The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

Fit for purpose

The fitness to teach process is changing to simplify processes and better target risk

10 key changes to the fitness to teach process

1. Simpler structure to the Rules, making them more accessible and easier to follow.
2. Language realigned with the protective, forward-looking nature of the fitness to teach process. All fitness to teach concerns termed “referrals” rather than “complaints”.
3. New Threshold Policy applied when referrals received. Wider scope to close cases early when not at a level of seriousness that justifies a fitness to teach investigation.
4. Investigation process more dynamic and responsive to allow conduct cases to be closed as soon as identified that there is not sufficient evidence available, or if continuing investigations are no longer justified.
5. Current Investigating Panel process replaced with a new Panel Consideration stage. Instead of considering whether there is a “case to answer” this new stage will focus on assessing fitness to teach and will look to promote early, honest professional reflection and learning.
6. Competence cases referred by employers to follow the same substantive procedure no matter where in the teacher journey these issues arise (i.e. whether at provisional or full registration stage).
7. More options to conclude cases by consent order, as these will cover the full range of disposals.
8. Wider scope for hearings to be dealt with by a Panel based on the papers submitted. This will particularly apply in determining procedural matters, e.g. an application for a hearing to take place in private. 9. A broader definition of who can be considered a “vulnerable witness” in the hearing process.
10. Existing internal appeals process removed and replaced with a more focused review process.

What is the fitness to teach process?

GTC Scotland has a fitness to teach process in place to ensure public protection and to address risk of harm. The process is not about disciplining or punishing teachers; it is about ensuring that we have a teaching profession that is and remains fit to teach so that public trust and confidence in the teaching profession is maintained and the learning of our children and young people is protected.

Being fit to teach means meeting the standards of professional competence and conduct that GTC Scotland expects. Our Professional Standards and Code of Professionalism and Conduct set these expectations out at length but we could sum it up by saying that it means having the right knowledge and skills (and applying them) and doing the right thing as a professional teacher.

When does GTC Scotland investigate the fitness to teach of a teacher?

GTC Scotland will investigate when there is a realistic prospect that a teacher’s fitness to teach would be found to be impaired based on an allegation or information that has been referred to us. We receive fitness to teach referrals from the police and other criminal justice agencies, employers and members of the public.

We have recently introduced a Threshold Policy and this outlines exactly what we investigate under our fitness to teach process. This policy is applied when GTC Scotland receives a fitness to teach referral.

We approach assessing whether fitness to teach is impaired holistically in the here and now. This involves looking at the shortfalls in conduct or professional competence identified alongside what steps have been taken by the teacher to openly and honestly reflect on the issues, learn from them and make changes to ensure they will not happen again. While there are times when the shortfalls identified are so fundamental that there is no scope for remediation in this way, our approach recognises that we all make mistakes and is about providing assurance that those same mistakes will not be repeated so that the public (especially pupils) is not harmed and trust and confidence in the teaching profession is maintained.

Why make changes to the fitness to teach process?

GTC Scotland’s fitness to teach rules set out the process that is followed when GTC Scotland investigates and determines the fitness to teach of registrants or applicants for registration. A public consultation on proposed changes to these rules was run from September to November 2016 and following this new Rules have been published and will come into force on 21 August 2017.

The changes that we are introducing will help us deliver a more efficient and, importantly, supportive fitness to teach process, replacing a system that has been working well but can be improved. The new process places increased emphasis on the forward-looking fitness to teach assessment process.

How will the changes make a difference?

The changes being introduced will streamline our fitness to teach procedures, making them quicker and more targeted towards addressing risk of harm. The newly introduced Threshold Policy also provides clearer guidance for teacher employers on when and how referrals should be made, as well as better information for the public. We believe that all of this will help build greater transparency and trust in what we do and encourage referrals to be made to us when this is the right thing to do.

Teaching Scotland

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Editor contact: Evelyn Wilkins

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