The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing

Monday 1 October 2018; Tuesday 2 October 2018; Wednesday 3 October 2018; Thursday 4 October 2018

 Teacher  Alan Miller - present/represented
 Registration Number  152132
 Registration category  Primary Education
 Panel  Frieda Fraser (Convener), Ian McDonough and Patsy Rimell 
 Legal Assessor  Julie McKinlay
 Servicing Officer  Aga Adamczyk
 Presenting Officer  Catriona Watt, Anderson Strathern
 Teacher's representative  Claire Raftery, Clyde & Co

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

Viewing the electronic version of the Application for Registration Form

The Presenting Officer advised the Panel that in relation to the evidence of Witness 1, the Presenting Officer wished the Panel to view (electronically) the application for registration which the Teacher had completed. This would allow Witness 1 to explain the process by which the form was completed by the Teacher by reference to the application as it would have been viewed by the Teacher as it was being completed online. The form is within the documents lodged and accordingly this does not constitute an application for late papers to be admitted.

The Teacher’s Representative did not oppose this proposal.

The Panel considered that it would be of assistance to them to view the application on the screen as it would have been seen by the Teacher and to be taken through this process by Witness 1.

Application for Late Papers

The Teacher’s Representative made an application for late papers.

The Teacher’s Representative submitted that she had attempted to submit to the GTCS on Friday 28 September 2018, by email, a bundle of documents but that bundle appears not to have been received. The documents are relevant to stage 2 of the process but also potentially, given the allegation of dishonesty also (in part at least) to stage 1. The documents relate to the Teacher’s character and are relevant to the decision as to his propensity to dishonesty. They contain details of the Teacher’s CPD, the most up to date evidence as to the extra-curricular events with which he is involved as well as a reflective piece written by the Teacher.

The Teacher’s Representative submitted that it had been anticipated by her (and she had prepared her case on the basis that) the Teacher would give evidence at stage 1 only and as such it was relevant and fair to admit the documents at this stage. The Teacher’s Representative submitted that the Panel could distinguish between the evidence relevant to each stage in the process.

The Presenting Officer accepted that there may well have been technical difficulties in the documents being submitted. The Presenting Officer was not opposed to the documents being admitted as they were relevant to the impairment and sanction stages and there were already a number of documents relating to those matters and those stages of proceedings before the Panel.

The Presenting Officer noted that there was a list of case authorities presented which the Presenting Officer had not had an opportunity to consider and so she reserved her position as to whether she may require to produce any authorities in reply.

The Presenting Officer submitted that the Panel should, at this stage, hear evidence from the Teacher only as regards the alleged facts. The Presenting Officer submitted that the evidence of good character presented was not such as would be relevant to the issue of dishonesty.

The Panel decided to allow the late papers. The documents were in the main updated papers in respect of the Teacher’s fitness to teach much of which was already before the Panel. They concerned matters which were relevant to the Panel and there was no opposition to them being added to the bundle.

In reaching the decision the Panel had regard to Rule 1.7.17:

Subject to the requirements of relevance and fairness, a Panel may admit oral, documentary or other evidence whether or not such evidence would be admissible in civil or criminal proceedings in the United Kingdom.

The Panel considered that it was relevant and fair to admit them.

The Panel considered whether the evidence of the Teacher should be split and whether the Panel should hear evidence at stage 1 from the Teacher as regards the alleged facts and thereafter separately from him at stage 2 if matters progressed to that stage.

The Panel noted that the practice at Full Hearings has ordinarily been to hear all of the witnesses at stage 1 and that this ordinarily included the witnesses relevant to stage 2 (impairment) and stage 3 (sanction). In this particular case it appeared to the Panel that there had been agreement that certain of the witnesses would be heard at stage 2 and arrangements for the progress of the hearing had been made on that basis. However, no provision had been made within the timetable for the hearing for the Teacher to give evidence at both stages.

The Panel appreciated that where the decision had been taken to hear from certain witnesses at stage 2 that it might be appropriate for the evidence of the Teacher as regards matters at stage 2, also to be heard at that stage. However, in this particular case it was clear that the Teacher had not been prepared to give evidence on 2 occasions and had expected to give all of his evidence during one sitting. In addition, his representative indicated that she had prepared her case on that basis.

The Panel considered that they should hear all of the evidence of the Teacher at stage 1. The Panel appreciated that this may result in some of the evidence heard not being relevant to matters arising at stage 1, but they considered that as an experienced Panel in which the previous practice had been to hear all oral evidence at stage 1 in any event, that they were capable of putting from their mind the matters which were not relevant for the purposes of stage 1.

The Panel considered that the case of Donkin v The Law Society [2007] EWHC 414 (Admin) acknowledged the possibility that there may be character evidence relevant to findings of dishonesty and that as such it might be difficult to separate all of the evidence which may be relevant at more than one stage.

The Panel had regard to the General Objective to deal with cases fairly and justly. In particular, the Panel was mindful that they should as far as is practicable seek informality and flexibility in proceedings and to avoid delay. The Panel considered that in the circumstances where it had been anticipated at the start of the Full Hearing that the Teacher would give evidence only once and where the case had been prepared on that basis and in fairness to him, it was appropriate in this case for the Panel to hear the entire evidence of the Teacher at stage 1.  

Allegations

The following allegations were considered at the Full Hearing:

1. On 28 June 2017 you were found guilty of professional misconduct by the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal and struck off the Roll of Solicitors on the grounds that between 1 April 2010 and 5 April 2012, both dates inclusive, in your role as Solicitor and Cash Room Partner with the firm of Ross Harper, Solicitors you did:

a. Act dishonestly, wrongfully and improperly in relation to the use of client’s funds without the knowledge or consent of the clients;
b. Submit false and inaccurate Accounts Certificates to the Law Society of Scotland in that you did deliberately conceal from the Law Society of Scotland the true financial position of the firm;
c. Act dishonestly in reporting matters to the inspection team of the Financial Compliance Department of the Law Society of Scotland and in so doing you did breach Law Society of Scotland Practice Rules 2011;
d. In your role as Designated Cash Room Manager, fail to supervise Cash Room staff and Cash Room systems to keep proper accounting records and in so doing you did breach Law Society of Scotland Practice Rules 2011 and Solicitors (Scotland) Account Rules 2001;      
e. Fail to settle invoices rendered by professional expert witnesses timeously, despite having received reimbursement of these sums from third parties;

2. On 12 December 2014, as part of your application for registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, you did fail to declare that you were the subject of proceedings by another regulatory body namely the Law Society of Scotland in an attempt to seek registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland and in so doing you were dishonest.

And in light of the above it is alleged that your fitness to teach is impaired and you are unfit to teach as a result of breaching Parts 1.3; 1.4; 1.5 and 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Teacher's Admissions

The Teacher admitted allegation 1 as worded to convey that he was found guilty of misconduct and struck off the roll of Solicitors in Scotland.  The Teacher denied the underlying conduct.

The Teacher’s Representative referred the Panel to Rule 1.7.20. The certificate provided by the Law Society of Scotland was prima facie evidence of the facts referred to but was not determinative of matters.

The Teacher denied allegation 2 on the basis that the actings of the Teacher were not dishonest.

The Teacher does not accept that his teaching is impaired or that he is unfit to teach.

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 Investigating Report dated 31 January 2018
P2 The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal decision
P3 Copy of application form with GTCS dated 22 August 2017
P4 Dummy application form showing declaration signed
P5 Online application section relating to fitness to teach
P6 E-mail chain between the Investigating Officer (GTCS) and the Law Society of Scotland
P7 Signed statement of Witness 1 dated 27 October 2017
P8 Initial response from Teacher’s Representative dated 2 October 2017
P9 Notice of Investigation response form dated 2 October 2017
P10 Response from Clyde & Co on behalf of the Teacher dated 17 January 2018 with appendices
P11 Response from Clyde & Co confirming no further submissions dated 14 February 2018

Teacher’s Hearing Papers

1. Statement of Alan Miller dated 24 May 2018 with appendices (gave evidence in person)
2. Witness statement of Witness 2 dated 22 May 2018 (gave evidence in person)
3. Witness statement of Witness 3 dated 24 May 2018 (gave evidence in person)
4. Testimonial from Colleague 1 dated 9 January 2018 and e mail from Colleague 1 consenting to use of testimonial during Fitness to Teach Hearing dated 10 May 2018
5. Testimonial from Friend 1 (undated) received 11 January 2018 and email from Friend 1 consenting to use of testimonial during Fitness to Teach Hearing dated 18 May 2018
6. Testimonial from Relative 1 dated 11 January 2018 and email from Relative 1 consenting to use of testimonial during Fitness to Teach Hearing dated 10 May 2018
7. Testimonial from Relative 2 dated 12 January 2018 and email from Relative 2 consenting to use of testimonial during Fitness to Teach Hearing dated 10 May 2018
8. Testimonial from Former Colleague 1 dated 12 January 2018 and email from Former Colleague 1 consenting to use of testimonial during Fitness to Teach Hearing dated 10 May 2018
9. Testimonial from Friend 2 dated 15 January 2018 and email from Friend 2 consenting to use of testimonial during Fitness to Teach Hearing dated 10 May 2018
10. Testimonial from Relative 3 undated received 15 January 2018 and email from Relative 3 consenting to use of testimonial during Fitness to Teach Hearing dated 11 May 2018
11. Testimonial from Former Colleague 2 dated 22 January 2018 and email from Former Colleague 2 consenting to use of testimonial during Fitness to Teach Hearing dated 10 May 2018
12. Testimonial from the Pastor dated 10 May 2018
13. University of the West of Scotland assessment form dated 26 September 2014
14. University of the West of Scotland assessment form dated 21 November 2014
15. University of the West of Scotland assessment form dated 18 February 2015
16. University of the West of Scotland assessment form dated 27 February 2015
17. University of the West of Scotland assessment form dated 13 May 2015
18. Final Profile from probationary Year
19. Observed Teaching Feedback Sheets
20. Pupil Progress Reports and Snapshot Jotters
21. Thank you cards from parents and pupils
22. School A Appraisal dated 5 June 2017
23. Ethics CPD timeline and reflective notes

Additional documents on behalf of the Teacher

1. Schedule of CPD courses (22/11/17 - 13/9/18)
2. Ethics CPD reflective note: Codes of Conduct for teachers
3. Ethics CPD reflective note: Teacher ethics video
4. Ethics CPD reflective note: Being a professional
5. Ethics CPD reflective note: Self-esteem and student learning
6. Ethics CPD reflective note: Ethics in coaching
7. Ethics CPD reflective note: Teaching ethics with games
8. Ethics CPD reflective note: “Standards for Registration”
9. Pupil progress report for SB (22.06.2018)
10. Pupil progress report for LM (22.06.2018)
11. Pupil progress report for AA (22.06.2018)
12. Pupil progress report from EJ (22.06.2018)
13. Pupil progress report for KW (22.06.2018)
14. School A and Nursery Class sports programme (2016- 2019)
15. School A extra-curricular sports activities 2018/2019 term 1
16. Mentor record of AR (06.09.2018)
17. Ethics CPD reflective note: “Adverse childhood experience”
18. Mr. Miller’s reflective note

Servicing Officer’s Hearing Papers

S1 Notice of hearing dated 3 September 2018 with cover e mail
S2 Proof of service of notice- email delivery/read receipts

Summary of Evidence

At Stage 1 of the Full Hearing the Panel heard oral evidence from one witness on behalf of the GTCS and from the Teacher.

Witness 1

Witness 1 gave evidence at the Full Hearing. Witness 1 is employed by the GTCS as Technical Support Team Leader. She began work with the GTCS in 2005. Witness 1 had never met the Teacher and had had no dealings with him. Her evidence was concerned with the online application for registration form.

Whilst giving her evidence, Witness 1 had before her the electronic version of the application form which the Panel and the parties could view on a screen in the hearing room. She talked through each of the sections of the form and the information required to complete them. The first page is the Personal Details. The second page is the Qualification Details. The third page is Teacher Induction Scheme Post which asks the user to choose five preferences for local authorities they would like to work in. The next page is entitled Criminal Convictions. The user is asked on this page whether they are a member of PVG and also if they have current convictions or are the subject of any current investigations or proceedings.

Witness 1 pointed out the question on the application form under the heading “Current Investigation or Proceedings”. The form asks:

“Are you currently the subject of a criminal, professional regulatory or employer disciplinary investigation or are there court, tribunal, regulatory or disciplinary proceedings pending against you? If yes tell us more about the current investigation or proceedings including the behaviour which led to the investigation or proceedings in the box below.”

There is then a heading “Good Character and Conduct”. Under that heading Witness 1 showed the Panel what was set out in the form as follows:
“Have you ever been:

* barred or disqualified from working with or having contact with, children or vulnerable adults in the UK or elsewhere?
* the subject of an investigation or had regulatory or disciplinary proceedings taken against you by a professional regulator, employer, teacher education institution or other university or similar? and are you aware of any aspect of your character or conduct which might raise a question about your fitness to teach?”

Witness 1 then explained that the next page relates to disability and then the user is taken to the payment page.

Witness 1 stated that the page concerning convictions is headed “Step 4 Fitness to Teach”. The witness expressed the view that questions in the section are clearly set out and are mandatory so the user cannot proceed any further with the form without answering the questions. If the Teacher had ticked yes to the question in that section then the user is offered an opportunity to provide details of any relevant information although this is not mandatory.

Witness 1 confirmed that the Teacher answered “no” to the question as to whether there were any pending investigations or convictions.

There is no link to any assistance to complete the form but there is a telephone number for the GTCS so the user can call for assistance. The witness was asked by the Panel whether there was a declaration part to the form which asked the user to confirm the form was accurate or any ability to check it before it was submitted. Witness 1 was not sure but when shown a declaration page within the bundle she confirmed that this was part of the application form.

The evidence of Witness 1 was not challenged by the Teacher. The Panel found the witness to be credible, reliable and straightforward in the evidence she gave.

The Teacher

The Teacher gave evidence at the Full Hearing. The Teacher graduated with an L.L.B (Hons) from the University of Aberdeen in 2001. He completed the Diploma in Legal Practice in 2002. The Teacher worked as a trainee solicitor and then a solicitor from 2002 until 2012. He became a partner at Ross Harper, solicitors on 1 November 2007. A judicial factor was appointed to the firm in April 2012 and the firm was sequestrated in December 2012.

The Teacher admitted allegation 1. In particular, he accepted that on 28 June 2017 he was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) and struck off the Roll of Solicitors. The Teacher denied the allegations brought by the SSDT. The Teacher explained that he did not defend the proceedings before the SSDT for a number of reasons. He did not have the funds, the time or resources. In addition the investigation by the SSDT and proceedings lasted for over 5 years by which time he had moved on with his life.

The Teacher said that during the period of that investigation he was involved in coaching athletics. He had a young family and he decided during that period to become a teacher and move on with his life. The process had been an enormous strain. When asked, the Teacher did provide further details as to the extent of his involvement with the investigation by the Law Society and the SSDT. The Teacher said that after the firm closed he remained available for a period of 6 months unpaid. He spoke in detail about a meeting he attended regarding the firm and the correspondence he received. He said he had apologised to those affected although not directly as this was not permitted but via communications with the Law Society. However, he said that eventually as he did not have the funds to defend himself he accepted his fate and decided to put matters behind him.

In December 2013 he submitted an application to the University of West of Scotland and began the course in August 2014. The Teacher confirmed that he submitted his application for GTCS registration on 12 December 2014.

In August 2015 he obtained a Post-Graduate Diploma in primary education. Between August 2015 and August 2016 he taught primary 6 at School A as part of his probation year. He was offered a permanent post by North Lanarkshire Council and remains at School A.

The Teacher admitted that he submitted the application for registration form to the GTCS on 12 December 2014 and did not declare that he had proceedings pending at the time before a regulatory body. He said that he appreciated that the form was inaccurate and he should have declared it. The Teacher did not accept that in doing so he had been dishonest. Rather he said that he did not remember completing that page of the application form. He said that he likely noticed the headings in bold and did not read the form in the necessary detail. He treated it as a tick box exercise. He said that he suspected when he read the heading he thought the form related to criminal convictions and that is why he answered “no” as he did not have any criminal convictions. He said he was focused on selecting the local authority he wished to work in. He said he should have paid more attention to the questions. The Teacher said he did not intend to hide the investigation. He said that he was embarrassed and given his previous role he should have checked the form. When asked, the Teacher recalled the local authorities he had selected and the reasons for doing so. The form was otherwise correct.

The Teacher spoke at length about his life since becoming a teacher.  He has built a strong working relationship with his Head Teacher and Depute Head Teacher. He has mentored a student teacher. In March 2016 he was appointed Health and Sports Coordinator at School A. He was nominated for North Lanarkshire Young Persons’ Sports Coach of the Year award 2017. The Teacher is named in the school’s development plan as having responsibility for health and wellbeing targets. Since his appointment the number of sports offered at the school has increased significantly. This was supported by the documents produced in the bundle. The Teacher runs various sports activities at lunchtimes and after school.

The Teacher spoke about the formal mentoring relationship he has with the Depute Head Teacher. They meet regularly and use a 4 step process asking what went well, the challenges, next steps and support required as regards a particular issue. The process should take approximately 8 minutes. The focus recently has been on ethical issues. A sample of the record of such a mentoring session was produced for the Panel in the bundle.

The Panel considered that the vast majority of the evidence of the Teacher concerned his life and experiences since he decided to become a teacher. The Panel had no reason to doubt all he said about teaching and his genuine commitment to it. However, it was of note that on the one hand he claimed not to remember the key aspect of the form but when asked about other aspects of the form, such as the local authorities he applied to, he was able to give a full answer. He also spoke at length and in considerable detail about aspects of his involvement with the Law Society investigation (despite claiming to have put it behind him) and yet could not remember the completion of the aspect of the form regarding fitness to teach.

Findings of Fact

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and submissions made by the parties in making its findings of fact on the allegations.

The Panel had in mind that the burden of proof rested on the Presenting Officer and that the standard of proof required is that used in civil proceedings, namely the balance of probabilities.

Allegation 1

The Teacher admitted the allegation.

Allegation 2

The Panel found allegation 2 proved. The Panel noted that the Teacher did not dispute that as a matter of fact on 12 December 2014, as part of his application for registration with the GTCS he failed to declare that he was the subject of proceedings by another regulatory body namely the Law Society of Scotland.

It was not in dispute that the Teacher had completed the form by answering “no” in a drop down box in the section of the form concerning fitness to teach. In so doing the Teacher’s answer was incorrect and he accepted in evidence that he ought to have answered “yes”. In answering “no” the Teacher failed to advise the GTCS that he was subject to proceedings by the Law Society of Scotland. The issue for the Panel was to determine if the completion of the application for registration form, in that manner, was dishonest.

In reaching their decision the Panel had regard to the test for dishonesty as set out in the case of Ivey v Genting (UK) Ltd t/a Crockfords [2017] UKSC 67. In particular at Paragraph [74]:

“When dishonesty is in question the fact-finding tribunal must first ascertain (subjectively) the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts. The reasonableness or otherwise of his belief is a matter of evidence (often in practice determinative) going to whether he held the belief, but it is not an additional requirement that his belief must be reasonable; the question is whether it is genuinely held. When once his actual state of mind as to knowledge or belief as to facts is established, the question whether his conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the fact-finder by applying the (objective) standards of ordinary decent people. There is no requirement that the defendant must appreciate that what he has done is, by those standards, dishonest.”

The Panel noted that the position of the Teacher was that he did not remember completing that aspect of the form. He said that he had treated the matter as a tick box exercise and that he suspected that when he read the form he must have thought the question related to convictions.

The Panel did not accept the Teacher’s explanation as to how he came to complete the form in the manner that he did. The Panel had the benefit of viewing the application for registration form on a screen in the way it would have appeared to the Teacher at the time he competed it. The Panel considered the form to be clear in its terms. It was not lengthy or complicated and online there were clear steps laid out. The form contained a declaration that the content had been completed accurately. There could, in the view of the Panel, have been no doubt as to the importance of completing the form accurately. Further the Teacher was a trained lawyer and had worked in that profession for many years. It was, in the view of the Panel, unlikely that given his training, background and experience the Teacher could simply not have read the form correctly or taken the care it so clearly required. Rather at the time that the form was completed the Teacher was in the midst of an investigation by the Law Society of Scotland. There was no evidence and the Teacher did not say, that he had forgotten about the proceedings or that they were not relevant. He accepted readily that the form as he completed it was inaccurate. In the view of the Panel in 2014 the proceedings by the Law Society were ongoing and the Teacher was well aware of them. The form is clear and in the view of the Panel it was simply not plausible that the Teacher could have thought it related to convictions only. The Panel considered that the Teacher was clearly under pressure in 2014. He had determined to put his law career behind him and to embark on a teaching career. He repeatedly said in evidence that he wished to put the past behind him. He had a young family and had significant financial pressures.

These matters the Panel considered may have played a part in the Teacher’s completing of the form in the manner in which he did, but the Panel considered that the Teacher had completed the form in the knowledge that his response was not correct and in the knowledge that proceedings were indeed pending and he ought to have declared this on the form. No other aspect of the form was incorrect and he could recollect in detail the local authorities selected on the form. It seemed to the Panel implausible that the one aspect of the form that was incorrect was the question which was most critical to the Teacher and whether he be permitted to register as a member of the teaching profession.

In those circumstances the Panel considered that by the objective standards of ordinary people what the Teacher did in completing the form was dishonest.  

Findings on Fitness to Teach

Given that the Panel found that the allegations were proved, the Panel invited the parties to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

The Presenting Officer presented no further evidence.

The Panel heard evidence from 2 further witnesses on behalf of the Teacher.

Witness 2

Witness 2 gave evidence at the Full Hearing. Witness 2 is the Head Teacher of School A. She has been acting Head Teacher since May 2016 and has held the substantive post since December 2016. Witness 2 has known the Teacher since he came to teach at School A for his probation year in August 2015.

In terms of his character Witness 2 had no concerns at all as to the honesty and integrity of the Teacher. She spoke in great detail about the teaching abilities of the Teacher. Witness 2 carried out both formal and informal observations of his teaching. She said he supported a variety of children with additional learning needs. She described him as a popular member of staff with parents, pupils and staff. The Teacher’s impact on the school and surrounding community had, according to Witness 2 been enormous. He volunteers his time outside school hours. Initiatives by the Teacher had resulted in the children competing in awards at local and national level. He took on the “dance mania” initiative at the last moment so as not to let pupils down. The Teacher had recently been promoted to Acting Principal Teacher.

Witness 2 said that the Teacher had told her about the events when he was a lawyer and what had happened with the application form at the time of the GTCS investigation. She described being shocked.

In cross examination, Witness 2 was asked to consider the provisions of COPAC and whether in particular she considered that the actions of the Teacher that had been found proved were compatible, in her view, with being a teacher. She seemed surprised by the question. She said that she understood the seriousness of matters and that she respected the decision of the Panel. Witness 2 was clear that her evidence was restricted to how she had found the Teacher and she saw no concerning conduct in school. 

The Panel considered the witness to be credible and reliable. The Panel accepted her evidence as to the qualities displayed by the Teacher in his role and the considerable contribution he had made to the life of the school and the wider community particularly as regards the health and wellbeing of pupils.  The Panel also considered that Witness 2 had perhaps not given the fact that the Teacher had been struck off the roll of solicitors the consideration it might have warranted before giving her evidence and her evidence was as such restricted to how she found the Teacher in his role within the school.

Witness 3

Witness 3 gave evidence at the Full Hearing. Witness 3 is Acting Principal Teacher at School A. He has been a teacher for 7 years. He has been tasked with mentoring 2 probationary teachers. He has completed 40 masters’ level credits in Coaching and Mentoring at Glasgow University. Witness 3’s long term goal is to complete his Masters.

Witness 3 has known the Teacher since he began his probation year at School A in August 2015. Witness 3 said he considered the Teacher to be a friend as well as a colleague. They socialise away from school. The Teacher is respected by pupils, parents and staff. Witness 3’s experience of the Teacher is of an honest person and he considered the Teacher has demonstrated to him openness, honesty, courage and wisdom.

Witness 3 described the mentoring arrangement he has with the Teacher.  This involves formal coaching and mentoring conversations which are recorded. The conversations are timetabled. The discussions are structured and are recorded in a form in 4 sections namely what is going well; what are the challenges; next steps and further support needed. These discussions have been focussed on ethical issues.

Witness 3 spoke in detail about the Teacher’s abilities as a teacher and all of the extracurricular activities in which he is involved.

Witness 3 had been made aware of the situation with the Law Society and with the form for the GTCS at the time of the GTCS investigation by the Teacher. Witness 3 said that when he was told he thought that it must be a case of mistaken identity. It did not accord with the man he had come to know. Witness 3 also expressed the view that the application form was clear and that he did not consider that the Teacher would take a shortcut in completing such a form.

In the view of the Panel, Witness 3 was reflective when it came to considering COPAC. He said he felt disappointed and did wonder whether he had been conned by the Teacher but if so he had kept up that con for a long time. He had never seen anything which had shown a dishonest side to the teacher.

The Panel considered the witness to be credible and reliable. He gave his evidence in a professional manner and was considered in his responses. The Panel had no cause to doubt the evidence the witness gave in respect of the Teacher.

The Panel heard submissions from the Parties as to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

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.

The Panel considered whether the conduct of the Teacher fell short of the expected professional standards. The Panel considered carefully 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 be professional, honest and act with integrity in your dealings and correspondence with GTCS, other regulatory (or similar) bodies and employers (including prospective and past) (1.5)
  • you should maintain an awareness that as a teacher you are a role model to pupils (1.6)

The Panel concluded that the Teacher had breached Parts 1.3; 1.4; 1.5 and 1.6 of COPAC. The allegations were serious. They called into question the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Teacher had failed to act with honesty and integrity in relation to his dealings with the GTCS as described in allegation 2. It was clear that in so acting the Teacher had failed to act as a role model to pupils.

In the view of the Panel the conduct fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.

The Panel 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 such that could never be remedied.

In assessing whether the conduct had been remedied and the likelihood of repetition the Panel had regard in particular to the evidence of the Teacher. It was clear that at the time of conduct which resulted in allegation 2 the Teacher had sought to put the matters with the Law Society behind him and to reinvent himself. To the extent that he had embarked on a teaching career in which he was clearly committed he had succeeded in doing so. To that extent the conduct had been remedied. There was no doubt in the Panel’s mind that he was under considerable pressure in 2014 with a young family and the considerable financial fallout from the ending of the solicitor’s firm. The Panel was also of the view that the Teacher had proven to be a skilled and committed teacher. Given what the teacher would lose in the event that he was not permitted to teach, the Panel was of the view that the likelihood of recurrence was low. It was clear that the investigation by the GTCS had had a significant impact upon him which he was unlikely to wish repeated.  The Panel was of the view that the allegations were to an extent related matters- the conduct in allegation 2 related to the actions of the Law Society. They did not in the view of the Panel evidence a pattern of dishonest conduct.

The Panel did have some concern as to the extent to which the Teacher had shown insight and the extent to which he had been able to reflect on the conduct. The Teacher appeared to have sought to put matters behind him and whilst that might be understandable there was in the view of the Panel a need to properly reflect on the behaviour and this did not appear to have been done to any significant degree. 

The Panel had regard to the evidence of Witness 2 and Witness 3 neither of whom had had cause to question the honesty and integrity of the teacher in the time they had known him. There was no evidence of recent dishonest conduct.

The Panel accordingly concluded that the conduct was capable of being remedied, that the Teacher had remedied the conduct to the extent of seeking to move on with his life and to be the best teacher he could be and that for the reasons set out the likelihood of recurrence was low.

Despite this conclusion, the Panel considered the public interest and whether nonetheless 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 conduct was not such that a finding of unfit to teach was required to protect the public or pupils from the Teacher. The Panel was clear that no harm has been caused to pupils by the conduct. Further the Panel considered that public confidence in the GTCS as a professional regulator would be maintained by the knowledge that the matter had been investigated and the matter considered by Fitness to Practice Panel over 4 days at a public hearing. In addition the Panel considered that the investigation and public hearing would also serve as deterrent to others.

Despite these findings, the Panel gave careful consideration as to whether a finding of unfitness was still required to declare and uphold teaching standards and maintain public confidence in registrant’s and the teaching profession. The Panel acknowledged that the public would quite properly be concerned about a teacher dishonestly completing a form for registration to the GTCS in the knowledge that he was being investigated by another regulator. However, on balance, and the matter was extremely finely balanced, the Panel considered that fully informed members of the public taking a holistic view of matters would consider that such concerns had been addressed by the investigation, a Full Hearing and a finding that the teachers fitness to teach was impaired.
 
The Panel was clear in its finding that the conduct was wholly inappropriate and fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.

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

Disposal

As the Panel found that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired, the Panel invited the parties to make submissions regarding the disposal. The Panel had regard to the evidence and to the submissions of the parties in considering the appropriate disposal. The Panel also had regard to the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance and in accordance with the 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 had not caused harm to a pupil or child. The Panel was also of the view that the conduct was isolated in the sense that allegation 2 stemmed from the actings of the Law Society of Scotland in allegation 1 and the Panel noted that there was no evidence before them of any subsequent dishonest conduct. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 2 and Witness 3 as to the Teacher’s conduct and good character in the time that they had known and worked with the Teacher. The Panel had concluded that there was a low risk of reoccurrence. However the Panel did not consider that a Reprimand would sufficiently mark the seriousness of the conduct. 

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 addressed by the imposition of conditions. The Teacher represented a low risk of harm. However, the Panel concluded that ongoing monitoring of the Teacher’s registration was required in order to satisfy public confidence in the GTCS as a regulator and in the profession. The Teacher had indicated a willingness to comply with conditions. The Panel considered that the Teacher had not shown sufficient insight and reflection on the circumstances which had brought him before the GTCS and the earlier findings of the Law Society of Scotland. In the view of the Panel the mentoring which had been taking place with the Teacher ought to continue and as part of that mentoring the Teacher should be required to consider and reflect upon the findings of this Panel. The Panel considered that the mentoring should continue for a period of 2 years to allow sufficient time for appropriate reflection.

However, the Panel concluded that conditions alone would not sufficiently mark the seriousness of the conduct. The Panel concluded that a Conditional Registration Order and Reprimand would be appropriate.

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 was already taking part in the mentoring sessions and these should continue. The Panel considered that the conditions identified to be proportionate and appropriate with reference to the conduct. The Panel was of the view that the ongoing mentoring sessions together with the Reprimand would provide public confidence in him as a teacher, teaching as a profession and the GTCS as Regulator. The Panel was satisfied that the conditions were measurable and directed at the Teacher.