The General Teaching Council for Scotland

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Outcome

Panel Consideration

22 May 2019

 Teacher Craig Smith
 Registration Number 066977
 Registration category Secondary, Drama
 Panel Maureen Anderson, David Tierney and Ian McDonough
 Legal Assessor James Mulgrew
 Servicing Officer Louise Jackson
 Teacher's representative Fiona Dalziel, SSTA (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
  • “COPAC” means the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Notification of Meeting

The Panel had before it a copy of the notice 29 March 2019. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had been provided with notice of the meeting in accordance with rules 1.6 and 2.3.1. Accordingly, the Panel proceeded to consider the case.

Preliminary matters

The Panel did not require to deal with any preliminary issues.

Allegation(s)

 

  1. Between 22 April 2018 and 30 July 2018, both dates inclusive, whilst employed by South Lanarkshire Council as a Teacher at Stonelaw High School you did:
    1. On 22 April 2018, send a messenger request on Facebook Messenger to Pupil A, a pupil of Stonelaw High School;
    2. Thereafter engage in conversations and send communications using Facebook to Pupil A, which:
    1. referred to Pupil A’s appearance;
    2. referred to alcohol and being under the influence of alcohol;
    3. referred to school matters and included comments about teachers at Stonelaw High School;
    4. Contained inappropriate language including the use of swear words and sent pictures of yourself to Pupil A over Facebook

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 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Information Available to the Panel:

  1. Final Investigation Report, dated 21 March 2019
  2. Teacher’s Statement, dated January 2019
  3. Notice of Investigation, dated 21 August 2018
  4. Notice of Panel Consideration, dated 29 March 2019
  5. Notice of Panel Consideration cover email and delivery receipt, dated 29 March 2019.

Teacher’s Response

  1. The Teacher admitted the allegation
  2. The Teacher’s response in relation to fitness to teach and the appropriate outcome was contradictory. In a response to GTCS he indicated that he wished to voluntarily withdraw from the Register. In a supporting statement the Teacher apologised for his conduct and indicated he had a lot to offer the teaching profession going forward.

 

Summary of Evidence and Submissions

The Teacher was a Principal Teacher of Drama at the school. Pupil A was a 14 year old female pupil at this school. The Teacher taught Pupil A at the school.

The Teacher initiated contact with the Pupil by sending her a ‘Facebook Messenger request’.  Conversations between the Teacher and the Pupil commenced on 22 April 2018 and continued until July 2018. The Teacher initiated the contact on 15 different dates and on 18 occasions in total. There were also a number of failed telephone calls attempted by the Teacher via Facebook to Pupil A. Conversations, comments and questions by the Teacher related to Pupil A’s appearance, what she was wearing at the time, alcohol, the school and teachers. There was also evidence of the Teacher requesting photographs of Pupil A. Throughout the conversations the Teacher used inappropriate language and swore on a number of occasions in a number of different ways. The Teacher confirmed that he had also sent a video of himself in his garden, a picture of him away on a stag event and a picture of himself in a kilt to Pupil A. The Teacher confirmed that on occasions when he initiated contact with Pupil A he was under the influence of alcohol. The Teacher also confirmed that on two occasions when he contacted Pupil A he was not under the influence of alcohol.

The Teacher submitted a detailed response to the allegation. He admitted the allegation in full. He apologised for his behaviour and the adverse impact it had on Pupil A, her family, his colleagues and his family. He referred to having experienced unexpected levels of stress associated with the birth of his second son who had health problems post-birth, the health of his partner following the birth and increased responsibility at school following temporary promotion. The Teacher indicated that his [redacted] health became worse and he developed a [redacted]. The Teacher explained that his first contact with Pupil A had been whilst intoxicated and was a grave error of judgment. He indicated that he began drinking more during the period of contact. The Teacher referred to his suspension from employment and marked that as a turning point for him. He had since sought help for his personal and professional failings including seeking the assistance of his family, his GP and weekly meetings with [redacted]. 

The Teacher indicated that he would like to be removed from the Register of Teachers but also indicated in his detailed response that he felt he still had a lot to offer in a professional teaching capacity and that he would strive to make up for his shortcomings. 

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:

• 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:
• Abuse of a teacher’s position of trust
• Forming inappropriate relationships with pupils/young people
• Sexual misconduct or indecency (including child pornography)
• Mis-use of social media where it relates to a teacher’s practice, displays discriminatory or intolerant views or includes abusive or offensive language or it raises any other serious concern
• Other serious activities which cause harm and affect public confidence
 

The Panel considered the relevant Parts of COPAC to be:

  • Part 1 – Professionalism and maintaining trust in the profession
  • Part 2 – Professional responsibilities towards Pupils

• 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(s) have 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 Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance in considering whether the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.

The Teacher’s admitted conduct fell short of the expected professional standard. The allegation was very serious indeed and the conduct demonstrated in the allegation was fundamentally incompatible with the conduct of a registered teacher. The conduct had persisted for some time. The Teacher had sought to explain the reasons which led to the conduct. He had apologised for the conduct and demonstrated remorse. The Teacher referred to his having sought help including professional help. The Panel concluded that the shortfalls identified in the conduct had not been remediated and that at this stage there was a likelihood of reoccurence. The Panel also considered the public interest. Having regard to the very serious nature of the conduct, the Panel determined that the Teacher’s conduct fell significantly short of the standards expected of the conduct expected of a registered teacher.

For these reasons, the Panel concluded that the Teacher is currently unfit to teach.

Disposal

The Panel had regard to the Teacher’s position and decided to issue a consent order in accordance with rule 2.7 offering the Teacher the opportunity to consent to removal from the Register. Should such consent be provided, the Panel considered 2 years an appropriate length of time before the Teacher be able to apply for re-registration. The gravity of the conduct required to be reflected by the 2 year period selected. The terms of the consent order are set out in the separate ‘Consent Order’ document.