The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Subsequent Registration Application Hearing

20 December 2017

 Applicant  Allan Dickson
 Registration number  045453
 Registration category  Secondary Mathematics
 Panel  John Kilpatrick (Convener), Lily Proudfoot, David Tierney
 Legal Assessor  Robert Frazer
 Servicing Officer  Dani Tovey
 Respondent’s representative  Fiona Dalziel (SSTA)

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
  • the “SPR” means the GTCS Standard for Provisional Registration; and
  • the “SFR” means the GTCS Standard for Full Registration.
 

Background

A GTCS Disciplinary Sub-Committee directed on 26 January 2010 that the Applicant be removed from the Register.

In accordance with Part 4 of the Rules, an application made for registration subsequent to the removal from the Register described above, required to be considered by a Fitness to Teach Panel at a hearing.

Evidence and Submissions

The Panel heard oral evidence from the Applicant and his witness, Witness 1. In addition, the Panel admitted all of the documents listed below as evidence for the purposes of the hearing:

  1. GTCS decision dated 26 January 2010.
  2. Subsequent Registration Application Form dated 24 January 2017.
  3. PVG Scheme Record dated 28 April 2017.
  4. References for Applicant dated 8 February 2017, 18 February 2017 and 30 October 2017.
  5. Statement of witness Witness 1.

In his opening statement, the Applicant indicated his desire to return to teaching. He indicated that he had learned from the experience and, as a result of his conviction and subsequent removal from the register, he had lost his job and professional reputation. He stated that he is determined to restore this and demonstrate to his family and friends that he is capable of resuming his career as an effective Mathematics teacher.

The Panel heard oral evidence from Witness 1. He is a friend of the Applicant and has known him for 20 years. He spoke to their friendship and indicated that he considered the Applicant to be a “diamond” who is honest and trustworthy. He stated that he had recently started an HND course at Heriot Watt University and that the Applicant had been extremely helpful in assisting him in the mathematical parts of the course. He considered that the Applicant was better at explaining these elements than either of the two university tutors to whom he was assigned. He also spoke to the Applicant’s passion for Mathematics, his abilities as a father and his obvious desire to return to teaching.

The Panel then heard evidence from the Applicant. In response to Panel questions, he explained the circumstances surrounding his conviction in 2009 which led to his removal from the register. He explained that he had been drinking on a night out with work colleagues and on walking home had come across a group of young men, one of whom was urinating in a neighbouring garden to the Applicant. On confronting the group, he had been subjected to verbal abuse and assaulted by 2 of them. On returning to his home he decided to go back outside with an air pistol he owned in order to scare the group off by firing a shot at a metal fence knowing it would make a lot of noise. This had disturbed another neighbour who reported the incident to the police. The Applicant was subsequently charged and convicted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court of a breach of peace and an offence under the Firearms Act, resulting in a fine of £1,000.

The Applicant went on to state that he was deeply ashamed by his behaviour and the impact this had on him. He had been dismissed from his position at school and now worked for the local authority. He had made a lifestyle choice not to drink alcohol and had not been in any further trouble since the incident in 2008. He advised that in his present managerial position he was responsible for council transport arrangements, including fuel consumption. He had improved his IT skills and was now very familiar with Excel, Access and Oracle, all of which he used on a daily basis. He had also been involved in staff training.

The Panel went on to question the Applicant on his teaching competencies and up to date knowledge of the profession. He explained that, whilst he was not familiar with the most recent developments in new Curriculum for Excellence, he had been fully supportive of its principles and had worked on early phases of its implementation. He had two children at secondary school and took an active interest in their education and how it was delivered. Whilst he understood the basic changes and requirements of the curriculum, he acknowledged that, in the event of his application succeeding, he would need to take steps to get up to speed by reading and researching recent developments. He stated that he greatly missed teaching Mathematics and believed he had much to offer. He enjoyed helping Witness 1 with his course and his children with their homework and studies. He also had enjoyed being involved in extra- curricular school activities and hoped to again be able to participate in such things as music, drama and sport in the future. He spoke highly of his former school and the pride he had taken in his job and position there. He regarded himself as a good teacher who was popular with pupils and staff. He believed that he had learned from the experience which led to his conviction, dismissal and removal from the register. He had learned new skills and believed these could be put into practice if he returned to teaching. This included using real life examples to help stimulate Mathematics lessons. After 8 years he believed he was now ready to return to teaching and positively contribute to the profession he loved.

In his closing statement, the Applicant stated that he hoped he had demonstrated his commitment to return to teaching and that he was capable of upholding the standards of the GTCS. He had provided references and testimonials attesting to his professional and technical competencies. He deeply regretted his actions in 2009 and was now a more mature and responsible individual who had reflected every day on his misconduct. As a former Mathematics teacher he believed he had much to offer the profession, both in and out of the classroom and he was ready to return to teaching without further restriction.

Decision

The Panel considered all of the evidence and submissions. The Panel required to consider whether the Applicant is now fit to teach. The Panel referred to the GTCS Subsequent Registration Applications Practice Statement and the GTCS Standards for Registration in this regard.

The Panel was mindful throughout its decision making process that the onus was on the Applicant to demonstrate that he is now fit to teach.

The Panel firstly considered that the incident that resulted in the Applicant’s criminal conviction was very serious involving the discharge of a firearm in a public place late at night whilst under the influence of alcohol. It also took account of what it considered to be the mitigating circumstances surrounding the incident which included the Applicant being threatened and then assaulted by a group of males after he had confronted one of them who was urinating in a neighbour’s garden. The Panel further had regard to the length of time since this incident and the effect it had upon the Applicant. He had been sentenced to a substantial financial penalty, dismissed from his job and removed from the Register.

The Panel also had regard to the Applicant’s circumstances since the above events. It noted that he had obtained employment in a managerial position at a local authority where he held a position of responsibility and helped deliver training to other members of staff. It noted he was now experienced in various IT skills and that he continued to use his mathematical skills on a regular basis. This included the unofficial mentoring of his friend, Witness 1, and helping his own children with their studies.

The Panel also considered that the Applicant had demonstrated good insight into his conduct and the impact that had upon him and his family. It was impressed by his obvious expressions of remorse and accepted he was genuine in his apology. It noted there had been no repetition of any criminal behaviour since. It accepted he no longer drank alcohol. It took account of the references and testimonials he presented. In addition, the Panel was impressed by the oral evidence of Witness 1 who was honest and candid in what he said. It noted the help the Applicant had provided to Witness 1 in his university course. In all these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the Applicant had taken appropriate steps to remedy his misconduct and considered that the risk of repetition was extremely low.

The Panel further considered that the public interest in the decision to remove the Applicant from the register in October 2010 had been satisfied. It was now some 8 years since the incident occurred and the Applicant was now a more mature individual who was devoted to his family. He had clearly retained a love for teaching and Mathematics. The Panel further considered that there was a public interest in allowing an otherwise good and competent teacher to be restored to the Register. Accordingly, it considered that the Applicant’s fitness to teach was no longer impaired.

The Panel, however, also considered that, given the length of time since the Applicant had worked as a teacher together with the curriculum changes that have taken place in the intervening period, it was appropriate that the application should be subject to provisional registration for a period of one year. The Applicant will be required to complete a period of 1 years’ probationary service (190 days) before being considered eligible for full registration. This would allow the Applicant time to address and understand the changes that have occurred and, in doing so, provide him with an appropriate level of support from peers and colleagues.

In accordance with Rule 4.10(a), the Panel therefore directed that, provided the Applicant is otherwise eligible for registration, the Applicant be granted provisional registration for all the reasons given above.