The General Teaching Council for Scotland

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing

 Teacher   Teacher A
 Registration Number  XXXXXXXX
 Registration category  Secondary - English
 Panel  John Kilpatrick, Pauline McClellan and Christopher Moore
 Legal Assessor  Julie McKinlay
 Servicing Officer  Kirsty McIntosh
 Presenting Officer  David Blair (Anderson Strathern)
 Teacher's representative  Alastair Milne (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 and Appeals Rules 2012 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them
  • the "Register" means the GTCS register of teachers

Preliminary issues

The Teacher made the following applications which were dealt with by the Panel as preliminary issues.

  1. Teacher’s application for late papers to be allowed
  2. Teacher’s application for the entire hearing to be held in private

Late papers

At the Full Hearing the Teacher’s representative sought to lodge (i) a report relative to progress from Supporter A dated 4 July 2019; (ii) a report relative to progress from Supporter A dated 21 August 2019; and (iii) supplementary clinical psychology report from Medical Professional A dated 21 August 2019.

The Teacher’s representative submitted that the reports were recent and related specifically to the Teacher’s health. Given the dates when they were produced, they could not have been submitted earlier. The Teacher’s representative submitted that it is fair and relevant to admit them being the most up to date information available as to the Teacher’s health. The Presenting Office agreed that the documents were relevant and had no objection to the papers being allowed.

The Panel had regard to Rules 1.7.17 and 1.7.22. The Panel heard from both parties and considered the explanation as to why the evidence was being submitted late. In the interests of fairness and on the basis that the Presenting Officer was not opposed to the documents being received into evidence, and the fact that the documents were relevant, being up to date medical information, the Panel decided to admit the documents.

Privacy

The Teacher’s representative made an application for the Full Hearing to be heard in private. The Teacher’s representative noted that at a Panel Meeting on 12 July 2019, when a similar application was made, the Panel decided that the evidence in respect of the Teacher’s health be heard in private.   

The Teacher’s representative referred the Panel to the decision of that Panel Meeting, to rule 1.73 and the Privacy and Anonymity Practice Statement and the Health and Medical Evidence Practice Statement.

In particular, the Teacher’s representative submitted that the additional documents before the Panel indicated a deterioration of the Teacher’s health as a direct result of this process. The conduct was inextricably linked to the Teacher’s health and she admits the conduct in full. The Full Hearing will accordingly be concerned with evidence as to the Teacher’s health. There has been a material change in circumstances and the Panel was invited to decide that the Full Hearing be held in private.

The Presenting Officer remained neutral on whether the Full Hearing should be conducted in private. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to have regard to the relevant rules and practice statements in reaching their decision.

In reaching its decision, the Panel considered Rules 1.7.2, 1.7.3 and 2.5.3 as well as the Conducting Hearings in Private Practice Statement. 

In terms of Rule 2.5.3, where a panel considers and determines a procedural or preliminary matter such determination shall bind any subsequent panel hearing unless it considers that there has been a material change in circumstances, and it is just for it to be reconsidered. The Panel noted that at the Panel Meeting on 12 July 2019 the Panel was invited to consider an application for the Full Hearing to be heard in private. This application was refused in part. At that meeting the Panel noted that should further medical evidence be provided to the Panel prior to or at the Full Hearing it would be open to that Panel to reconsider the issue of privacy. Further and up to date medical information has been provided. The Panel considered that this constituted a material change of circumstances. In particular, it was noted by Medical Professional A that the Teacher had experienced a significant deterioration in her [health information redacted] health since his last assessment the report of which was before the previous Panel. The Panel accordingly decided to consider the application.

The starting point was rule 1.7.2, which sets out that hearings will be held in public. This is the default position. However, Rule 1.7.3 provides that:

‘A Panel may at any stage in proceedings on its own initiative or on application to it, make an order with a view to preventing or restricting the public disclosure of any aspect of proceedings. A Panel may do this so far as it considers it necessary where it is satisfied (having given the relevant parties an opportunity to make representations and in compliance with all relevant Convention rights) that it is in the interests of justice to do so and the particular circumstances of the case outweigh the interests of the Teacher and the public in the hearing held in public. Any such decision (and the reasons for it) will be announced in public or made publicly available.

Such orders may include but are not limited to;

  1. An order that a hearing be conducted (in whole or in part) in private;
  2. An order that the identities 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; and
  3. An order for measures seeking to prevent witnesses at a public hearing being identifiable by members of the public.’

The Practice Statement makes clear that it is for the Panel to decide whether all or part of a hearing should be held in private, but that decision must be justified by exception where it serves the interests of justice better than a hearing in public. The Practice Statement makes clear that the decision of a Panel that all or part of a hearing should be held in private must be consistent with Article 6(1) of the ECHR. It might be appropriate for a private hearing application to be allowed where the protection of the private life of the parties so requires. The Panel was clear that they must be satisfied that it is in the interests of justice to do so and the particular circumstances of the case outweigh the interests of the Teacher and the public in the hearing being held in public.

The Panel decided that the Full Hearing should be heard in private. The Panel had regard to the Health and Medical Evidence Practice Statement. The Panel concluded from the evidence of Medical Professional A in his reports of 14 May 2019 and 21 August 2019, that the criteria set down in the Practice Statement in respect of medical evidence was met. The Teacher has a specific diagnosis for a [health information redacted]. There had been a significant deterioration in her [health information redacted] health between the first and second report. The Teacher has a significant [health information redacted] health condition, has a [health information redacted]. Medical Professional A considered that a public hearing or publicity surrounding her case was likely to increase the Teacher’s risk of [health information redacted]. In particular Medical Professional A states in his report that he would be worried about the current state of the Teacher’s [health information redacted] health ‘if there was to be press coverage in her case  which I consider to potentially be both highly damaging in terms of her condition and risky in terms of her safety.’

The Panel considered that in all the circumstances it was necessary for the Full Hearing to be conducted in private. The Panel noted that there was a need to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the Teacher in a situation in which the evidence suggested that to do otherwise would put her at risk in the event that the full hearing (or parts of it) were in public. The Panel did not consider that simply hearing the medical evidence in private would be sufficient to address the concerns of Medical Professional A as to the risk to the Teacher. The interests of the public in the remaining aspects of the hearing that did not relate to health (which were already to be heard in private) being in public were outweighed by the interests of the Teacher in all the circumstances.

Allegations

The following allegations were considered at the hearing:

  1. On 31 January 2018, whilst employed by Perth & Kinross Council as a registered teacher at School A, you did:
    1. attend for work under the influence of alcohol; and
    2. bring alcohol into your classroom
    And in light of the above it is alleged that your fitness to teach is impaired as a result of breaching Parts 1.3, 1.4, 1.6 and 2.3 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Teacher’s admissions/Findings on fact

The Panel observed that the Teacher admitted the facts set out in the allegation. Having regard to Rule 1.7.21, as the allegations were admitted the Panel therefore found them proved.

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   Investigation Report from Perth and Kinross Council, including appendices 1-9
P2   Teacher’s response to Notice of Investigation, dated 11 May 2018
P3   Investigating Panel papers from meeting dated 16 July 2016
P4   Teacher’s response to Interim Report, dated 9 November 2018
P5  Telephone note between GS (GTCS) and RY, dated 3 December 2018
P6   Teacher’s response to Final Report, dated 12 December 2018
P7   Notice of Investigation, dated 19 October 2018
P8   Notice of Panel Consideration, dated 10 December 2018
 

Teacher’s hearing papers

T1   Medical Reoprt from Perth City Medical Centre, dated 7 November 2018
T2  Report on Teacher A from Perth and Kinross Health and Social Care Partnership dated 5 November 2018
T3   Report from Medical Professional A
T4   Report on applicant for a teacher’s post, dated 23 October 2018
T5   Statement of Witness A (not present at hearing)
T6   Statement of Witness B (present at hearing)
T7   Statement of the Teacher

Servicing Officer’s hearing papers

S1   Notice of Full Hearing
S2   Notice of Full Hearing delivery receipts and read receipts
S3   Panel Meeting decision annex

Findings on fitness to teach

Given that the Teacher admitted the allegations in full the Panel invited the parties to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

The Presenting Officer did not lead any evidence on behalf of the GTCS but made submissions. The Presenting Officer noted that the Teacher admits the allegations and accepts that she is currently impaired to teach. The Presenting Officer referred the Panel to the Indicative Outcomes Guidance Practice Statement and the factors to be taken into account in reaching a decision. The Presenting Officer referred to the papers before the Panel. Having regard to the relevant factors to be taken into account and the evidence before the Panel a finding of current impairment was appropriate. It is open to the Panel to make a finding that the Teacher’s conduct fell significantly short of the standards expected and as such the Teacher is unfit to teach. The Presenting Officer did not submit that the Panel should make such a finding in the circumstances of this case.

The Teacher’s representative called three witnesses who gave evidence to the Panel.

The Teacher

The Teacher is 27 years old and is currently employed in insurance. The Teacher read from her statement and then answered questions from her representative, the Presenting Officer and the Panel.

The Teacher admitted the allegation. She described a previous occasion on which she had been arrested following an incident involving [health information redacted]. The Teacher [health information redacted] and expressed considerable remorse at being intoxicated in front of pupils. The Teacher described the considerable support she has received from Perth and Kinross Health and Social Care Partnership and how helpful she has found this. [health information redacted]. She has done so despite the considerable stress the hearing process has brought. She wishes to continue with this support. The Teacher now had a mobile telephone and so had addressed a concern of the counsellor regarding making arrangements with her.

The Teacher expressed her view as to the impact her conduct had had on pupils including the fact that they had yet again not had consistent teaching as a result of her actions. She expressed how important teaching was to her and that she did not get the same fulfilment from her current role. Suggested conditions were made to her by her representative and she said that she would agree to any of them.

The Teacher was asked about how open she had been with her family about [health information redacted]. She said that she had told them that she had been [health information redacted]. She has a supportive network of friends when she returns there. The Teacher said that she tries to keep busy in the evenings and has adopted alternative coping strategies. This includes exercise which she does not always enjoy.

Witness B

Witness B is a pupil support teacher and has been in that position at School A for the last 20 years. The witness read from her witness statement and answered questions from the Presenting Officer. The witness worked with the Teacher during the academic year 2018/2019. She worked with her on a daily basis and found the Teacher to be an extremely patient, enthusiastic and friendly teacher who always gave her best to the class. She had a warm, gentle and encouraging manner. The witness said that in her professional opinion the Teacher had huge potential for becoming a very good teacher in the future. The witness was not aware of any health issues and had not experienced the Teacher under the influence of alcohol or smelling of alcohol in the classroom.

Medical Professional A

Medical Professional A is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist. Medical Professional A had prepared two reports which were before the Panel dated 28 May 2019 and 21 August 2019. The witness spoke to his reports in evidence and responded to questions from the Teacher’s representative, the Presenting Officer and the Panel. Medical Professional A set out his experience and confirmed that he had provided evidence before GTCS panels in the past.

Medical Professional A confirmed that in his view the Teacher [health information redacted]. [health information redacted]. He said [health information redacted]. Group counselling, [health information redacted], was not essential, it depended on the individual’s preferences. The length of time for such counselling would be a matter for the therapist, any treating physician and the Teacher working together. The Teacher needs to build new and effective coping mechanisms. [health information redacted].

The Teacher’s representative read the statement of Witness A into the record. The Teacher has been assisting him with a course in Higher English and he is a friend who has provided support to the Teacher.

The Presenting Officer made a final submission following the evidence led on behalf of the Teacher and maintained the position of the GTCS that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.

The Teacher’s representative submitted that unusually he was in entire agreement with the analysis of the evidence and the submissions of the Presenting Officer. The Teacher admitted the allegations and accepts that her fitness to teach is currently impaired. The Teacher’s representative submitted that the Teacher had been an impressive witness, appropriately remorseful, self-critical and candid. The evidence of Medical Professional A is consistent with that of the Teacher. The Teacher accepts that she [health information redacted], has admitted the conduct from the outset and accepts she is impaired. She has shown insight and remorse and shown a determination to address her issues. The Teacher has a supportive friendship group and has [health information redacted]. In the circumstances a finding that the Teacher is unfit to teach would not be appropriate.

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and submissions made by the parties in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.  The Panel addressed the relevant considerations in relation to fitness to teach, as outlined in the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance.

Decision

The Panel noted the position of the parties but nevertheless considered the matter as to whether in their view the Teacher’s fitness to teach was impaired.

The Panel first considered whether the conduct fell short of COPAC at the time. The Panel carefully considered the parts of COPAC that it had been alleged the Teacher had breached, which were:

  • you should avoid situations both within and outwith the professional context which could be in breach of the criminal law, or may call into question your fitness to teach (1.3)
  • you must uphold standards of personal and professional conduct, honesty and integrity so that the public have confidence in you as a teacher and teaching as a profession (1.4)
  • you should maintain an awareness that as a teacher you are a role model to pupils (1.6)
  • you should aim to be a positive role model to pupils and motivate and inspire then to realise their full potential (2.3)

The Panel concluded that the Teacher had breached Parts 1.3, 1.4, 1.6 and 2.3 of COPAC. 

The Teacher had been under the influence of alcohol in front of pupils in a classroom, had brought alcohol on to school premises and had shouted excessively at pupils in circumstances in which she did not appear to have control of her emotions or of the classroom. Such actions call into question the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Panel considered that the conduct was such that the Teacher’s fitness to teach at the time fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.

The Panel next considered whether the conduct was remediable, had been remedied and whether there was a likelihood of reoccurrence. The Panel was of the view that the conduct was not of a type that could never be remedied. In the Panel’s view, there were steps that could be taken in order to remedy the conduct.

In assessing whether the conduct had been remedied and whether there was a likelihood of reoccurrence, the Panel considered in particular, the Teacher’s evidence and the reports from Medical Professional A and Supporter A. The Panel accepted that the Teacher had shown remorse and insight into the conduct. She acknowledged that there had been distress caused to pupils in witnessing the conduct and that as a consequence, she had had to leave half-way through a school year which had had a detrimental impact on their education. The Teacher has acknowledged that she [health information redacted] and that she requires support to overcome that and to address her underlying [health information redacted] health issues. She has sought support from Perth and Kinross Health and Social Care Partnership and has been receiving support from Supporter A. He is keen to continue to support the Teacher to the extent that he has agreed to meet her at a time which allows her to continue with her work commitments. The Teacher has been cooperative with the GTCS throughout the process and has been open and honest about the allegation. The Teacher has been assessed by Medical Professional A and wishes to undergo the [health information redacted] Therapy that he recommends.

Medical Professional A is of the view that the Teacher is at an early stage in her recovery and requires ongoing support from Supporter A as well as a course of [health information redacted]Therapy or other clinical psychological support to address the underlying causes of the Teacher’s [health information redacted]. Medical Professional A did not consider that the Teacher could return to teaching, which is stressful, without these supports in place.

The Panel noted that there were no concerns as to the Teacher’s ability in the classroom although she was at the early stages of her career. She had sought to keep up with curriculum changes in her subject and wished to return to teaching. The Panel noted that the Teacher states that she has been [health information redacted]. She had acknowledged that at time this had been difficult, but she had managed to [health information redacted] even during this very stressful period around the hearing.

The Panel considered that there was still remediation to be undertaken by the Teacher but that such remediation was going in the right direction. The Panel could not rule out repetition of the conduct given that the Teacher was at an early stage in her recovery from [health information redacted] but in all the circumstances and having regard to the potential implications for her the Panel considered that the risk of repetition was not high.

The Panel finally considered the public interest and whether the public interest demanded a finding of unfitness to teach. The Panel considered each of the public interest factors set out in the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance and reminded itself of the importance of the public interest in regulatory proceedings.

The Panel did not consider that a finding of unfitness to teach was required in order to protect the public or pupils. The Panel carefully considered whether a finding of unfitness to teach was required in order to maintain public confidence in the teaching profession or GTCS as the regulatory body. The Panel did not consider that this was necessary. Whilst the allegation ought to be regarded as serious, it was not at the most serious end of the scale of matters that come before the GTCS and clearly arose, having regard to the evidence, as a consequence of the Teacher’s ongoing issues  [health information redacted]. The Panel was mindful of the evidence before the Panel as to the health of the Teacher at the time of the incidents and the steps she has taken and continues to take to address those issues.

The Panel considered it to be clear from the terms of its decision that the conduct was wholly inappropriate and fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher, thus appropriate standards had been clearly declared. The Panel considered that a well-informed member of the public would be satisfied that the matter had been properly investigated and brought before a fitness to teach Panel and that this was sufficient in the public interest. As a result, the Panel did not consider it necessary to make a finding of unfitness to teach solely to protect the reputation of GTCS as a regulator or teaching as a profession.

The Panel concluded that a finding of impairment would be sufficient in the public interest.

Accordingly, for the reasons set out above, the Panel determined that the allegations admitted represent conduct that falls short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is therefore currently impaired.

Disposal

As the Panel found that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired, the Panel invited the parties to make submissions regarding disposal.

The Presenting Officer and the Teacher’s representative were in agreement that the appropriate sanction was a Conditional Registration Order although the Presenting Officer remained neutral as to the details of any conditions that might be imposed. The Teacher’s representative made certain suggestions as to possible conditions the Panel may wish to consider and provided additional information when requested to do so by the Panel in relation to the various testing regimes and psychological assistance available. The Teacher’s representative also provided some information as to the Teacher’s ability to pay for certain forms of testing albeit he confirmed that the Teacher would agree to any conditions the Panel considered that it was suitable to impose.

The Panel had regard to the evidence and submissions of the parties in considering the appropriate disposal. The Panel also had regard to the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance and, in accordance with that guidance, considered the disposals in ascending order. The Panel noted that not every indicating factor need be present for that disposal to be considered appropriate. 

The Panel first considered whether the sanction of Reprimand would be appropriate in this case. The Panel concluded that the conduct did cause harm in the form of distress to pupils and there was potential for more serious harm to have been caused. It constituted an abuse of a position of trust. There was also educational harm which was acknowledged by the Teacher as the Teacher was required to leave her post before the end of the school year. The Teacher had admitted the allegations and had shown insight and regret in relation to that. The allegations could not be described as isolated given that there had been issues as regards the Teacher’s conduct whilst under the influence of alcohol both at school and outside school in 2014 and 2017. The Teacher accepted that she is currently impaired, and the evidence of Medical Professional A was that she was in the early stages of recovery [health information redacted]. In the Panel’s view, a Reprimand would not sufficiently address the public protection concerns.

The Panel next considered whether a Conditional Registration Order would be appropriate. The Panel considered that it was possible to identify areas of the Teacher’s conduct that would be capable of being controlled by the imposition of conditions. The Panel concluded that testing for [health information redacted] coupled with attendance at appropriate counselling and input from psychological services was required in order to satisfy public confidence in GTCS as a regulator and teaching as a profession, maintain and uphold standards in the profession and would adequately protect the public. 

The conditions identified by the Panel are set out in the attached Conditional Registration Order. The Panel was of the view that the conditions identified could be realistically complied with and the Teacher could be trusted to do so. The Teacher had expressed a commitment to teaching and a desire to remain on the register. The Teacher had indicated that she would wish to undertake [health information redacted] Therapy whether imposed by the Panel as a condition or not and wished to [health information redacted]. The Panel considered the conditions identified to be proportionate and appropriate with reference to the conduct set out in the allegation. The Panel was satisfied that the conditions were measurable and directed at the Teacher.

The Panel did not consider that it was appropriate to impose a Conditional Registration Order and Reprimand in the circumstances as the Conditional Registration Order would, in the view of the Panel, be sufficient to address matters in the public interest. 

Anonymity

At the close of the full hearing the Teacher’s representative made an application for anonymity for the Teacher in the decision and that the school also be anonymised. The Teacher’s representative referred the Panel to the Privacy and Anonymity Practice Statement and in particular to the paragraph on anonymity orders. The Teacher’s representative relied upon the medical evidence and submitted that in determining whether an order should be made the Panel should be mindful not to frustrate the purpose of the decision to allow the Full Hearing to be held in private.

The Presenting Officer remained neutral on whether the order should be made.

The Panel had regard to the rules at 1.7.2 and 1.7.3, to the Privacy and Anonymity Practice Statement and to the evidence in particular of Medical Professional A. The Panel considered that having regard to the concerns raised by Medical Professional A which gave rise to the decision to allow the Full Hearing to be heard in private, that not to anonymise the Teacher in the decision published would frustrate the reasons for that decision. There was sufficient concern in the Panel’s mind as to the health and risk to the Teacher to allow the hearing to proceed in private and those concerns remained valid in respect of the publication of the Teacher’s name in the decision. The application was accordingly granted. For the avoidance of doubt no purpose was served in identifying the school and as such the name of the school should also be anonymised.