Fitness to Teach Panel hearings are held to determine whether an applicant for registration or a registered teacher is fit to teach. A person is fit to teach if he/ she meets the standards of professional conduct and competence that GTCS expects.
A Fitness to Teach Panel is composed of a minimum of three people comprising a majority of registered teachers and at least one lay member.
Hearings generally take place at GTC Scotland’s office at Clerwood House between the hours of 09:30 and 17:00, Monday to Friday.
We have created an information booklet to assist registrants who have been referred for Fitness to Teach Panel complaint proceedings. The aim of this booklet is to provide:
- an overview of fitness to teach proceedings
- details of each stage of proceedings and the types of hearings which may be encountered
- information regarding assistance and support
- a glossary of terms which will be encountered in the booklet and throughout the process
We have also created a fact sheet to assist individuals who are attending a Fitness to Teach Panel Hearing to give evidence in relation to a complaint which has been made against a registrant. Individuals may have been asked to give evidence by either party - the Presenting Officer acting for GTCS, or by the teacher or the teacher's representative.
Fitness to Teach Panels hold different types of hearings in different circumstances. The hearings fall into two main categories – Complaints and Probationary Service.
These hearings relate to complaints about the fitness to teach of registered teachers or applicants for registration. The complaint will be an allegation that the person falls short of the standard of conduct and/ or competence expected.
Case Management procedures are followed in the lead up to complaints hearings to try to help things run more smoothly.
If a person admits the allegation(s) against him/ her and wants to be removed from the Register of teachers without going through the full hearings process, the Removal with Consent process may be followed.
You can read more about case management procedures, removal with consent and the types of hearings held in the complaints context below:
Probationary Service Hearings relate to provisional registration only and mainly concern a recommendation made by an employer that a provisionally registered teacher's:
- provisional registration should be cancelled because it is alleged he/ she is falling short of the standard of competence expected; or
- period of probationary service be extended to give him/ her more time to meet the standard of competence expected.
A Probationary Service Hearing takes place if the teacher concerned has decided to challenge the employer's cancellation or extension recommendation. After it considers all of the evidence presented, the Panel can ultimately decide to:
- grant full registration to the person (if the required number of days of probationary service have been completed);
- remove the person from the Register; or
- continue the person’s provisional registration and (where appropriate) extend the period of probationary service required.
Subsequent Registration Application Hearings also take place in this context. These take place where a person who was previously removed from the Register following a Probationary Service Hearing applies for re-registration. They also take place where a person who was previously removed (or lapsed) from the Register and failed to complete his/ her probationary service within the required timescale applies for re-registration. The hearing is focused on determining whether the person is now fit to teach in terms of his/ her standard of professional competence.
The default position is that the above hearings take place in private.
Temporary Restriction Hearing
A Temporary Restriction Hearing is held to consider whether a registered teacher's registration should be restricted until the fitness to teach complaint made against him/ her has been finally determined. A Fitness to Teach Panel can put a temporary restriction in place where it is satisfied that there are "circumstances which on the face of it might cause it to remove the individual from the Register". Temporary restriction does not remove a Respondent from the Register. However, while the Respondent's registration is marked as restricted, he/ she may only be employed as a teacher by his/ her existing employer and in his/ her existing teaching post.
Temporary restriction hearings are usually held at an early stage in the investigation of the case so the default position is that they are held in private.
A Procedural Hearing may be held in a complaints case to:
- determine any interim or preliminary matter that has arisen;
- resolve any issues of law; or
- consider a Removal with Consent order.
A Procedural Hearing won't need to be held in every complaints case. Where a Procedural Hearing is held, the default position is that it will be held in public.
Removal with Consent
The removal with consent (RWC) process is a way for a fitness to teach complaint to be concluded without the need for a full hearing. The process is only followed where:
- An Investigating Panel has found that there is a 'case to answer' so that an assessment has been made of the nature, extent and viability of the allegation(s)
- The Respondent is willing to admit the allegation(s) in full
- The Respondent wishes to be removed from the Register and has had explained to him/ her the implications of this
- It is confirmed that the Respondent has been given an opportunity to seek appropriate independent legal and professional advice
If it is agreed that the RWC process is to be followed in a case:
- A letter is issued to the Respondent enclosing a RWC Order
- The RWC Order sets out the allegation(s) against the Respondent and requires him/ her to admit these allegations in full
- On receipt of the signed RWC Order, a Procedural Hearing is arranged to consider it
- If a Fitness to Teach Panel agrees at the Procedural Hearing that an order should be made to remove the Respondent from the Register, the terms of the Order are made available to the public and announced at the hearing. If the Panel does not agree to the order, Full Hearing procedures are resumed
- Although removal from the Register is not necessarily the outcome that would have been reached if a Full Hearing had taken place, the effect of the removal decision is the same as if the decision had been reached by a Fitness to Teach Panel following a Full Hearing
- The Respondent has the same right of appeal as would apply to a removal decision made following a Full Hearing
- The Respondent may not apply to be re-registered until two years after the date of removal
If at any point before the end of the process, the Respondent decides that he/ she wishes to challenge the allegation(s) or no longer wants to be removed from the Register, Full Hearing procedures are resumed. A Full Hearing of the Respondent's case might not result in the Respondent being removed from the Register.
The evidence in the case is presented to the Fitness to Teach Panel by the parties and the final determination is made by the Panel at a Full Hearing.
If, based on all of the evidence presented at the hearing, a Panel finds that any of the facts alleged in the complaint are proved, it then goes on to consider the person’s fitness to teach. A Panel can either decide that the person’s fitness to teach is impaired because it considers he/ she falls below the standard of professional conduct or competence expected or that the person is unfit to teach because it considers he/ she falls significantly below the standard of professional conduct or competence expected.
If the Panel decides that the person is unfit to teach, it must direct that the person’s registration be refused or that he/ she be removed from the Register. If the Panel decides instead that the person’s fitness to teach is impaired, it has wider disposal options to:
- make no order;
- issue a reprimand;
- issue a conditional registration order;
- issue a conditional registration order and reprimand together;
- refuse registration; or
- remove the person from the Register.
Unless a Fitness to Teach Panel has granted an application for a full hearing to be held in private, it will be held in public.
Subsequent Registration Application Hearing
This type of hearing is held if a person who was previously removed from (or refused entry to) the Register because they were found to fall below the standard of professional conduct or competence expected re-applies for registration. The hearing is focused on determining whether the person is now fit to teach.
Unless a Fitness to Teach Panel has granted an application for the hearing to be held in private, it will be held in public.
After a complaint case is referred to a Fitness to Teach Panel it is subject to case management procedures.
Case management procedures aim to:
- minimise the stress caused to all those concerned by setting up an effective channel of communications between the relevant people well before a hearing takes place so that there are no surprises for anyone when it comes to the hearing itself;
- help parties understand what hearings involve so that they are able to participate fully in proceedings;
- manage parties in the lead up to a hearing so that everyone is preparing in line with a timescale that minimises delay;
- identify what can be agreed between the parties while at the same time identifying what remains in dispute so that what the hearing needs to focus on is clear to everyone; and
- facilitate the smooth running of hearings generally and make the best possible use of hearing time.
Case management procedures can involve the issuing of case management directions to parties as well as the holding of case management discussions. Case management is directed by a Fitness to Teach Panel Convener (the Convener is the Panel's chair).
Case management directions require parties to do certain things by specified deadlines to guide and focus case preparations in the lead up to a hearing. Any case management directions that are issued to parties must be complied with.
A case management discussion is not a hearing – it is a more informal discussion chaired by a Convener in private by teleconference. It brings parties together to discuss where case preparations are so that next steps in the case may then be identified.