The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

Conditional Registration Order Review Hearing

Alison McWilliam - 18 & 19 July 2018

 Teacher Alison McWilliam (present and represented)
 Registration number 023390
 Registration category Secondary – Modern Studies
 Panel Philip Black (Convener), Patsy Rimell, Ian McDonough
 Legal Assessor James Mulgrew
 Servicing Officer Kirsty McIntosh
 Presenting Officer Gary Burton (Anderson Strathern)
 Teacher's representative Jamie Foulis (Balfour + Manson LLP)

Any reference in this decision to:

  • “GTCS” means the General Teaching Council for Scotland;
  • the “Panel” means the Fitness to Teach Panel considering the case;
  • the “Rules” (and any related expression) means the GTCS Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them;
  • the “Register” means the GTCS register of teachers

Preliminary issues

Application to Amend


The Presenting Officer applied to amend the allegation in terms of Rule 2.8.4. In relation to condition 4 he proposed to substitute the word “XXXXXXXX” for the word “XXXXXXXX”. The Teacher’s Representative did not object to the amendment. The Panel determined that the proposed amendment did not cause injustice to the Teacher. Accordingly, the Panel granted the application.

Evidence by Video–Link and by Telephone

The Teacher’s Representative applied for Witness E to give evidence before the Panel by telephone. The reasons advanced in support of the applications were due to the distance that the witness would require to travel to participate in person in the proceedings, the anticipated brief duration of his evidence and the fact his wife was due to give birth imminently. The Presenting Officer did not oppose the application.

The Panel considered Rule 1.7.6 and the GTCS Use of Electronic Communications in Hearings Practice Statement. The Panel noted the explanations provided and that the witness would be able to be heard by all parties when giving his evidence by telephone. The Panel granted the application.

Anonymity Application

The Teacher’s Representative applied for the name of the Teacher’s school be anonymised along with the names of some of the Teacher’s witnesses in any decision issued. The application was made in terms of Rule 1.7.3, which provides that:-

“A Panel may, at any stage of proceedings on its own initiative or an application to it, make an order with a view to preventing or restricting the public disclosure of any aspect of proceedings … such orders may include (but will not be limited to) – (a) an order that a hearing be conducted in whole or in part in private; (b) an order that the identity of specified parties, witnesses or other persons referred to in the proceedings should not be disclosed at such proceedings to the public by the use of anonymisation or otherwise and whether before, during or after those proceedings.”

The Teacher’s Representative submitted that the school was not the school where the Teacher was employed at the time of the original allegation nor did the circumstances which resulted in the present application relate to how the Teacher discharged her duties at her new school. In relation to the named witnesses the nature of their evidence was relied upon. Their evidence related to the Teacher’s attendance at and engagement with XXXXXXXXXXXXXX which they could speak to given their own association with the organisation. To name the witnesses in that context would potentially be detrimental to their personal interests and be an unnecessary intrusion into their personal lives.

The Presenting Officer did not oppose the application.

The Panel considered the terms of Rule 1.7.3 and the Conducting Hearings in Private Practice Statement. The Panel directed that the names of the Teacher’s witnesses referred to in the application should be anonymised throughout the hearing. They were members of a voluntary group which assisted with a sensitive personal issue and publication of their names could be detrimental to them. Their private interests outweighed the default position that hearings should be heard in public. However, the Panel were not satisfied that it was necessary to anonymise the name of the Teacher’s school. The school would not suffer any reputational damage as a result of its name being made public.

History and Allegation

The Panel considered the application made by the Presenting Officer for a review of the conditional registration order that was put in place following a Fitness to Teach Full Hearing Panel which was held on 2 and 15 June 2017. The conditions which were put in place on the Teacher’s registration at the conclusion of that hearing were as follows:

The Registrar is directed to show against your entry in the GTCS Register of Teachers that for a period of 2 years from the date of signing of this order (the date that this Order takes effect), you, Alison McWilliam (Registration number 023390), must comply with the following conditions:

  1. You must inform the following parties that your GTCS registration is subject to these conditions and provide them with a copy of the Decision Notice and Decision Annex that resulted in this Order being imposed upon you:
    1. Any organisation or person employing you as a teacher or in a post for which GTCS registration is required (whether on a permanent, temporary or supply basis); and
    2. Any prospective employer covered by (a) above at the time of making your application for employment.
  2. You must promptly inform GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department if you take up any employment as a teacher or for which GTCS registration is required. You must also provide GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department with contact details for any such employer.
  3. In the event that you are the subject of enquiry or investigation in relation to alleged criminal conduct, you must inform GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department of any such enquiry or investigation within 14 days of the date upon which the relevant authorities first contacted you.
  4. You must attend XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX on a regular basis and must provide GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department with evidence of such attendance by 15 September 2017 and, thereafter, at 3 monthly intervals.

It is alleged that the Teacher has breached conditions 2 and 4 of the above order.

Condition 2 places the onus on the Teacher to notify GTCS if she takes up any employment as a teacher. The Teacher took up employment on 8 January 2018. Confirmation of her employment was not received until the Teacher responded to the notification of the CRO review on 23 January 2018. It was submitted that the Teacher failed to promptly inform the GTCS that she had taken up the role and only did so following the prompting of the notification of the review.

Condition 4 places the onus on the Teacher to provide GTCS with evidence of her attendance at XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Despite reminders in advance, the Teacher failed to provide sufficient evidence before the deadline of 15 December 2017. It was submitted that the responsibility to adhere to the condition did not fall on any person other than the Teacher.

Teacher’s admissions

The Teacher admitted the failure to comply with both of the conditions alleged.

Hearing papers

In accordance with Rule 1.7.17, the Panel admitted all of the documents and statements listed below as evidence for the purposes of the hearing:

Presenting Officer’s hearing papers

P1 Presenting Officer initial submissions
P2 Signed Conditional Registration Order and Reprimand Order, dated 15 June 2017
P3 Previous hearing decision annex
P4 E-mail from Regulation to XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, dated 15 September 2017
P5 E-mail from Regulation to A McWilliam, dated 6 November 2017
P6 E-mail from Regulation to A McWilliam, dated 7 November 2017
P7 E-mail from Regulation to Witness E, dated 22 November 2017
P8 E-mail chain regarding compliance with conditions, dated Nov-Dec 2017
P9 Notice of CRO Review, dated 23 January 2018
P10 Letter from XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, dated 14 December 2017

Teacher’s hearing papers

T1 Statement of Alison McWilliam
T2 Statement of Witness A
T3 E-mails between Witness A and Balfour + Manson LLP, dated 11 May 2017
T4 E-mail from GTCS to Witness A, dated 13 October 2017
T5 E-mail and attachment sent by Witness A to GTCS, dated 24 January 2018
T6 E-mail from GTCS to Witness A dated 25 January 2018
T7 Statement of Witness B
T8 Statement of Witness C
T9 Statement of Witness D
T10 E-mails between Alison McWilliam and Witness D sent on 7 February 2018
T11 Print-out from XXXXXXXXXXXXXX website with details of “Virtual Meeting Room”
T12 Statement of Witness E
T13 Statement of Witness F
T14 E-mail from Teacher’s representative, dated 5 July 2018
T15 Preliminary submissions from Teacher’s representative

Servicing Officer’s hearing papers

S1 Notice of CRO Review Hearing, dated 25 June 2018
S2 Notice of CRO Review Hearing Response Form, dated 5 July 2018
S3 Proof of delivery of CRO Review Hearing Notice, dated 25 June 2018

Summary of Evidence

The Parties had entered into a joint minute of admissions prior to the Hearing. There was no factual conflict between the Parties.

The Teacher had attended meetings of XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX regularly from 20 April 2017 until 14 December 2017. GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department received an email from Witness A, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Secretary dated 15 September 2017. The email was sent at the request of the Teacher. The email referred to “Alison”, with no surname provided, and stated that she continued to be a valued member of XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. A response was sent to Witness A on the same day to advise that GTCS required the information on headed paper. No response was received from Witness A. However, Witness A did in fact send a letter on the headed paper of the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX to GTCS confirming the terms of the earlier email. The letter was posted during the week commencing 18 September 2017 but was not received by GTCS.

GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department thereafter contacted the Teacher by email dated 6 November 2017 and stated that, in the absence of any further information from Witness A, the email that he provided was not sufficient to comply with the CRO. The Teacher responded on 6 November 2017 to apologise and stated that she was assured by Witness A that a hard copy had been sent. She advised that she was still attending XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX meetings regularly and using other online resources to substitute for any absences. The GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department responded to say that the Teacher could wait until her next meeting with XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX to provide written evidence.

In or around November 2017 the Teacher applied for the post of teacher of Modern Studies at Banff Academy. In accordance with paragraph 1 of the CRO the Teacher informed Aberdeenshire Council and her prospective line manager at Banff Academy that her GTCS registration was subject to the conditions set out in the CRO and provided a copy of the decision notice and decision annex issued following her Fitness to Teach Panel Hearing on 2 and 15 June 2017.

In her email to GTCS on 6 November 2017 the Teacher also advised that she was to have a Skype interview for a teaching post in Banff.

On 22 November 2017, GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department received an email from Witness E, Banff Academy to request confirmation that the Teacher holds a full GTCS registration and is fully qualified in order to take up an offer of permanent employment at Banff Academy. The email contained contact details for the school.

On 7 December 2017, the Teacher emailed GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department to state that she asked Witness A to send a letter to GTCS detailing her full name and her continued attendance at meetings. She stated that this was urgent as she had been offered a teaching post at Banff Academy but was awaiting confirmation from Aberdeenshire Council to take up the post.

A response was sent to the Teacher on 7 December 2017 to advise her that GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department had confirmed with Aberdeenshire Council that the Teacher is fully registered but subject to a CRO. They reiterated the importance of receiving evidence of her regular attendance with XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXX by 15 December 2017 and that failure to comply could result in a review of the CRO.

Aberdeenshire Council were in further correspondence with GTCS on 12 December 2017 to seek clarification of the CRO imposed on the Teacher’s registration. After further discussion, the local authority confirmed that the Teacher did disclose the details of the CRO to them in the terms of the order.

On 14 December 2017, at the request of the Teacher, Witness A wrote to GTCS confirming that the Teacher continued to regularly attend meetings of the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department had not received any correspondence from the Teacher confirming her attendance at XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX by the deadline of 15 December 2017.

The Teacher commenced employment as a full time teacher of Modern Studies at Banff Academy on or around 8 January 2018. The Teacher did not contact GTCS Fitness to Teach Department to advise that she had taken up the post.

On the basis that no confirmation of the Teacher’s attendance at XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX was received by 15 December 2017, notification of a review of her CRO was sent to her dated 23 January 2018. The Teacher responded on the same day and stated that Witness A had assured her that he had posted the written confirmation to GTCS. The Teacher also stated in her email dated 23 January 2018 that she started teaching at Banff Academy from 8 January 2018.

GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department then received a letter dated 14 December 2017 from Witness A. This letter was not received by GTCS’ Fitness to Teach Department until 24 January 2018 when it was sent by email.

From 14 March 2018 to the date of the Hearing, the Teacher had regularly attended meetings of XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and had regularly participated in XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX by telephone for one hour on a Sunday evening. The Teacher has submitted documentation vouching for the extent of her use of support from XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX during that period.

The Teacher’s new employers were very happy with her performance as a teacher to date. The written and oral evidence was very complimentary about how she had adjusted in the new environment and her high level of performance.

Submissions

The Presenting Officer clarified that he was no longer insisting on revocation of the Teacher’s registration as had been sought in the original application. He submitted that that request was not appropriate in the circumstances. The Presenting Officer observed that the Teacher’s failures to comply were more of an administrative error. He referred the Panel to the Indicative Outcomes Guidance and reminded the Panel of the principle of proportionality.

The Teacher’s Representative invited the Panel to refrain from revocation. He reviewed the evidence relating to each failure to comply and contended that the failures were not willful, but were administrative oversights. He highlighted that the Teacher had complied with the spirit of the conditions imposed on her. Further, the Teacher’s Representative submitted that her performance in her new position had been good. The Teacher had also made prompt admissions and had demonstrated remorse and insight in relation to the failures to comply. Further, the Teacher’s Representative confirmed that any shortcomings evidenced by the failures to comply had been remedied given the Teacher’s reaction and compliance since. The Teacher’s Representative submitted that the removal would not be justified and invited the Panel to allow the CRO to continue.

Decision

The Panel had regard to the evidence presented to it and the helpful submissions made by each party.

The Panel found that the Teacher’s failures to comply were not deliberate, were technical and administrative, and were temporary. The failures were remediable and had been remedied by the Teacher in advance of the Hearing. The Panel considered that this was due to the fact that the Teacher had been doing her best to comply with the conditions and that she had considerable insight into the spirit of the conditions and into the reasons behind the failures.

The Panel found the context of the failures important. The Panel noted that the Teacher had secured new employment as a teacher and had required to relocate to take up her new position. She also had to make great efforts to continue to secure the support offered by XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX due to geographical issues. However, the Panel were greatly impressed by the Teacher’s reaction to those developments. The Panel found the Teacher to be credible and reliable and to have demonstrated insight and reflection during a time of personal and professional change and challenge.

The Panel decided to allow the CRO to continue. However, in order to assist the Teacher the Panel decided to vary condition 4 in order to bring clarity to it and to allow compliance with it to be more straightforward. Accordingly condition 4 will read:-

“You must attend XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX on a regular basis. You must provide GTCS’ Regulation Department with evidence of such attendance by 18 October 2018 and, thereafter, at 3 monthly intervals. Should there be an issue in providing this evidence you must inform the Regulation Department of that prior to the end of each time period.”