Making a complaint about a teacher
When we receive a complaint against a registered teacher or an applicant for registration, consideration is first given to whether the complaint is relevant to determining a person's fitness to teach.
If we determine that the complaint may be relevant to their fitness to teach, appropriate investigations will be carried out. We may ask the complainant to provide evidence to support the complaint, contact any employer concerned to seek additional information or ask law enforcement agencies (e.g. the police) to provide us with information. All information received will be shared with the teacher or applicant concerned and he/she will be given an opportunity to provide a response to it.
Our Investigating Panel (IP) will consider all of the information provided in relation to the complaint and decide whether the matter should be referred to a hearing before a Fitness to Teach (FtT) Panel.
What complaints do we consider and why?
In ensuring that teachers achieve and maintain professional standards of conduct and competence, we investigate and consider complaints referred to us that question whether teachers who are registered with us or who have applied to be registered have met and are maintaining the required professional standards and are fit to teach.
The types of complaints that we consider relate to alleged misconduct, alleged incompetence and any conviction for a criminal offence. Allegations of misconduct may be referred to us by anyone including employers and members of the public. Allegations of professional incompetence may only be referred to us by employers. We are notified of criminal convictions by police authorities and in the course of applicant disclosure checks/vetting.
We are often asked why it is necessary for us to investigate and consider complaints when action may already have been taken by the teacher's employer and/or by the police/courts through the criminal justice system. The answer to this is that we are legally required to take these steps in our distinct role as a professional regulator.
The reasons for this are:
- We consider allegations in terms of whether they question whether the person has met and maintained the required professional standards - this is distinct from what employers and the police/courts consider. Employers are concerned with the impact that the allegations have on employment and the police/courts are concerned with whether the criminal law has been broken. In order to maintain standards of professionalism and conduct within teaching, it is essential that we consider the allegations from this distinct, fitness to teach, perspective
- Where allegations are found to be established and where we determine that it is appropriate to do so (for example, where there are child protection concerns), we can remove the teacher from our register. This means that the teacher concerned may not be employed by any Scottish local authority and would not be eligible to work in the vast majority of Scotland's independent schools. The existence of a Register of those who are fit to teach is an essential part of ensuring the safety of children, young people and learners
- The police/courts must prove a criminal allegation "beyond reasonable doubt". Sometimes it is difficult to prove an allegation to the criminal standard based on the evidence that is available, particularly where the offence alleged involves young children. We require to prove allegations on the "balance of probabilities" in order to take appropriate action
What we can't do
Our FtT process centres solely on the question of whether the person concerned is fit to teach in terms of their suitability to be a member of the profession. We can't:
- intervene or overturn any decision made by a school or local authority
- investigate complaints against a school or local authority in terms of how they have dealt with a particular situation
- facilitate mediation between any teachers and members of the public
- ask that a teacher apologise for any action
- investigate any allegation from a member of the public that relates to the competence of a teacher
- intervene in matters between an employer and a teacher
To raise a complaint
You can raise a complaint with us by completing the relevant form.
Please read the information provided on the form and in the leaflet carefully and then submit the completed form to the Fitness to Teach department.
Details of any complaint will be shared, in full with the teacher against whom the complaint is made.