Shamed teachers now face classroom ban

Teachers who are convicted or cautioned over indecent images of children will be banned from the classroom, the Government has confirmed. The move follows the case of a West Yorkshire teacher allowed back to work after a police caution.

Geoffrey Bettley was allowed back to St Mary's School, Menston

The move is part of updated advice, published by the Department for Education (DfE), for teacher conduct panels deciding whether an individual should be allowed to return to teaching.

It comes just weeks after it emerged that an RE teacher had been given the go-ahead to work in schools despite being given a police caution for possessing an indecent image of a child.

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Geoffrey Bettley, 36, was suspended from St Mary’s Catholic School in Menston, near Ilkley, in December 2010 after police found nearly 200 child abuse images on his computer.

He accepted the police caution and was dismissed by the school following a disciplinary hearing in December 2011.

But a professional conduct panel ruled that he should be allowed to return to teaching after concluding he “does not represent a risk to children and young people”.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said at the time that guidance for panels making decisions on whether a teacher should be allowed to return to work was “not fit for purpose” and would be changed.

The DfE has now published for consultation details of changes to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) misconduct advice, which includes stating that in future, any criminal conviction or caution involving indecent images of children should lead to prohibition - banning a teacher from working in schools and colleges.

It also says that panels should take any sexual misconduct, not just serious sexual misconduct, into account when considering prohibition.

This means that a panel could take into consideration sexual misconduct which may not be illegal, but calls into question the teacher’s professional judgment.

It is understood that any teacher handed a prohibition order has a right to appeal, and a conduct panel can make a recommendation that the decision is reviewed after a certain period of time - two years at a minimum. If a decision is reviewed, there is no certainty that it will be overturned.

“This revised NCTL advice sets out our expectation any sexual misconduct and any criminal conviction or caution involving indecent images of children will lead to prohibition from teaching,” the DfE said.

“High standards are expected of all teachers, and panels when making decisions should take into account the need to maintain high levels of public confidence in the profession.”

It is thought that the changes will not cover Mr Bettley, because his case has already been dealt with.

But all schools must carry out vetting checks when recruiting staff and a caution of the type Mr Bettley was given would be flagged by these procedures.