Teachers convicted or cautioned for downloading indecent images of children should be banned

98 teachers served with prohibition orders in the past year

Teachers who receive a criminal conviction or caution for downloading indecent images of children should be barred from the profession, new guidelines on dealing with teacher misconduct made clear today.

The new advice changes the wording in the guidance from saying that any teacher found guilty of "serious sexual misconduct" should be barred to ant teacher found guilty of "any sexual misconduct". It also specifically mentions child pornography for the first time.

The guidance was reviewed after it emerged last year that an RE teacher given a police caution for possessing an indecent image of a child had been given the go ahead to resume working in schools.

The teacher, Geoffrey Bettley, aged 36, was suspended from St Mary's Catholic School in Menston, West Yorkshire, after police found nearly 200 child abuse images on his computer. He accepted the caution and was dismissed from the school but a professional conduct panel ruled he should be allowed to return to teaching because he "does not risk represent a risk to children and young people".

News of the new guidance came as the Department for Education disclosed that 98 teachers had been served with prohibition orders barring them from teaching in the past year. The numbers have been steadily rising over the last decade. In 2001/2 only one one teacher was barred by what was then called the General Teaching Council.

The revision was made after a consultation exercise revealed 90 per dent of respondents felt that disciplinary panels should give serious consideration to evidence that a teacher had committed an action involving indecent images of children.

A spokesman for the DfE said: "Nothing is more important than ensuring young people are protected when they are at school."

He added that the system for dealing with issues like disciplinary hearings had been improved.

Yesterday's announcement, which takes the form of guidance to disciplinary panels and is not an instruction, comes in a week when it was revealed that 959 teachers had had allegations of sexual misconduct against a pupil made against them in the last five years. Of the 959, 254 faced a police investigation.

The figures emerged from a Freedom of Information request made by the BBC Radio One Newsbeat programme to more than 200 local authoriities around the country.