Teachers accused of misconduct are now waiting more than two years on average for their cases to conclude after waiting times for staff facing hearings worsened for a third year running.
Teacher Regulation Agency annual accounts, published today, show such cases were taking on average 113 weeks – more than double its 52-week target.
A Schools Week investigation in 2021 revealed how cases could take years to resolve, with delays taking a toll on both accusers and accused.
Waits have been worsening since 2019-20, when it took 45 weeks to conclude a misconduct case that required a hearing from when a referral was first received.
The TRA blamed the delays on “case numbers and resource constraints” with “hearing demand exceeding” capacity.
Postponement of hearings and panellist capacity – hearings are overseen by a panel that recommends a decision to government – also contributed, as has Covid delays.
It also comes despite the TRA increasing its projected number of hearings in 2022-23 to 180, and actually surpassing this with 207 hearings concluded in the year.
Between 2019 and 2022, the number of live cases increased at an average rate of 27 per cent per year.
TRA said it has recruited new panellists and now has “greater flexibility” by scheduling hearings as “virtual by default”.
Accounts added: “TRA plans to hold additional hearings during 2023-24 to reduce delays and support the timely conclusion of cases.”
The agency’s total expenditure also ballooned to £11.8 million this year, up from £7.4 million in 2019-20.
This was blamed on a “general trend in increasing capacity for hearings”. The main operating expenditure related to legal advice in relation to cases, which accounts said were costing more because of “higher costs across the market for these services”.
The number of referrals assessed last year was 1,038, up from 714 in 2021-22. Of cases last year, 482 were investigated before leading to no further action. Another 382 were deemed out of scope or didn’t meet the threshold for investigation.
These cases were either concluded or referred to a hearing within an average 30 weeks, better than last year but still below the 20-week target.
Accounts also show the government defended two high court appeal and three applications for a judicial review relating to cases.
Meanwhile, eight of nine applications to set aside banning orders were granted.
And a total of £273,000 was paid out in exit packages to departing staff amid a government voluntary exit scheme. This included three payments of between £50,000 to £100,000.