Teacher misconduct panel outcome: Reverend Robert West

On 12 May, the National College for Teaching and Leadership published the outcome of a panel hearing following complaints regarding anti-Muslim comments made by the Reverend Robert West when acting as a supply teacher at Walton Girls’ High School and Sixth Form, Lincolnshire in November 2013. The Secretary of State[1] accepted the panel’s findings an imposed a prohibition order.

The Reverend Robert West

Although styling himself “Reverend” and wearing clerical dress, Robert West is not a priest within the Church of England. His membership of the British National Party, for which he stood, unsuccessfully, as a parliamentary candidate for Boston and Skegness in the 2010 and 2015 general elections is incompatible with being a priest in the Church of England[2]. The Walton Girls’ High School and Sixth Form does not appear to have applied similar constraints to its teaching staff.

The Christian Council of Britain (CCoB) is an organisation founded by Robert West which is “closely associated within the British National Party”. On 22 March 2006, the Church of England published a statement supporting the Methodist Church which has “[made] absolutely clear that there is no connection between CTBI [the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, of which the CofE and Methodists are members] or its predecessor the British Council of Churches and the ‘Christian Council of Britain’ “.

National College for Teaching and Leadership

The NCTL is an executive agency of government, sponsored by the Department for Education. It employs around 350 staff and is based across 4 sites in London, Nottingham, Coventry and Manchester. Details of its role and activities which include “ensuring that in cases of serious professional misconduct, teachers are barred from teaching” are provided on its web pages.

Legislation

Information relating to the misconduct of teachers is available here and the prohibition of teachers here. The latter explains: “The Education Act 2011 gives responsibility to the Secretary of State to regulate teachers’ conduct and to hold a list of teachers who have been prohibited from teaching. The NCTL operates the regulatory system on his behalf and references to the NCTL in this advice should be read accordingly. The Teachers’ Disciplinary (England) Regulations 2012 (“the Regulations”) provide specific and detailed information about how the system should operate.”

 Outcome of panel hearing

The panel made factual findings in relation to the allegations contained in the Notice of Proceedings and recommended the imposition of a prohibition order by the Secretary of State, who said inter alia

“I have gone on to consider the recommendations of the panel in respect of a review period. I have similarly taken into account the need to take the public interest and the interest of Reverend West into account and the need to act in a proportionate way. The panel has recommended a review period of 3 years and for the reasons given I support that recommendation.”

[…]

“This means that Reverend Robert West is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, Sixth Form College, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England. He may apply for the prohibition order to be set aside, but not until 12 May 2018, 3 years from the date of this order at the earliest. This is not an automatic right to have the prohibition order removed. If he does apply, a panel will meet to consider whether the prohibition order should be set aside. Without a successful application, Reverend Robert West remains prohibited from teaching indefinitely.”

There is a right of appeal to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court within 28 days from the date the order.


[1] The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan was appointed Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities on 15 July 2014, and has been reappointed following the 2015 General Election.

[2] As we noted in our post “Spiritual influence” and elections”

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Teacher misconduct panel outcome: Reverend Robert West" in Law & Religion UK, 13 May 2015, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2015/05/13/teacher-misconduct-panel-outcome-reverend-robert-west/

4 thoughts on “Teacher misconduct panel outcome: Reverend Robert West

  1. I have no sympathy whatsoever for this man who is a committed member of and organiser for BNP. But the judgement which has been handed down means that a teacher has been sacked and disqualified for expressing a religious opinion in such a way as to make it an offence to criticise a particular faith. This is a troubling development.

    Again, he has no standing in any recognised denomination (anyone can buy clergy outfits from suppliers) but the precedent which has been set also means that any ordained person in teaching is now effectively prohibited from expressing the view that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

    • The determination says this:

      “1. On 8 November 2013 he made inappropriate comments to students whilst teaching a history lesson in that:
      a. He stated that he was ‘allergic to Mohammedans’, or words to that effect,
      b. When asked by a student whether there was anything wrong with being a Muslim he stated ‘yes because we are fighting them’, or words to that effect.
      2. On 14 November 2013 he made inappropriate comments to students whilst teaching a history lesson in that he stated:
      a. ‘I assume you are all Christians’, or words to that effect,
      b. ‘Any Non-Christian God is demonic’ or words to that effect,
      c. ‘Muslims worship the devil’, or words to that effect,
      d. ‘Well there is one god and if not worshipping him, then you are worshipping the devil’, or words to that effect;…”

      That’s some way from asserting that “Jesus is the only way to the Father”.

      • The choice of language is unpleasant, but the determination enforces a judgement that it is not allowed for a Christian to express the view that there is only one God, who is not the god or gods worshipped by other religions. The Christian faith is Trinitarian, a belief specifically denied by islam, which in the opinion of many is not an “Abrahamic” faith.

        This is an unacceptable infringement upon freedom of belief and expression, and a very unfortunate precedent which seeks to silence theological debate. The sentence too is grossly disproportionate.

        • I don’t think you can separate the determination from the choice of language. These things are highly fact-specific: if he’d merely asserted that Muslims are monotheists but that mainstream Christians are trinitarians who assert the divinity of Jesus (which is descriptively and objectively the case), I doubt if anyone would have been remotely fussed about it.

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