Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 14:34 UK

BNP teacher ban 'is considered'

BNP press conference
A BNP press conference faced protests after the European elections

A possible ban on teachers in England from being members of the British National Party is under consideration, a government spokesman has confirmed.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families says ministers are investigating a ban.

But the profession's watchdog, the General Teaching Council, has said membership of a legal party cannot be seen as "unprofessional conduct".

A BNP spokesman said moves for such a ban were "naked intimidation".

There have been calls from teachers' unions for a ban on teachers belonging to the BNP.

Legal doubt

The NASUWT teachers' union argues that belonging to the party is incompatible with "respecting ethnic, cultural and religious diversity".

It says a ban could follow the example of serving police officers who are not allowed to be BNP members - and says that such an exclusion could be achieved through an amendment to teachers' contracts.

The DCSF has now confirmed reports that ministers are exploring the possibility of introducing a ban for teachers - but without giving any further details of how or when such a ban might be introduced.

But suggestions that teachers could be "struck off" for membership of the BNP have been rejected by the teachers' regulatory body in England - the General Teaching Council for England.

"The clear legal advice we have received is that membership of any lawful political party per se cannot amount to unacceptable professional conduct, nor can it of itself bar someone from registration with the GTC," says the teaching council.

A spokesman for the BNP said that moves towards preventing teachers from BNP membership were an attempt to "corrupt the democratic process".

The party had proved its popular appeal in recent elections, said the spokesman, and a ban on BNP membership for teachers would be a "vindictive" and "totalitarian" response.

"People have different opinions, but they can leave their politics outside of the classroom."

It was unfair that such proposed restrictions would not apply to extreme left-wing teachers, the party's spokesman argued.

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