The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Panel Consideration Outcome

11 September 2018

 Teacher  Andrew Sutherland
 Registration Number 851442
 Registration category  Secondary - History
 Panel  Maureen Anderson, Kathleeen McCormick, Ian McDonough
 Legal Assessor  James Mulgrew
 Servicing Officer  Vivien Whyte (for the meeting on 27 June 2018 only)
 Presenting Officer  Gary Burton, Anderson Strathern LLP (not present)
 Respondent's representative  Alastair Milne, Balfour & Manson LLP (not present)

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; or
  • "COPAC" means the GTCS Code of Professionlism and Conduct.

Background

This case had originally been considered by an Investigating Panel, under the GTCS Fitness to Teach and Appeals Rules 2012, which referred the case for a Full Hearing. Subsequently, the Teacher admitted the allegations as set out by the Presenting Officer (as outlined below). As the GTCS Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 had come into effect by then, it was agreed between the parties that the matter would be considered at a Panel Consideration meeting on the basis that it may allow the case to be disposed of without the need for a Full Hearing. The case was initially considered at a Panel Consideration meeting on 27 June 2018. The Panel requested that further information be obtained from the parties. As the further information had been received, the Panel reconvened to consider the case on 11 September 2018.

Preliminary matters

The Panel did not deal with any preliminary matters. As outlined in rule 2.3.2, the Panel met in private to consider the case on both 27 June and 11 September 2018.

Allegation(s)

  1. Between September and November 2014, whilst employed by North Lanarkshire Council as Executive Director, you did:
    1. Instruct that changes be made to the statistical return for North Lanarkshire Council to the Scottish Government in relation to the pupil/teacher ratio for the 2014 annual census and authorise the submission of the return to the Scottish Government in the knowledge that the statistical information was false; and
    2. In relation to your actions at 1a above you did act dishonestly

Information available to the Panel:
J1         Teacher’s response and documents
J2         Presenting Officer’s Case Form and Documents
FD1     Further Information from Presenting Officer
FD2     Further Information Request with delivery email receipt
FD3     Panel Consideration Decision – Further Information Request to the Presenting Officer dated 30 July 2018
FD4     Panel Consideration Decision – Further Information Request to the Teacher’s Representative dated 30 July 2018
FD5     Further Information from the Teacher 

Teacher’s response

The Teacher admitted the allegations.

The Teacher submitted that his fitness to teach was not currently impaired. The contention was founded on the level of remediation that was said to have taken place.

Summary of evidence and submissions


The Teacher admitted the allegations. At the time of the conduct, he had been Executive Director of Education at North Lanarkshire Council (“the Council”). Each year, the Council submitted information and data as part of the annual education census conducted by the Scottish Government. In 2014, the Council’s pupil to teacher ratio was anticipated to be higher than the 2013 figure. The anticipated figure would not have met the Government target and would have resulted in the Council being potentially liable to a significant fine. When presented with the initial figures for the ratio internally, the Teacher asked whether there was a way that the Council could get the ratio down. The Teacher admitted then instructing colleagues to make changes to the data in the statistical return in order to present the ratio as lower than it had been and knowing that lower figure to be inaccurate. The Teacher’s intention had been to save the Council from embarrassment and a financial penalty. The Teacher subsequently resigned his position. He accepted the seriousness of the allegation. He submitted that the conduct was isolated and out of character. He expressed insight into the conduct and had shown remorse for it. The Teacher’s Representative produced favourable references from the Teacher’s past and present employers.

Decision


The Panel considered all of the information available to it as described above. The Panel had a range of options open to it, as set out at rule 2.3.2 (a) to (f). The Panel had regard to the factors set out in the GTCS Panel Consideration Practice Statement.
The Panel did not consider it appropriate to dispose of the case in accordance with rule 2.3.2 (a). The Panel reached this conclusion for the following reasons:
• The matter amounts to relevant conduct and there is on the face of it, a real prospect of a finding that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired. The Panel considered the following factors relevant in that the conduct alleged relates to:
o Fraud or dishonesty
o Other serious activities which cause harm and affect public confidence

The Panel considered the relevant Parts of COPAC to be:
o Part 1 – Professionalism and maintaining trust in the profession

• The matter does not relate to events that occurred 5 years or more before the date of the most recent event.
• The matter has not already been considered.
• The matter is not frivolous or vexatious.
• The allegations have not been made anonymously or by a person who has failed to cooperate with the investigation.
The Panel did not consider it appropriate to dismiss the case on the basis of an insufficiency of evidence as provided for by rule 2.3.2 (b). The allegation had been admitted by the Teacher. Furthermore, the Panel did not consider the referral to be malicious.

Fitness to Teach


The Panel carefully considered all of the available information and had regard to Part A of the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance in considering whether the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.

The Panel determined that the conduct in the allegation was very serious. It consisted of dishonest conduct in producing and submitting statistical information that was misleading to the public and Government. The conduct breached Parts 1.3, 1.4 and 1.5 of COPAC. At the time of the allegation, the Teacher’s conduct fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.

Given that the Panel had found that the allegation amounted to misconduct it then required to consider whether the shortfalls identified by the conduct were remediable. The Panel concluded that they were remediable. The Panel also concluded that the Teacher had gone some way to remediate the misconduct. In the submissions made to the Panel, the Teacher demonstrated insight into the misconduct and also remorse. He had resigned his position at the Council. He had alerted GTCS to the issue. He was presently in a new position and a reference provided from his current employer indicated that he had been transparent with them about this issue. The Panel also reflected on the character references provided. The Panel concluded that there was a low risk of recurrence.

However, the Panel also had to consider the public interest. The Panel considered that the public would be anxious about the nature of the allegation given that it related to the integrity of information relied upon by the Government. The Panel had in mind the maintenance of the public’s confidence in teachers and in the integrity of the teaching profession. Further, the Panel reflected upon the maintenance of the public’s confidence in GTCS as a professional regulator. The Panel concluded that the public interest, with particular reference to the elements above, would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made.

For these reasons, the Panel concluded that a finding of impairment required to be made in this case.

Disposal


Given that the Panel made a finding of impairment, it moved on to consider the appropriate disposal of the case. In considering this matter the Panel had regard to Part B of the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance.

The Panel recalled the various points it had considered at the fitness to teach stage. The conduct constituted an abuse of a position of trust. However, harm had not been caused to any pupil. The Teacher had admitted the misconduct. Further, the Teacher had reflected on the matter, had shown genuine remorse and had taken steps to remediate. In particular, he had been candid with his present employer. The issue represented an isolated incident and there had been no repetition since nor did the Panel consider that there was a risk of recurrence. The Panel also reflected upon the references provided in relation to the Teacher.

Having regard to the circumstances of the case and the factors referred to above, the Panel considered that the appropriate and proportionate way of dealing with the Teacher’s case was to issue the Teacher with a Reprimand. That disposal indicates to the profession and the public the gravity of the matter at issue and maintains public confidence in teachers, the teaching profession and in GTCS as a professional regulator. Having regard to the whole circumstances, the Panel determined that the appropriate time period for the Reprimand be six months.

Having identified the appropriate disposal, the Panel decided to issue a consent order in accordance with rule 2.7. The terms of the consent order are set out in the separate “Consent Order” document.