Teacher misconduct cases 'to go unheard'
Dozens of teachers facing misconduct and incompetence claims will escape hearings due to changes to the way cases are dealt with, it is claimed.
The TES reports that none of the 323 cases referred to England's General Teaching Council since August will be heard before it is axed in March.
It is being replaced by the new Teaching Agency which will only hear the most serious cases.
The government says no incompetent or misbehaving teacher will go unpunished.
Currently, when teachers are sacked by head teachers over issues of conduct or competence the case is referred to the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE), with which all teachers have to be registered.
It then looks at the case and decides whether there is a need to take the matter further.
But under the new system head teachers will only refer cases to the new Teaching Agency which could lead to the individual being barred from the teaching register because of misconduct.
According to the Times Educational Supplement, none of the cases referred because of teaching ability will face any further action.
And most of the cases referred to the GTCE since August are unlikely to meet the new higher criteria for investigation by the Teaching Agency and therefore will not progress any further.
Similarly, of the 292 outstanding cases referred to the GTCE before August last year - just 30 have been scheduled for hearings - and 35 being passed on to the Teaching Agency.
The situation is particularly relevant because Education Secretary Michael Gove has repeatedly stressed the importance of good teachers to pupils' chances of success.
He has also said he wants to make it easier for schools to get rid of incompetent teachers.
Head of the National Association of the Head Teachers Russell Hobby told the Times Educational Supplement: "There could be potentially dozens of cases referred by heads which now go no further.
"Either a case is serious enough to justify referral or it's not, and if it's not taken forward, that's a problem.
"If you introduce uncertainty, heads will wonder if they should make referrals, especially because of the stress and difficulty it causes."
The GTCE has been regularly criticised for the relatively small number of teachers that have been struck off under its watch.
Between January 2001 and December 2011, just 17 teachers were banned from the classroom for incompetence, with a further 211 struck off for misconduct, according to official figures.
But the GTCE freely admits that it is unlikely to be able to complete cases referred to it after the end of August because of the length of time it takes to deal with them.
GTCE registrar Paul Heathcote told the TES: "A smooth transfer from the GTCE to the new system of regulation is clearly in the interests of all concerned.
"As the Teaching Agency will not be dealing with competence cases, and will only hear conduct cases that may lead to barring, there will inevitably be some cases referred under the current system that will no longer lead to hearings in the future."
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "No teacher whose standards fall below an acceptable level will go unpunished.
"All serious cases of misconduct that could lead to teachers being barred will be transferred to the new Teaching Agency if the GTCE does not have time to conclude them. Where appropriate, all other cases will have been dealt with at a local level.
"The existing system does not work - it constantly gets bogged down in the bureaucracy of minor cases instead of dealing quickly with the most serious referrals."
She added that the new system would ensure that serious cases are dealt with much more quickly by giving heads greater freedom to deal with incompetent teachers themselves.