialist lawyers can help you with this and can advise you on what evidence you need to submit to give you the best chance of avoiding an interim Prohibition Order.

When the NCTL investigation is underway, you will be informed that you have 28 days in which to submit any evidence you feel is relevant to your case to dispute the allegations that have been made against you.

At Burton Copeland, we don’t just advise you on the evidence you will need to obtain and submit; our specialise team will assist you in writing a letter of response to the NCTL to give you the best chance of the NCTL closing the case with no further action.

If, however, the NCTL decide not to close the case with no further action, you will then be referred to a Professional Conduct Panel . At this point it is vital that your case is prepared as thoroughly as possible and by specialists in this niche area.

You will be invited to provide further evidence which will be submitted to the Professional Conduct Panel.

Professional Conduct Panel hearings are held in public unless there is an exceptional reason why this should not be the case. For example, where your health needs to be discussed, usually in mitigation of your circumstances.

Ordinarily, it is always better to attend your own Professional Conduct Panel hearing and to be legally represented as the NCTL will instruct its own lawyers to present the case on behalf of the NCTL.

If, however, you decide to admit the allegations against you at an early stage, it may be possible for an NCTL Panel to consider the papers at a private meeting, where you will submit your evidence in mitigation and there is no need for you (or a legal representative instructed on your behalf) to attend.

If you do attend the Professional Conduct Panel hearing, the Panel will hear representations from both sides and witnesses can be called to give evidence both to support the NCTL case against you or in support of you and your actions or your character, depending on the circumstances of your case.

The Panel, which will be made up of 3 members, with at least one teacher and at least one lay member, will then decide, having seen the documents and having heard evidence from witnesses on both sides, whether or not it should recommend that the Secretary of State for Education impose a Prohibition Order.

Beware though! Sometimes even when the Professional Conduct Panel itself does not deem it necessary to impose a Prohibition Order, the Secretary of State, upon review of the documents, can decide that this is indeed necessary and effectively, overrule the decision of the Professional Conduct Panel.

If there are Grounds of Appeal following the final decision of the Secretary of State, our lawyers can assist you by drafting the appeal documents, lodging the appeal in the High Court and preparing your case for the hearing.

If you are a teacher facing allegations of misconduct or an NCTL investigation, call our specialist team on 0161 827 9500 as soon as possible.