Teachers prosecuted by the Teaching Regulation Agency have their cases sifted to see of there is a case to answer. This happens at a “Determination Meeting” where non-lawyer civil servants examine the papers and decide whether the allegations are both serious and evidenced enough to put before a panel at final hearing. A teacher gets just one opportunity to make effective written representations. There is no appeal and a court challenge by judicial review is very difficult.
We think this middle stage is well-named – teachers certainly need determination to make it through the tortuous months (even years) of TRA investigation. By putting together an effective critique of the evidence we often get cases dropped, saving our clients the stress and costs of a full hearing and the associated publicity. Sometimes we can show that admitted misconduct is just not serious enough to merit the only sanction of prohibition. If the allegations are serious but denied it takes good knowledge of the guidance and an objective, analytical approach to make effective representations.
In a recent case we represented the Head of a hitherto very successful private school whose life and livelihood had collapsed following allegations which were very serious and received much adverse publicity. Our client was able to show they originated from a staff member who had been fired for incompetence and pupils who had left the school after being disciplined for challenging behaviour. This produced a mountain of evidence from police and LADO investigations, but on close examination there was no actual corroboration of the separate allegations. By making forensic written representations demonstrating that the evidence pointed to fabrication and producing statements from other staff supporting our client’s credibility we were able to persuade the TRA that no reasonable panel could find the conduct proved on the evidence available. The regulatory prosecution was dropped by the TRA and as the police and DBS formed the same view our client could begin to rebuild his life.