The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing

4, 5, 6 October and 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10 November and 8 December and 12 January

 Teacher  Karen Walker
 Registration Number 760441
 Registration category  Secondary - Home Economics
 Panel  Philip Black (Convenor), Maureen Anderson, Peter Rankin
 Legal Assessor  James Mulgrew
 Servicing Officer  Dani Tovey
 Presenting Officer  Gary Burton, Anderson Strathern LLP (not present)
 Respondent's representative  Jamie Foulis, 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; and
  • the “Rules” (and any related expression) means the GTCS Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them.
  • the "Register" means the GTCS register of teacher.

Preliminary issues

Late Papers

At various stages throughout the course of the hearing, the Presenting Officer and the Teacher’s representative asked to admit late documents. The documents included revised witness statements, letters, a spreadsheet, photographs and other papers which witnesses could speak to. Neither party objected to the admission of the late papers by the other.

The Panel considered Rule 1.7.22 and the Fact-finding in Fitness to Teach Panel Complaint Hearings Practice Statement. The Panel decided to admit the documents. The late documents are listed along with the hearing papers of the party who lodged them.

Evidence by telephone

The Presenting Officer and Teacher’s representative applied for certain witnesses to give evidence before the Panel by telephone. The witnesses were Witness 7, Witness 12 and Witness 13. The reasons advanced in support of the applications were health based and due to work commitments. Neither party opposed any application made by the other.

The Panel considered Rule 1.7.6 and the GTCS Use of Electronic Communications in Hearings Practice Statement. The Panel noted the explanations provided and that the witnesses would be able to be heard by all parties when giving their evidence by telephone. The Panel granted the applications.

Allegation(s)

The allegation(s) below were considered at the hearing:
  1. On exact dates unknown between 2005 and 2013, whilst employed as Head Teacher of North Lanarkshire Council’s Inclusion Support Base (ISB) you did:
    1. introduce a voucher system which
      1. was not used in its entirety for its intended purpose of rewarding attendance at the ISB;
      2. was used by you to a value of approximately £700 for use which was not connected to work at the ISB;
      3. was used by you to buy alcohol and food for occasions when you should have purchased those goods yourself;
      4. you pressurised colleagues to misuse;
    2. misuse school funds by
      1. paying for a staff meal using said funds;
      2. instructing a member of your staff to take action to create the impression that pupils had attended a staff meal at 1(b)(i) above when they had not;
    3. misuse two vehicles owned by the ISB by
      1. keeping said vehicles at your home address and using them to commute to work on a regular basis without informing your employer;
      2. using said vehicles for your personal use not connected with work for ISB;
      3. making said vehicles unavailable and forcing staff to continue to use their own vehicles for which they continued to submit claims for mileage at extra cost to your employer;
  2. Between 2012 and 2013, during a disciplinary investigation you did:
    1. state that pupils had been in attendance at end of term parties, when you knew they had not been;
    2. state that you were informed that you should keep ISB vehicles at your home address for security purposes, when you knew you were not so informed;
  3. On exact dates unknown between 2005 and 2013, whilst employed as Head Teacher of North Lanarkshire Council’s Inclusion Support Base, you did fail to follow appropriate procedures, by:
    1. Introducing a voucher system which was
      1. Unaccountable and contrary to the existing approved expenses system;
      2. poorly managed by you and vouchers expired which resulted in financial loss;
    2. purchasing a vehicle, namely a Ford Galaxy, for the ISB without undertaking a value for money exercise or completing a business case and without completing a post-purchase value for money review;
    3. failing to implement a standard procedure or create an equivalent one in relation to the two vehicles which were owned by the ISB so that there is no record of use and no mileage log book;
    4. failing to adhere to North Lanarkshire Council’s employment protocols by:
      1. making employment appointments without conducting interviews;
      2. contracting your relatives (namely son and daughter) without completing and submitting conflict of interest forms and without going through a competitive process;
      3. employing your gardener without completing and submitting a conflict of interest form and without going through a competitive process;
      4. employing staff on a short term basis without providing formal signed contracts or Service Level Agreements;
  4. And in relation to
    1. allegation 1 (b);
    2. allegation 1 (c);
    3. allegation 2;
    above 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, 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland's Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Amendments to the allegations and summary of findings

At the conclusion of the evidence, the parties suggested various amendments to the allegations. In addition, the Panel identified aspects of the allegations it sought to amend. Before announcing its decision on the facts, the Panel invited the parties to address it on the proposed amendments to the allegations and neither party objected to the allegations being so amended. The amendments made are set out below: deletions are struck out and insertions are underlined. The Panel’s finding in relation to each is also stated and is explained in further detail in the “summary of evidence and findings of fact” section below.

  1. On exact dates unknown between 2005 2006 and 2013, whilst employed as Head Teacher of North Lanarkshire Council’s Inclusion Support Base (ISB) you did:
    1. introduce a voucher system which
      1. was not used in its entirety for its intended purpose of rewarding attendance at the ISB; PROVED
      2. was used by you to a value of approximately £700 for use which was not connected to work at the ISB; NOT PROVED
      3. was used by you to buy alcohol and food for occasions when you should have purchased those goods yourself; ADMITTED - PROVED
      4. you pressurised colleagues to misuse; PROVED
    2. misuse school funds by
      1. paying for a staff meal using said funds; ADMITTED - PROVED
      2. instructing a member of your staff to take action to create the impression that pupils had attended a staff meal at 1(b)(i) above when they had not; PROVED
    3. misuse two vehicles owned by the ISB by
      1. keeping said vehicles at your home address and using them to commute to work on a regular basis without informing your employer; ADMITTED - PROVED
      2. using said vehicles for your personal use not connected with work for ISB; PROVED
      3. making said vehicles unavailable, and consequently forcing staff to continue to use their own vehicles for which they continued to submit claims for mileage at extra cost to your employer; PROVED
  2. Between 2012 and 2013, during a disciplinary investigation you did:
    1. state that pupils had been in attendance at end of term parties, when you knew they had not been; PROVED
    2. state that you were informed that you should keep ISB vehicles at your home address for security purposes, when you knew you were not so informed; PROVED
  3. On exact dates unknown between 2005 2006 and 2013, whilst employed as Head Teacher of North Lanarkshire Council’s Inclusion Support Base, you did fail to follow appropriate procedures, by:
    1. Introducing a voucher system which was
      1. Unaccountable and contrary to the existing approved expenses system; ADMITTED - PROVED
      2. poorly managed by you and vouchers expired which resulted in financial loss; ADMITTED - PROVED
    2. purchasing a vehicle, namely a Ford Galaxy, for the ISB without undertaking a value for money exercise or completing a business case and without completing a post-purchase value for money review; ADMITTED - PROVED
    3. failing to implement a standard procedure or create an equivalent one in relation to the two vehicles which were owned by the ISB so that there is no record of use and no mileage log book; ADMITTED - PROVED
    4. failing to adhere to North Lanarkshire Council’s employment protocols by:
      1. making employment appointments without conducting interviews; (insufficient evidence submission made by the Presenting Officer - NOT PROVED)
      2. contracting your relatives (namely son and daughter) without completing and submitting conflict of interest forms and without going through a competitive process; ADMITTED - PROVED
      3. employing your gardener without completing and submitting a conflict of interest form and without going through a competitive process; ADMITTED - PROVED
      4. employing staff on a short term basis without providing formal signed contracts or Service Level Agreements; (insufficient evidence submission made by the Presenting Officer - NOT PROVED)
  4. And in relation to
    1. allegation 1 (b); PROVED
    2. allegation 1 (c); PROVED
    3. allegation 2; PROVED
    above 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, 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland's Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Hearing papers

In accordance with Rule 1.7.19, the Panel admitted all of the documents and statements listed below for the purposes of the hearing:

Presenting Officer’s hearing papers

P1 Witness statement of Witness 4
P2 Witness statement of Witness 6 (approved and unsigned)
P3 Witness statement of Witness 1, North Lanarkshire Council (approved and unsigned)
P4 Witness statement of Witness 5, North Lanarkshire Council (approved and unsigned)
P5 Witness statement of Witness 2 (approved and unsigned)
P6 Witness statement of Witness 3
P7 Witness statement of Witness 7 (approved and unsigned)
P8 Photograph dated 24 June 2012 (@12.41pm
P9 Handwritten notes of Witness 1, dated 12 December 2013
P10 Minutes of interview dated 12 December 2012
P11 Internal Audit Report and appendices dated 28 January 2014
P12 Minutes of interview dated 1 April 2014
P13 Minutes of interview dated 4 June 2014
P14 Note of telephone conversation dated 28 July 2014
P15 Note of telephone conversation dated 14 August 2014
P16 Compliance with EU Grants 2012-2013
P17 North Lanarkshire Council, Employee Code of Conduct, October 2013
P18 North Lanarkshire Council, General Contract Standing Order, 21 January 2014
P19 North Lanarkshire Council, Financial Regulations, 11 September 2013
P20 Amended witness statement of Witness 1 (admitted late)

Teacher’s hearing papers

T1 Statement of the Teacher
T2 Report on the Teacher prepared by Mr G McXXXXX dated 28 June 2008
T3 E-mail from Karen Walker to ED sent on 14 September 2009
T4 Email from Karen Walker to AH and JH sent on 18 June 2010
T5 "Budget Information" document
T6 Accounting for Tesco vouchers prepared by the Teacher
T7 Attendance records for 2012-13
T8 Photographs of former location of Inclusion Support Base taken by the Teacher
T9 Car Insurance vouching
T10 Advertisement for posts of FLI Operations Manager and FLI Education Coach
T11 Email from SW to the Teacher sent 19 November 2010
T12 Email from the Teacher to Witness 11 sent on 29 October 2012
T13 Email from the Teacher to Witness 11 sent on 22 February 2013
T14 Email from the Teacher to AT sent on 18 April 2013
T15 Email from SW to the Teacher sent on 28 October 2011
T16 Email from SW to the Teacher sent on 31 October 2011
T17 Email from SW to the Teacher sent on 10 November 2011
T18 Email from witness 2 to AT dated 25 October 2012
T19 Minutes of meeting on 1 April 2014 with the Teacher’s proposed changed
T20 Minutes of meeting on 4 June 2014 with the Teacher’s proposed changed
T21 Tesco Order Confirmation
T22 Copy bank statements for the Teacher
T23 Statement of Witness 8
T24 Letter from Witness 8 dated 19 May 2015
T25 Papers relating to payments received by Witness 8
T26 Statement of Witness 9
T27 Letter from Witness 9 dated 19 May 2015
T28 Documents prepared by Witness 9 for the Inclusion Support Base
T29 Statement from Witness 10
T30 Testimonial from Witness 10
T31 Statement of Witness 12
T32 Letter from Witness 12 dated 8 April 2015
T33 Invoice from Witness 12 to the Teacher
T34 Statement prepared by Witness 11
T35 Supplementary statement of Witness 11
T36 Statement of Witness 13
T37 Statement of Witness 14
T38 Statement from Witness 15
T39 Testimonial from Witness 15
T40 Statement from Witness 16
T41 Statement from Witness 17 (unsigned)
T42 Character reference from Witness 17
T43 Statement of Witness 18
T44 Statement of Witness 19
T45 Testimonial from Witness 19
T46 Statement from Witness 20 (unsigned)
T47 Testimonial from Witness 20
T48 Letter from Witness 4 to the Teacher dated 5 August 2014
T49 Statement of Witness 17 (signed) (admitted late)
T50 Statement of Witness 20 (signed) (admitted late)
T51 Letter to West College Scotland dated 4 June 2015 (admitted late)
T52 Letter from the Teacher to GTCS (admitted late)
T53 Excel spreadsheet and invoices(admitted late)
T54 Colour photographs of the ISB location (admitted late)
T55 Google Maps print (admitted late)
T56 DVLA V5C document (admitted late)

 

Servicing Officer’s hearing papers

SO1 Notice of hearing dated 28 August 2017
SO2 Proof of service of notice - email delivery receipt
SO3 Completed Response Form dated 20 September 2017
Summary of evidence and findings of fact

The Panel heard evidence in relation to the allegations over a period of 9 days. The Panel was assisted in its deliberations on the evidence by the Joint Minute of Admissions and written submissions prepared by both of the parties. Those submissions restricted the number of allegations which the Panel required to determine.   

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. The Panel also had regard to the GTCS Fact-Finding in Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases Practice Statement. 

In his submissions, the Presenting Officer indicated that there was insufficient evidence to establish certain allegations, namely allegation 3(d)i and allegation 3(d)iv. The Panel found allegations 3(d)i and 3(d)iv not proved.

In terms of Rule 2.8.4, the Presenting Officer invited the Panel to amend certain allegations. In relation to allegation 3(d)ii, the Presenting Officer invited the Panel to delete the words “and daughter”.   In relation to allegation 3(d)iii, the Presenting Officer invited the Panel to delete the word “employing” and to replace it with the word “contracting”. The proposed amendments were in line with the Teacher’s position in relation to the particular allegations. Having regard to the evidence which had been led, the Panel concluded that those amendments could fairly be made and would not lead to injustice. 

The Panel noted that the start date referred to in allegations 1 and 3, namely “2005” was inconsistent with the agreed position of the parties that the Teacher began her employment as Head Teacher at the ISB in September 2006. Accordingly, in terms of Rule 2.8.4 the Panel amended allegations 1 and 3 by deleting “2005” and inserting in substitution therefore “2006”.

Teacher’s Admissions

The Teacher’s representative, in his submissions, confirmed that the Teacher admitted a number of the allegations. The allegations admitted were: 1(a)iii, 1(b)i,1(c)i, 3(a)i, 3(a)ii and 3(c). The Teacher’s representative also identified allegations which would be admitted subject to certain amendments. In light of the amendments made to allegations 3(d)ii and 3(d)iii, the Teacher’s representative confirmed that the Teacher admitted those allegations as amended.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegations 1(a)iii, 1(b)i,1(c)i, 3(a)i, 3(a)ii, 3(c) 3(d)ii and 3(d)iii proved.

Background to the allegations

The allegations related to a time when the Teacher was employed as Head Teacher at North Lanarkshire Council’s Inclusion Support Base (ISB) and during an investigation carried out by North Lanarkshire Council.  

The ISB was a unit which took referrals for secondary pupils within North Lanarkshire Council who were not reaching their maximum potential in a mainstream school environment. The ISB initially ran the Expanded Learning Opportunities Programme which evolved into the Flexible Learning Initiative (FLI). The ISB offered a tailored timetable for individual pupils providing a mix of academic and vocational training and learning opportunities. At any one point in time there would be between 30 to 40 pupils receiving education through the ISB.   

The Teacher was employed as Head Teacher of the ISB between September 2006 and November 2013. As Head Teacher of the ISB, the Teacher had delegated authority for the management of the resources including full control of the delegated budget, operational management of ISB staff and procurement of goods, materials and contractors.   

There were different sources of funding for the ISB. North Lanarkshire Council provided funding. Separately, European funding was available which was audited by the Community Planning Partnership. Separate budgets and systems existed in order to manage the distinct source of funds.

 

Witness Summary

Witness 1

Witness 1 was the Head of Audit and Inspection at North Lanarkshire Council. At the time of the hearing he had retired. He co-produced an internal audit report with his colleague Witness 5, Internal Auditor which examined certain aspects of the conduct of the Teacher in respect of the FLI within the ISB. A copy of that report and appendices were contained within the Presenting Officer’s hearing papers.   

The Panel found Witness 1 to be a credible and reliable witness. His oral evidence and witness statement were consistent with the contemporaneous report and documentation obtained. He had an official role within the local authority to conduct the investigation and was objective in carrying it out: he had no conflict or vested interest in the outcome. The Panel considered that the investigation was conducted in a professional manner. The information gathered was analysed and assessed and led to other enquiries being carried out. The Panel did not accept the Teacher’s representative’s criticism of the witness and his investigating colleagues that they had approached their task with a “closed mind”.   

Witness 2

Witness 2 worked at the ISB from around 2004. At the beginning, he was seconded from Career Scotland and was Operations Manager for the Expanded Opportunities Programme run by North Lanarkshire Council. His role involved the overall management of that programme. That programme evolved into the FLI. Witness 2 remained in post until after the Internal Audit Investigation had begun and the Teacher had left the ISB.   

Witness 2 was able to give evidence about a number of the separate allegations. The Teacher’s representative was critical of the witness. The Panel was invited to treat his evidence with caution. It was submitted that he was selective and less than candid in anonymous letters he had written to North Lanarkshire Council’s Senior Management about the Teacher, during the investigations and during his evidence. It was submitted that his evidence had changed in relation to various matters. It was stated that he had an agenda against the Teacher, that he had acted as whistle-blower and used emotive language in the letters and during interview.

However, the Panel did not require to rely upon his evidence alone in support of any allegations.    The evidence which he gave in relation to the allegations supported or confirmed the evidence of other witnesses.    

Witness 3

Witness 3 was a Clerical Assistant at the ISB. She had been in that role since 2002. She was in that position when the Teacher joined the ISB and beyond the Teacher’s departure.   

The Panel found Witness 3 to be a credible and reliable witness.  She was able to give considerable detail in relation to some incidents and had also taken a photograph of an ISB vehicle at a garden centre when the Teacher was there which was part of the Presenting Officer’s hearing papers.

Witness 4

Witness 4 was an Education Officer with North Lanarkshire Council. He was appointed as Investigating Officer to investigate concerns relating to the Teacher and her conduct at the ISB. The investigation was a formal disciplinary investigation. That disciplinary investigation had been instructed by the Executive Director of North Lanarkshire Council as a result of the findings within the Internal Audit Report. Witness 4 did not finalise or submit any investigation report as the Teacher resigned from her position prior to its completion. In the course of his investigation, witness 4 formally interviewed staff members and the Teacher on two occasions.    

The Panel found Witness 4 to be a credible and reliable witness. He had an official role within the local authority to conduct the investigation and was objective in carrying it out: he had no conflict or vested interest in the outcome. The Panel considered that his investigation was conducted in a professional manner. 

Witness 5

Witness 5 was an Internal Auditor with North Lanarkshire Council. She co-produced an Internal Audit Report with Witness 1 referred to above.

The Panel found Witness 5 to be a credible and reliable witness. Her oral evidence and witness statement were consistent with the contemporaneous report and documentation obtained. She had an official role within the local authority to conduct the investigation and was objective in carrying it out: she had no conflict or vested interest in the outcome. The Panel considered that the investigation was conducted in a professional manner.   

Witness 6

Witness 6 was a Development Officer at the ISB. She took up her position in 2002 and remained there until she took early retirement in 2011. The Panel found Witness 6 to be credible and reliable.  Her evidence was not central to any of the allegations.  She generally supported the evidence of Witness 3.

Witness 7

Witness 7 was a Learning Assistant at the ISB. She began working there in October 2008 and remains in position there.    

Witness 7 gave evidence by way of telephone link. Following agreement between the parties, she had received a copy of her witness statement and excerpts from the Presenting Officer’s hearing papers and the Teacher’s hearing papers prior to her giving evidence.

The Panel found Witness 7 to be a genuine and plausible witness who was clear and consistent on the key aspects of her evidence. Her evidence was supported by documentation she identified that she was the author of. Her evidence was further supported by other witnesses whom she spoke to at the time of the allegations. Accordingly, the Panel placed importance on her evidence.

Witness 8

Witness 8 was a Higher Executive Officer within the Civil Service. She is the Teacher’s daughter. She had been employed at the ISB when her mother was the Head Teacher there.

The evidence which Witness 8 gave principally related to an allegation which, ultimately, the Panel did not require to determine. She also gave evidence that her mother did not use the ISB cars for her personal use.

Witness 9

Witness 9 was a designer specialising in graphic design, brand identity, print and image making. He is the Teacher’s son and was engaged by the ISB through his mother to undertake certain works for the ISB.

The evidence which Witness 9 gave principally related to an allegation that the Panel did not ultimately require to determine. However, his evidence regarding his status at the time of his first instruction was at odds with the evidence given by his mother. Further, he told the Panel that he had in fact subcontracted the printing work which was related to the work that he had been instructed to do. He had instructed printing companies within the locality of the ISB. He was not convincing on any aspect of the work he had undertaken. As Witness 9 was, at the time, not registered for VAT, it resulted in the VAT paid by him on the printing component of the work not being reclaimable by the Local Authority.

Witness 11

Witness 11 was employed as an Education Officer with North Lanarkshire Council until October 2014. At the time of the hearing, she was employed as Head of Service with South Lanarkshire Council. She was an Education Officer for ten years with North Lanarkshire Council. The witness was the Teacher’s line manager at the ISB from the time when the Teacher started in September 2006 until the Teacher’s retirement.   

Witness 11 stated that the Teacher did not ask for any financial training in relation to her position at the ISB. The Panel found that Witness 11 did not answer questions as fully as she should have been able to, given that she was the Teacher’s line manager. The Panel concluded that she was trying to defend the Teacher. They were friends. The Panel found that there was some evasiveness in her not answering or her being economic with the details. This approach continued even when she was asked a reflective question about what she would have done in relation to the ISB and the Teacher’s managing of it, had her state of knowledge of the operation of the ISB been better as it is now.

Witness 10

Witness 10 was a Teacher for over 40 years. She retired from teaching in 2016. The Teacher had invited her to work at the ISB and assist with a career building package.    

Witness 10 was supportive of the Teacher. She attempted to discredit Witness 2.   Ultimately, the matters which she gave evidence about related to an allegation which the Panel did not require to determine.   

The Teacher

The Teacher had been a registered Teacher for over 37 years.  She had retired in October 2014.   During her career she had been a secondary Teacher of Home Economics, Depute Head Teacher and in 2006 had taken up position as Head of the ISB.    

The Panel found the Teacher to be evasive in many of her answers. She was able to give considerable detail in relation to some questions asked, but other answers lacked depth and detail. The Teacher provided considerable detail about her career, the ISB, her role there and her delegated budgetary responsibilities. However, the Teacher claimed ignorance in relation to systems and procedures which the allegations related to. For instance, the Teacher claimed to lack knowledge of certain financial aspects to her role. The Teacher stated that she had sought assistance in relation to financial matters. However, Witness 11 stated that the Teacher had not sought financial training from her as part of annual reviews and ongoing development. Further, the Teacher claimed to be unaware of instructions for the maintenance of a mileage log for ISB vehicles. However, instructions for the maintenance of a mileage log were found in her desk by two members of staff.

The Panel found it significant that the Teacher’s evidence regarding her son’s status at the time of his original instruction by the ISB was inconsistent with the evidence that her son gave about that.     

Witness 12

Witness 12 was self-employed and operated in the landscape and gardening business. He was engaged by the ISB to work with and coach pupils at the ISB in life skills and in gardening and landscape work.   

The Panel found Witness 12 to be a straightforward and honest witness.  He gave evidence by telephone link. Ultimately, the evidence which he gave related to an allegation which the Panel did not require to determine.    

Witness 13

Witness 13 was employed as a coach at the ISB.  He worked with the Teacher for a period of six years until her retirement.  The Teacher was his line manager.    

Witness 13 gave evidence by way of telephone link. He gave evidence that was generally supportive of the Teacher.

Findings in fact on the allegations

Allegation 1

During the Teacher’s tenure as Head Teacher of the ISB she oversaw the introduction of a “voucher system” which had as an intended purpose rewarding pupils for their attendance at the ISB. Vouchers having a total value of £5,000 were purchased during the operation of the system. On occasions, vouchers were used to acquire sustenance for staff, parents, and to provide for meetings taking place at the ISB.

Allegation 1(a)i

The Teacher admitted the overseeing of a voucher system at the ISB which had as an intended purpose rewarding pupils for their attendance at the ISB. The Teacher also admitted that the vouchers had been used for reasons other than rewarding attendance at the ISB. The issue in relation to this allegation was whether or not the intended purpose of the voucher system was exclusively for rewarding attendance. The Teacher’s position was that rewarding attendance was never the exclusive purpose.   

Witness 3 gave evidence about the voucher system the Teacher introduced. She was involved in purchasing the vouchers. Her understanding of the system was that, initially, vouchers were to be given to pupils as a reward if their attendance was particularly good. However, occasionally they would be used for other reasons. For example, sometimes the most vulnerable children could not afford outfits for interviews and so the vouchers would be used to help those children.

Witness 7 gave evidence about the voucher system. She was aware of the voucher system beginning about one year after she started at the ISB. It was initiated by the Teacher. It worked on the basis that if a child had 100% attendance in a month they would receive a Tesco voucher. Witness 7 had no idea if they were to be used for anything else at that time and did not know if they were.  

The Teacher’s position was that the voucher system and vouchers which were ordered were never intended to have been exclusively used as rewards for good attendance or performance.  They were to be used for the purpose of rewarding good attendance, but also to assist in meeting the needs of the ISB as new developments were introduced.

The Teacher stated that, after the voucher system was introduced, vouchers began to be used to purchase small items because the petty cash system was not working well. Staff were frequently left out of pocket and they had to purchase items for the ISB. The Teacher thought that could be remedied by using vouchers instead of having to use petty cash. The Teacher accepted that petty cash would have been the right way to go about reimbursing staff members, but petty cash was not meeting the needs of the ISB. The type of goods that staff would use the vouchers to buy were the same as those which they would have previously been reimbursed from petty cash for.    

The Teacher explained that each month a sum of petty cash was allocated to the ISB by the local authority. At the end of each month, the Clerical Assistant had to reconcile that and submit to the Local Authority a request for the petty cash which would be needed for the next month.  The problem was that there was an insufficient petty cash float and a delay in the petty cash actually being paid by the Local Authority. That meant that there was a week or so when there was no access to petty cash. There were four classroom assistants on relatively low incomes who would often be waiting to be paid back for the outlays which they had incurred personally purchasing goods for the ISB. The Teacher stated that vouchers presented a more efficient and fairer way of meeting those outlays and avoided staff members using their own money to make purchases.

The Teacher indicated that at no stage did any member of staff say to her that they had an issue with the voucher system or the way that it was being implemented.    

The Teacher accepted that not all receipts for expenditure using the vouchers had been kept where they should have been, but denied that any vouchers had been used for a purpose not connected with work at the ISB.   

The Teacher detailed some of the expenses which the vouchers were being put towards. They included lunches for young people when there was no provision for lunches at an establishment they were attending. It also included buying a cheap mobile phone for a pupil, pregnancy testing kits, breakfast bars for the pupils and other items that they needed. The Teacher also referred to Easter eggs being bought for pupils.    

The Teacher indicated that the purpose of the voucher system was mentioned briefly in the Staff Handbook for rewarding attendance. The intended joint purpose that she had outlined was not set out in writing.  A staff member would learn what the vouchers were for and how to use them at the time of their induction and at weekly staff meetings.

The Panel found that the original intended purpose of the voucher system was for rewarding attendance.  The Staff Handbook set out that rewarding attendance was the purpose of the voucher system. The Panel accepted that, over time, a further purpose of the voucher system evolved to meet the needs of pupils attending the ISB and accordingly to meet the needs of the ISB. However, the use of the vouchers thereafter did, in part, fall outwith the original intended purpose and the purpose of meeting the needs of pupils at the ISB. Allegation 1(a)iii, which had been admitted by the Teacher, was an example of the voucher system being used outwith its intended purpose of rewarding attendance and the purpose of meeting the needs of pupils at the ISB.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(a)i proved.   

Allegation 1(a)ii

During Internal Audit’s investigation of the use of the voucher system at the ISB a reconciliation process was carried out. That reconciliation process established that there was an unaccounted balance of at least £700.

The Presenting Officer submitted that the absence of receipts or accounting for purchases indicated, on the balance of probabilities, that the Teacher had used vouchers to a value of approximately £700 for items not connected to work at the ISB.

The Teacher’s representative pointed to the absence of positive evidence to support this allegation.    It was accepted that there was an absence of vouching and receipts for purchases. However, it was submitted that there was no evidence to substantiate that the shortfall represented spending that was not connected to work at the ISB.   

The Panel considered the particular wording of this allegation. The Panel noted the terms of allegation 3(a)i and 3(a)ii.   Both of those allegations had been admitted by the Teacher and related to the implementation and management of the voucher system. The Panel found that this allegation did not simply relate to mismanagement of the voucher system but to abuse of the voucher system. In considering this allegation, the Panel gave a broad definition to the expression “connected to work at the ISB”. Whilst the Panel considered it entirely unsatisfactory that a sum of at least £700 was unaccounted for, it was not satisfied on balance that the unaccounted sum identified during the reconciliation process established that those vouchers had been used to purchase items not connected to work at the ISB.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(a)ii not proved.

Allegation 1(a)iv

This allegation was directly spoken to by Witness 3 and Witness 7. Other members of staff had provided accounts to Witness 4 about this allegation too.   

Witness 3 was involved in purchasing the vouchers. Once the vouchers were bought, Witness 3 would hand the vouchers to the Teacher. It was the Teacher who physically held onto the vouchers and who distributed them. It became apparent to Witness 3 that no real record was being kept as to how the vouchers were being used and distributed. Witness 3 felt vulnerable about this as she felt it left her exposed as to the purchase and distribution of the vouchers.  Witness 3 gave evidence about an occasion after Internal Audit had attended the ISB when the Teacher returned a sum of vouchers to the ISB. Those vouchers had not been identified to Internal Audit when they had originally attended.  

Witness 3 indicated that there were sometimes staff occasions for end of term and Christmas when the Teacher would go to Tesco and use some of the vouchers for the staff occasions. On one occasion, the Teacher asked Witness 3 to go with her. Witness 3 was not happy about this as she suspected that Tesco vouchers would be used. However, Witness 3 explained that she did not know what else she could have done in the situation but to go with the Teacher. Witness 3 was aware that Witness 7 had also been given instructions by the Teacher to go out and purchase items for the staff occasions using the vouchers. Witness 7 was asked to get alcohol or food for those occasions.

When asked what made her unhappy about the use of the vouchers in this way, Witness 3 indicated that it was down to the fact that European funding was given to the ISB and that it was proper to ensure that what was being claimed for was correctly put through. She was unhappy that there was the potential for European funding designed to benefit pupils being used to pay for staff occasions. She had a discussion with Witness 7 about this and Witness 7’s views were similar to her own.   

Witness 3 indicated that very often at occasions staff would ask what they owed but the Teacher told them not to worry about it and that they need not put money in. Witness 3 indicated that the Teacher had quite an indignant tone and that it was difficult to challenge someone like that.   

Witness 7 was aware of the vouchers being used to purchase food and alcohol because she was told to purchase those things by the Teacher. This would happen at the end of term when there was a lunch for staff. The Teacher would give her vouchers and Witness 7 would go to Tesco and buy food for all of the departments for the end of term lunch. She did not recall any limit to the spend. She was once asked by the Teacher to buy alcohol with the vouchers. She bought two bottles of Champagne as a leaving gift for two members of staff who were retiring. Witness 7 did not challenge the Teacher about these purchases. She assumed that the Teacher had her budget and had authority to spend that budget as the Teacher saw fit.   

Witness 4 indicated that staff members had told him that they had been sent to the shops by the Teacher to buy food and cakes for end of terms parties using the vouchers.  He further indicated that several staff members commented that they felt uncomfortable attending end of term events, as the money being spent on them should have been used for the benefit of the pupils. He commented on the fact that many members of staff were in tears when spoken to and expressed relief that the use of the vouchers in this way was coming out.

The Teacher indicated that at no stage did any member of staff say to her that they had an issue with the voucher system or the way it was implemented. No member of staff expressed any reservations to her. The Teacher did not feel that she put staff under any pressure to implement the voucher system.   

The Teacher indicated that she used Tesco vouchers to purchase wine for the end of year award ceremony and collected the wine herself for that event. Sandwiches were also purchased when required for interview panels and biscuits for training events to avoid the high catering and delivery costs incurred in the past.   

The Teacher challenged the use of the word “pressurised” in this allegation. The Teacher’s representative referred to the definition of “pressurised” and highlighted the absence of any witness stating that was what the Teacher had in fact done. It was submitted that there was no evidence that the Teacher had attempted to persuade or coerce a member of staff.   

The Panel found that the Teacher had directed colleagues to use vouchers in a way that would amount to misuse of the voucher system. The evidence of what was purchased and the unease felt by the colleagues in making those purchases supported that conclusion. However, the Panel was not satisfied that the Teacher had “pressurised” colleagues to misuse the voucher system.

Accordingly, the Panel amended the particular allegation in terms of Rule 2.8.4 by deleting the word “pressurised” and replacing it with the word “directed”.

The Panel found allegation 1(a)iv proved as amended.

Allegation 1(b)ii

In June 2011 and June 2012, staff members from the ISB attended a meal at Restaurant 1, Coatbridge prior to an awards evening for students and families which took place at the Education Headquarters of North Lanarkshire Council.

Witness 7 gave evidence about this allegation. She confirmed that there had been two meals at Restaurant 1 and that she had been asked to prepare attendance lists for both.  She had not been present at either meal. She was shown the internal requisition forms and attendance lists. She confirmed that she had created the attendance lists. She confirmed that it was the Teacher who had asked her to create the lists. She was not aware that the original attendance list was a false document at the time. She identified a document within the Presenting Officer’s hearing papers which was headed up “Flexible Learning Initiative Daily Register Course Title: Awards Lunch” as having been prepared by her. The date on the register was “9 June 2011”. The day and time was “Thursday at 5pm”. The location of the “lunches at” was “Nxxxx”. The names of ten pupils and their Hanlon identification numbers were listed on that register and a corresponding box had been checked to indicate that those ten pupils were present. She understood that the only reason for placing the attendance list with an invoice was in order to claim the costs back through European funding. The internal requisition form shown to the witness was signed by the Teacher and dated 3 June 2011. It referred to 8 units of meals at Restaurant 1 on Thursday, 9 June at 5pm with unit cost £10. The supplier’s full name was “Nxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx” which was the company that ran the restaurant.  

Witness 7 indicated that on the second occasion when she was asked to prepare a list, she knew exactly what was happening and she prepared a list with all of the pupils who had attended the ceremony (none had attended the meal) and so she recalled that there was a greater number of pupils on that second list than on the first list. The other attendance list which Witness 7 had created was identified by her within the Presenting Officer’s hearing papers. It related to “Course Title: Awards Kildonan Street 13 June 2012 Wednesday 9.30 to 12”. It listed 27 pupils with their Hanlon identification numbers. It was associated with an internal requisition form signed and dated by the Teacher on 7 June 2012 and with an invoice from Nxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx dated 18 June 2012.   

Witness 7 was asked about a meeting that she had with Internal Audit on 14 November 2013. A transcript of questions and answers had been prepared which Witness 7 had signed on 4 December 2013. It was suggested to her that what was noted as her response to a question in relation to the first attendance list and invoice for a meal at Restaurant 1 was, “[Witness 7] clarified that effectively she was asked to falsify documentation”. Witness 7 indicated that “falsify” was not a word that she would use but that she did now consider what she had been asked to do was to falsify documents. She had not considered it then but did consider it now.   

It was suggested to her that the attendance sheets were never intended to be submitted with the invoices. She rejected that suggestion and posed the question why had she been asked to do it. She accepted that she had never formally reported any concerns, however, stated that she had reported concerns to her work colleagues.  

Witness 2 had attended the meal at Restaurant 1. He confirmed no pupils were at the meal and that he did not pay for the meal nor did anyone who did attend. The meal was paid for through the FLI and the Teacher had instructed that the FLI was to be invoiced for the meal. Witness 2’s position was that this was entirely inappropriate. The funds that came from European funding were to be used solely for the young people. He was aware that Witness 7 had been asked by the Teacher to make a false list of pupils to say that they had been at the meal and to attach that to the invoice. Witness 2 indicated that the Teacher had told him that she was going to ask Witness 7 to do that. Witness 7 then came to him to speak about it. He indicated that at that time there was a lot of discussion going on about the Teacher and the ISB.  

Witness 3 indicated that she was told by Witness 7 that Witness 7 was asked by the Teacher to prepare a false daily register sheet for pupils attending a meal as back up for the invoice.  Witness 7 was not aware of any pupil having ever attended Restaurant 1 for a meal. She indicated that Coaches would know if that was correct. Witness 3 confirmed that Witness 7 had told her about this herself in the main office. 
 
The Teacher denied that she had ever instructed any staff member to attach a list of pupils to the invoice for the meal. She stated that she had authorised staff meals to be paid for as a legitimate cost of the ISB. This was due to the fact the members of staff were working until 10pm with no opportunity for a meal. On that basis the meals were a legitimate cost. However, she had not instructed any member of staff to attach a list of pupils to the invoice with a view to representing that pupils had been present and that the meals were for pupils.   

The Presenting Officer relied upon the evidence of Witness 7 and of the other witnesses who Witness 7 had spoken to about this incident. He also relied upon the documentation which was included within his hearing papers.  

The Teacher’s representative submitted that the Panel could not rely upon Witness 7.  The Teacher’s representative pointed to the lack of consistency in her witness statement and oral testimony which, it was submitted, had changed at various stages. The Teacher’s representative pointed to the improbability of the allegation being true in circumstances where the Teacher had no motive for acting in the manner alleged.  Further, the Teacher’s representative relied upon the fact that none of the Teacher’s colleagues, who were apparently aware of this incident, had made a formal report against her for a breach of North Lanarkshire Council’s Financial Regulations.    

The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 7. The Panel noted that there had been two meals at Restaurant 1 in consecutive years. The Panel found that she was consistent in her evidence about what she said happened around the first of the meals and the invoice and attendance sheet relating to that. The Panel found support for her evidence in the documentation produced by the Presenting Officer and spoken to by the witness.  

The Panel also found support for Witness 7’s position in the fact that she had reported her concerns and feeling uncomfortable about the situation to the witnesses, Witness 2 and Witness 3 who both gave evidence about that which the Panel accepted.   

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(b)ii proved.

Allegation 1(c)ii

Two vehicles were owned by the ISB, namely a Ford Galaxy people carrier and a Vauxhall Corsa. The Teacher had admitted allegation 1(c)i that she had misused those two vehicles owned by the ISB by keeping those vehicles at her home address and using them to commute to work on a regular basis without informing her employer.   

Allegation 1(c)ii alleged the misuse of the vehicles by way of the Teacher using the vehicles for the Teacher’s personal use and not connected with work for the ISB. There was evidence that the Teacher had used the vehicles other than commuting to and from work.

Witness 2 gave evidence that he observed the Teacher at a hotel with one of the vehicles. The Teacher was a member of a gym at that hotel. Witness 3 referred to the Teacher using one of the vehicles to attend shops. On one occasion, she observed the Teacher at a garden centre at the weekend with one of the ISB vehicles. She took a photograph of the vehicle at the garden centre when she saw the Teacher there. The photograph was contained within the Presenting Officer’s hearing papers. Witness 5 also referred to an occasion during an audit visit when the Teacher left the ISB in one of the ISB vehicles in order to attend a medical appointment.   

Witness 4 had interviewed the Teacher about this matter. The Teacher denied ever having used the vehicles for her own benefit. He presented a photograph of the Corsa at a garden centre taken on Sunday 24 June 2012.  The Teacher claimed that she must have been buying plants for the ISB at that time. On further questioning, the Teacher indicated that she was sure that receipts of the purchases of plants on that date would be found in petty cash records. At a later interview, the Teacher indicated that she often bought goods for the ISB and never sought reimbursement and that explained why no receipt was available.   

The Teacher’s position was that the use of the ISB vehicles was always connected with work for the ISB. Her position was that her keeping of the vehicles at her home in the evenings and the weekends was not to facilitate her personal use of the vehicles but for their security. The Teacher indicated in her evidence that she put fuel into the vehicles to cover the use that she had made of them. 

The Teacher’s representative pointed to the evidence of the Teacher’s daughter and neighbour, Witness 20 in support of that contention. They had not observed the Teacher using the vehicles for her personal use.   

The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had used the ISB vehicles for her personal use not connected with work for ISB.

The Panel found that commuting was not use connected with work of the ISB.  The Panel noted the evidence of Witness 1 that personal use for commuting was a taxable benefit.  The Panel also accepted evidence from various witnesses which demonstrated that the Teacher used the vehicles for a variety of different purposes ending up at different locations in a way that was not connected with work for the ISB. Further, the Panel considered the Teacher’s own evidence of putting fuel in the vehicles to cover her use of them as demonstrative of the vehicles being used by the Teacher in ways not connected with work for the ISB.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(c)ii proved.

Allegation 1(c)iii

As indicated above, the ISB vehicles were frequently retained by the Teacher at her home address overnight and at weekends. The parties agreed that the two vehicles were made available to and used by staff members in connection with their work at the ISB.   

On 18 April 2012, upon taking delivery of the Vauxhall Corsa for the ISB, the Teacher sent an email to staff members advising them of the purchase of the Vauxhall Corsa and indicating that it would be made available for them for work purposes on request. The terms of the email were as follows:

“I have taken delivery of a new Corsa for the ISB, which should allow some flexibility should cars be off the road for short term repair/or for travelling longer distances to conferences etc.
All drivers who have had a previous NL driving assessment for the people carrier are eligible to use the Corsa also, though I have been asked by the transport section to have an up dated copy of all driving licences sent to them.   
I will clarify the position of those who have not had the NL assessment and would ask that you copy licences in any case and if required I will arrange for assessments to take place in the near future.  Please have copies ready for next week.
All drivers will be issued with an individual PIN to allow fuel to be accessed at NL depots for the vehicles.

The car is insured for work purposes only.

Bookings should be made with me for use of either of the ISB vehicles”.

Witness 2 gave evidence about the availability of the ISB vehicles. He indicated that he was with the Teacher when she collected the Ford Galaxy people carrier for the ISB. She had told him that the purpose of the people carrier was to transport pupils from one intervention to another and cut back on the transport costs. He recalled that, at that time, the ISB was spending a huge amount of money on taxis. Witness 2 thought that this was a good idea.

However, he indicated that he could count on one hand the times the people carrier was used as it was supposed to be used. He indicated that from day one the Teacher said that to keep the people carrier safe it would be parked at her house overnight and over weekends. She used the people carrier to travel to and from work every day. Witness 2 did not understand the safety point. The ISB was surrounded by a seven and a half foot fence with pointed fencing at the top. His view was that it would have been safer to park it at the ISB. He indicated that a Corsa was later purchased for the ISB.  He referred to the terms of the email.  His view was that the indication that the main use of the Corsa was for occasions when a member of staff’s own vehicle was off the road was not correct.

Witness 2’s view was that it was the Teacher who was the reason why the Corsa was bought. She had been using the people carrier previously but it was beginning to develop problems. In his view, the Teacher simply wanted a new vehicle. The Corsa was always parked at her house over night and at weekends. Once the Corsa was bought, the Teacher would use that to come to and from work and the people carrier was left at her house. Accordingly, if the people carrier was needed, staff required to drive out to her house, leave their car there and pick up the people carrier. Staff would then have to return to the Teacher’s home to drop off the people carrier and pick up their own car.   

Witness 2’s impression was that the Teacher was really making the Corsa unavailable to staff.   His view was that the situation was similar to one where the vehicles were owned by the Teacher. His view was that trying to access one of the vehicles was like trying to go through a blockade. In effect, staff were being forced to use their own vehicles. His view was that the Corsa was not available, that it was made very difficult for staff to access it and when staff asked for it the Teacher would come up with an excuse as to why they could not get it. Further, the distance that the Teacher’s home was from the ISB presented an obstacle.

Witness 3 provided evidence about the availability of the ISB vehicles. She recalled the Ford Galaxy people carrier being purchased, but was of the view that the purchase of it did not make sense. She stated that the people carrier was only used a few times for the ISB. The Teacher kept it at her home address in Cumbernauld and day to day would use it for coming back and forth to the ISB. If any staff asked to use it, the Teacher would respond by saying that she might need it for a meeting. Her manner was indignant. The witness stated that generally the Teacher made it awkward for any staff to ask for use of the car.

Witness 3 recalled that a Corsa was later purchased. She recalled the email that the Teacher sent out to staff on 18 April 2012. She indicated that staff questioned at the time why the ISB required an additional vehicle. The Teacher then began using the Corsa. Both vehicles were being stored at her home in the evening. The Teacher used the Corsa to commute to and from work and the people carrier remained at her house. Witness 3 indicated that if staff required the use of a vehicle they would continue to use their own vehicle and claim the mileage back. Logistically it was difficult to use a vehicle that was parked at the Teacher’s home. The picking up and dropping off of the vehicle, within the tight timescales that the programme run at the ISB required, did not make sense. Witness 3 did acknowledge that there were occasions, however, when staff did use one of the ISB vehicles but that was not often. She indicated that other staff had told her about the Teacher being indignant when they had asked to use one of the vehicles. She had also indicated during an interview with Internal Audit that new staff were not being made aware of the ISB vehicles. She referred to staff being perplexed that they did not know there were two vehicles for the ISB.   

Witness 6 recalled that a people carrier was purchased with the option of it being used by the FLI at the ISB. Several members of staff were put through a driving course in order to be able to drive that vehicle.  She was put through the driving course herself. Everyone who had a driving licence was asked to go on the course. However, she indicated that the people carrier became the exclusive property of the Teacher. It was parked at her home and she drove it to and from work.   She referred to several assistants who had to use their own transport to ferry young people under the FLI to and from various locations, as the people carrier was unavailable. She had seen Witness 2 using the people carrier.   

Witness 6 recalled a Vauxhall Corsa being bought in the summer of 2012 again for the FLI through European funding. After that, the people carrier remained at the Teacher’s home and the Teacher then used the Corsa as her primary vehicle. On very few occasions, when staff could not use their own cars due to them being in the garage or unavailable for some other reason, the Teacher would allow one of the ISB vehicles to be used by staff. The vehicle required to be picked up and dropped off at the Teacher’s home address.    

Witness 7 recalled there being two vehicles at the ISB. The people carrier was there when she arrived at the ISB. She was told that it was used to transfer pupils. She was required to take the North Lanarkshire Council driving test to show that she could drive the people carrier. She indicated that at one point she was using the people carrier quite frequently. She had five male pupils to take around which was too many for her own car. She stated that she used the people carrier once or twice a week for a few months. The people carrier was kept at the ISB during the day. However, at night and at weekends it was kept at the Teacher’s home.  The Teacher would use the people carrier to commute to and from the ISB each day.    

Witness 7 referred to the Corsa being purchased and the email which the Teacher sent out at that time. She identified a problem with that. The problem was that the Teacher kept one of the vehicles at her home address at all times and would use the other to commute to and from work.  The Teacher gave the impression that the reason why the vehicles were kept at her house was due to the fact that they were safer there. However, Witness 7 was of the view that the ISB was secure, surrounded by a six foot metal fence and protected. She did not see the logic behind that arrangement. Her view was that it would have been safer for the vehicles to be kept at the ISB.    

Witness 7 also indicated that staff had suggested many times that the car could be used on a monthly rota to give their own vehicles a rest. Staff would use their own vehicles for work purposes and claim back the travel costs. This resulted in significant wear and tear on their vehicles. Witness 7 understood that the Teacher refused that request. This resulted in Witness 7 driving around 500 miles per month in her own car and claiming the expenses back. Her view was that this did not make sense given the ISB had two vehicles. Witness 7 also mentioned that it was impracticable for her to use the people carrier given that it was parked at the Teacher’s home address. Witness 7 pointed to the real difficulties that would be caused if she were to try to get home from the Teacher’s home address on a Friday evening given where she stayed at the other side of North Lanarkshire.

Witness 1 advised that his investigation covered issues arising from the purchase, use and storage of ISB vehicles. The investigation discovered that the Ford Galaxy had only covered approximately 300 miles between 25 March 2013 and 19 September 2013. The Teacher stated at interview that there were issues around this vehicle, in particular a smell of fumes which prevented its use.   However, GJ, Business Manager of the transport department stated that this problem had not been reported until October 2013 when a blocked injector was repaired. Conversely, Witness 1 noted that the Corsa had covered over 7600 miles from its purchase in March 2012 until November 2013, an average of 350 miles per month.

During the investigation, Witness 1 and his colleagues had obtained signed statements from 7 members of staff, the majority of whom stated that the vehicles had very rarely been used by staff and that the vehicles were primarily used by the Teacher for travelling to and from work on a daily basis. Witness 1 determined that almost exclusive personal use constituted a significant taxable benefit which North Lanarkshire Council had a duty to report to HMRC.

The audit investigation found that both vehicles were parked in the Teacher’s driveway overnight and over the weekend. One of the vehicles was parked at the Teacher’s home during the day. The Teacher indicated that she had obtained advice from the transport department that this was common practice. GJ confirmed that no one in the transport department had given this advice because it was recognised that there might be tax implications.

The audit investigation also found that the logistics of having to collect cars from the Teacher’s home made their use difficult for anyone apart from the Teacher. The Teacher had informed the investigation that there were security issues around overnight parking at the ISB. However, the investigation noted that there was a seven foot metal fence around the perimeter. The investigation also contacted the Head Teacher of nearby Chryston High School, which adjoins the ISB, who stated that there is a perimeter fence at the high school, that the gates are locked out of hours and the area is covered with flood lights and security cameras.   

The investigation also found that the Teacher had failed to establish either a booking system or a proper mileage log. Instructions for the maintenance of a mileage log were found in the Teacher’s desk by two members of staff. However, the Teacher indicated that she was not familiar with this document.    

In cross examination, Witness 1 accepted that there were a number of statements ingathered by the investigation which demonstrated that the vehicles had been used by staff. He responded that he was not saying that staff were being refused the vehicles but that it was difficult for them to secure their use. On balance, he leaned towards the vehicles not really being available to staff.  

Witness 5 covered the same points which Witness 1 had covered in his evidence in relation to this matter. She also advised of the steps to be taken in order to use a North Lanarkshire Council pool car. She had required to do a driver’s assessment, and produce her licence and insurance documentation. In order to book a vehicle, she had to go into a computer system and specify the vehicle she wanted, the times and the purpose of her journey. She then had to collect the keys and fuel card which required to be signed out. When she arrived at the vehicle she needed to inspect it, record the mileage and the time and date that she was using it. When the pool car was returned, she would require to go through the same process.

The Teacher indicated at her interview with Witness 4 that the cars were parked at her home for security reasons and staff at the Council Central Transport Department, the local janitor and Witness 2 would confirm that she had conversations with them on the subject and that they all advised that the cars would be more secure at her home.  Witness 4 spoke with the Transport Department Manager and the school janitor who both denied ever giving the Teacher that advice. Witness 2 also denied that he gave the Teacher that advice.   

The Teacher was also questioned at interview as to why there were no proper log books and she stated that the vehicles were booked out by her so she knew who was taking them. The Teacher accepted that she did not provide clear written instructions to staff as to how to book the ISB vehicles nor did she instruct them that they had to maximise the use of the ISB vehicles rather than use taxis or their own cars.  The Teacher stated that the reason she left the vehicles at her home was that she was of the view that they would not be safe at the ISB overnight and at the weekends. She had a clear recollection that the janitor at the ISB had told her that it would not be safe to leave planters or garden furniture outside of the ISB. She had not specifically discussed vehicles but there had been previous thefts of garden furniture from the ISB. Further, the lane where the vehicles could be parked had broken glass on it and teenagers would drink there late in the evening. Further, the school gates would be open from 6am until 8am whilst nobody was there except cleaners and there was no lighting or CCTV at the ISB. Windows had been smashed previously and so the windows had metal grills on them. She had discussed her concerns with Witness 2 and the janitor about the safety of leaving a vehicle there. She could not recall any staff member ever leaving their own car outside the ISB overnight at any time.   

During her evidence, the Teacher stated that she had asked the transport department about taking the vehicle home and it was agreed that could be something which it would make sense for her to do. It was not a formal discussion and the Teacher could not precisely recall when it took place.   

The Teacher also highlighted that her solicitors had spoken with a police officer at the nearby Cumbernauld Police Station about whether or not the police would recommend that vehicles be left at the area of the ISB or not. She had understood that the response was that, while they did not consider it their place to provide a recommendation, they did acknowledge that the ISB was a long way up from the main road and could not be seen from houses which were nearby.   

The Teacher indicated that the ISB had a large number of peripatetic staff whose jobs took them to other schools in the Local Authority area during the normal course of their daily duties. If their own car was off the road, then they would simply be unable to provide the service which they did unless an alternative vehicle was made available to them and that was the reason the Teacher thought it proper that the ISB have a backup vehicle.

The Teacher did not accept that the vehicles were unavailable for staff members. She made it clear to staff that they could use the vehicles if required. The keys were kept behind her office door. All staff at the ISB were “essential car users” in her opinion in the sense that every member of staff, bar Witness 3, travelled to and from schools by car on a regular basis. Bearing in mind the peripatetic nature of the work done by staff at the ISB, it would not have been possible for them to carry out their roles without the use of a vehicle.   

The Teacher stated that if a staff member wished to use the vehicles they could come to discuss it with her and either take the Corsa or, if it was going to be used, she could drop them off at her home to collect the Ford Galaxy. If the Teacher was already out with the vehicle at the time, then a member of staff would drop the other staff member off at her home to collect the Ford Galaxy. If the Teacher was not at the ISB then she could be contacted by email or text message and staff knew that. The Teacher’s recollection was that staff regularly used the vehicles and she certainly did not discourage them from doing so. If staff were travelling to a training course, then she would ask them to travel together in the NLC vehicles to save travelling expenses being submitted to the Council.  The Teacher also indicated that, on occasion, she would meet members of staff at different locations to collect the vehicles from her. An example of a location used for this purpose was the Showcase Cinema in Coatbridge which was situated near to the A8.   

Witness 11 advised that the Teacher had made her aware that the janitor had reported to the Teacher the issue of theft of furniture from the garden at the ISB. The ISB was not located on the main road and was in a secluded area. The Teacher had expressed a concern about leaving the vehicles at the ISB and her solution was to take the vehicles to her home. Witness 11 considered this to be a sensible and temporary solution to ensuring the safety of property.    

Following upon receipt of an anonymous letter, Witness 11 discussed the issue with the Teacher.     Witness 11 indicated to the Teacher that the vehicles should not be kept at her house or be used for journeys to and from work to avoid there being, not just any wrong doing, but also any perception of wrong doing on the Teacher’s part.   

The Presenting Officer submitted that the manner in which the Teacher managed the use of the vehicles, in particular storing them at her home overnight and at weekends meant that they were in effect unavailable for staff to use. It was impracticable for staff to use the vehicles in those circumstances.   

The Teacher’s representative highlighted the agreed position between the parties set out above regarding the availability of and use of the vehicles by staff.  The Teacher’s representative detailed the evidence which indicated that the vehicles were available and had been used by staff. The Teacher’s representative also highlighted the evidence of the Teacher that she had on occasion taken one of the vehicles to a collection point for a member of staff at the Showcase cinema. The Teacher’s representative submitted that the situation with the two vehicles did not meet the definition of the word “unavailable”.

The Panel accepted that the vehicles were not entirely unavailable to staff and that staff did, on occasion, use them. However, the Panel considered that the storing of the vehicles at the Teacher’s home represented a significant impediment to their availability, particularly when the people carrier was left at the Teacher’s home during the day. The Teacher’s home was a distance from the ISB. Further, there was no system around the booking and use of the vehicles. The Panel also accepted the evidence of a number of witnesses that the apparent availability for use of the vehicles was not genuine. The Panel was of the view that the email from the Teacher to staff about use of the Corsa did not support the vehicles being readily available to be used: there were limited circumstances suggested for when the vehicle could be used and there was a lack of clarity around the process and arrangements for booking the use of the vehicle.  The scenario in operation at the ISB regarding the use of the vehicles was to be contrasted with the use of the North Lanarkshire Council pool vehicles. The Panel found the evidence regarding collection points for the vehicles at locations such as the Showcase cinema to further demonstrate the vehicles were not readily available. The Panel noted the Teacher’s awkwardness in responding to questions about how staff would get there and how she would then get to the ISB. The Panel also found the level of use of the vehicles to be insignificant and was to be contrasted with the number of miles which Witness 7 indicated she claimed expenses back for each month.

The Panel was satisfied that the vehicles being unavailable had the consequent effect of requiring staff to continue to use their own vehicles for work purposes and required them to submit claims for mileage at extra cost to their employer. The Panel was satisfied that there was a link between the lack of availability of the vehicles and the claims submitted. Accordingly, the Panel amended the particular allegation in terms of Rule 2.8.4 by inserting the word “consequently” before the word “forcing” in the first line of the allegation.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(c)iii proved.

Allegation 2(i)

The witnesses, Witness 1, Head of Audit and Inspection of North Lanarkshire Council and Witness 5, Internal Auditor co-produced an internal audit report in accordance with North Lanarkshire Council’s Financial Regulations and the Corporate Anti-Fraud Policy which examined certain aspects of the conduct of the Teacher in respect of the FLI within the ISB. The witnesses interviewed staff and reviewed documentation. The witnesses also interviewed the Teacher. The series of questions that the Teacher was to be asked at the interview had been typed out in advance. The answers given by the Teacher were noted by hand at the time. The typed questions and the handwritten notes were produced in evidence and formed part of the Presenting Officer’s hearing papers. A statement was contained at the end of the handwritten notes which read, “This is an accurate record of the interview:” and was then signed and dated by the Teacher, Witness 1 and Witness 5.

Witness 5 provided further information about how the interview she and Witness 1 had conducted with the Teacher had proceeded. The questions that they asked were listed before the interview. They were compiled both by Witness 5 and Witness 1. Witness 1 asked the questions and Witness 5 noted the answers in the handwritten document. The accuracy of the handwritten notes was confirmed by the signatures of Witness 5, Witness 1 and the Teacher.    
  
The question listed as number 42 was as follows: “We have obtained invoices addressed to FLI for meals provided at Restaurant 1 in Coatbridge (Nxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx) for the dates of the award ceremonies in 2011 and 2012. Can you tell me who these meals were for?”. The handwritten answer is noted as being, “They were for staff who were helping to set up award ceremony.”  

The question listed as number 43 was as follows: “We have documentation which would suggest that the meals were for participants – however, we have been informed by several persons that the meal was attended by staff members. Is this the case?”. The handwritten answer given by the Teacher was noted as follows, “Yes – sometimes participants – could be a mixture.”

The evidence heard by the Panel was that only staff members were present at the meal at Restaurant 1 and that no pupils or their families were present.    

The Teacher indicated that she had never received a copy of the Internal Audit Meeting Minutes and never given an opportunity to sign off on those Minutes.

The Teacher was asked to explain what she meant in relation to her answers relating to who had attended at the meals.  The Teacher explained that she was meaning parents’ evenings which took place in a room above the bar at Restaurant 1. The Teacher could not understand why there was a list of pupils. The Teacher also included parents’ information meetings which took place once a year.  Restaurant 1 had been used as they had a separate room upstairs. The costs involved with the parent’s evenings and parents’ information meetings were teas, coffees, sandwiches and cakes.   

The Teacher was asked about the interview and it was pointed out to her that she had signed the handwritten notes which contained the answers she was said to have given. The Teacher clarified that she had not seen those notes, that they were read over to her and she signed them after that process. Witness 5 had read the notes back to her, the Teacher was asked if they were an accurate record and she said yes. The Teacher reiterated that the only time young persons were at Restaurant 1 were parents’ evenings and that is what she was referring to in the answer.

The Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher made the statement that the pupils had been in attendance at the meal when she knew that they had not been.

The Teacher’s position with regard to what she meant in responding to the question about the meals on the dates of the award ceremonies was that she was referring to other occasions when there had been parents’ evenings for the ISB and when parents had been in attendance. The Teacher’s representative also submitted that what the Teacher meant by her answers was not clarified by the questioners. It was submitted that there was confusion caused during the interview by the fact that the particular areas to which the questions related to were not sign posted to the Teacher. Further, the Teacher relied upon her interview with Witness 4 and her response to him. The answers given to him were consistent with her evidence at the hearing and her explanation of the remarks which it was noted she had made during the original interview.   

The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 and Witness 5 regarding the interview and preferred their evidence to the evidence of the Teacher. The Panel considered that the questions posed were clear and straightforward and that the answers given were accurately noted.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 2(i) proved.

Allegation 2(ii)

The question listed as question 4(a) was as follows, “Am I correct in saying that the Ford Galaxy is kept at your home address?”. The answer noted as having been given was, “Yes for safety”. There was an another part to the notes which bore to be an additional element to this answer and the answer to the following question which read “ – checked out with transport  - common practice.”

The question listed as 4(b) was, “and the Corsa is kept there too?”. The answer noted as having been given was, “Yes for safety.”   Again there was another part to the notes which bore to be an additional element to this answer and the previous answer which read “ - checked out with transport – common practice.”

The Teacher confirmed in her evidence that she had contacted North Lanarkshire Council’s Transport Department in April 2012.The Transport Department was not one that the Teacher often had dealings with.  The Teacher was sure that it was AG who she spoke to at the Transport Department. The conversation coincided with her being told by the Department that the Vauxhall Corsa could be collected.  The Teacher indicated to AG that the ISB was not a safe place and AG said that the Council promoted a common sense approach and that if the Teacher took the car home then AG could not see an issue with that as safety of the vehicle was paramount.

Evidence was led which contradicted the Teacher’s position. Witness 1 spoke to a telephone discussion he had with GJ who was the Head of the Transport Department on 17 December 2013. GJ, having checked with members of staff in his department, stated that nobody had given the advice to the Teacher suggested by her. Witness 4 also gave evidence of a telephone discussion he had with GJ on 28 July 2014. Again, GJ indicated that nobody in his Department had advised the Teacher verbally or by email that she should keep the vehicles at her property overnight for security or any other reason. In particular, it was highlighted that the Transport Department staff were aware of the tax implications relating to the use of work vehicles. Further, AG of the Transport Department had confirmed to GJ that she had not given advice to the Teacher in relation to this matter.   

The Teacher’s position was that perhaps AG could not remember having had the conversation with her. The Teacher also stated that she was not a liar.

The Panel was of the view that the staff working in the Transport Department would be very familiar with the issues around taxable benefits relating to the use by employees of work vehicles. That issue would have been common knowledge.

Again, the Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 and Witness 5 regarding the questions posed of the Teacher and that the answers given by the Teacher were accurately noted by them. The Teacher’s answers were inconsistent with common knowledge within the Transport Department. The Panel did not accept the Teacher’s explanation in relation to this particular allegation.

Accordingly, the Panel found the allegation 2(ii) proved.

Allegation 3(b)

This allegation contended that the Ford Galaxy had been purchased for the ISB without a value for money exercise or business case having been completed and without a post-purchase value for money review having been completed.

The Teacher admitted that no formal post-purchase review was carried out. However, the Teacher’s position was that a business case of some form had been carried out at the time when the vehicle was required. That process had outlined what the vehicle was to be used for and why it was needed as it was purchased through funding from the Scottish Government.

The Presenting Officer pointed to the absence of evidence to support the Teacher’s contention that a process had been gone through. The Internal Audit investigation had failed to locate any documentation to support the Teacher’s position. Accordingly, the Presenting Officer invited the Panel to find that no value for money exercise or business case was completed.

The Panel was not satisfied that the allegation had been proved beyond the extent of the Teacher’s admission. The Panel did not find that the fact that no paperwork had been recovered meant that no paperwork of that nature had ever existed. Accordingly, the Panel amended the particular allegation in terms of Rule 2.8.4 by deleting the words “without undertaking a value for money exercise or completing a business case and” in the allegation.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 3(b) proved as amended.

Allegation 4

In relation to this allegation the Panel had regard to the recent case of Ivey v Genting Casinos(UK) Limited [2017] UKSC67.

The Ivey decision is an unanimous decision by a 5 Member Bench of the Supreme Court. The Court provided a test for dishonesty and the stages a fact finder must go through in assessing the issue.   Firstly, the fact finder must ascertain the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts. The fact finder must then apply the standards of ordinary decent people in determining whether the individual’s conduct was honest or dishonest.   
 

Allegation 4(a)

This allegation contended that in relation to allegation 1(b) the Teacher was dishonest. The Teacher had admitted allegation 1(b)I and allegation 1(b)ii had been found proved by the Panel.   

The Presenting Officer submitted that if the Panel had found allegation 1(b)ii proved then it would follow that the allegation amounted to dishonesty. The conduct related to the creation of a false impression and the falsification of a document.   

The Teacher’s representative submitted that it was the Teacher’s position that she had no reason to believe that the meal could not be purchased for staff and that she had never sought to hide the fact that the meal was only for staff.

The Panel was satisfied that allegation 1(b)i and allegation 1(b)ii when taken together amounted to dishonesty. The allegations related to the misuse of funds with the additional component of seeking to present that pupils were in attendance with a view to reclaiming the cost of the meal from a specific funding source. Further, the allegation included the instruction of a member of staff to create the false impression.

Applying the standards of ordinary decent people, the Teacher’s conduct in relation to allegation 1(b) was dishonest. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 4(a) proved.

Allegation 4(b)

This allegation stated that the conduct contained within allegation 1(c) amounted to dishonest conduct. The Teacher had admitted allegation 1(c)i. The Panel had found allegation 1(c)ii and allegation 1(c)iii proved.

The Presenting Officer submitted that this particular allegation related to sub-allegation 1(c)ii involving the personal use of the vehicles by the Teacher. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher derived a taxable benefit from the personal use of the vehicles and that her conduct in this regard had been dishonest.   

The Teacher’s representative submitted that allegation 1(c)ii did not support a finding of dishonesty.     The Teacher had genuinely believed that her use of the vehicles at the time was not improper. Further, she had not attempted to conceal her use of the vehicles.   

The Panel was satisfied that allegation 1(c) supported a finding of dishonesty. In particular, the Teacher derived a benefit from her personal use of the vehicles. The Panel considered that by filling up the vehicle with fuel at her own expense indicated that the Teacher knew that she was using the vehicle for personal use. That benefit had not been disclosed to HMRC and had resulted in an investigation. Applying the standards of ordinary decent people, the acquiring of that benefit and the failure to disclose it amounted to dishonest conduct.   

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 4(b) proved.

Allegation 4(c)

This allegation stated that the conduct contained within allegation 2 was dishonest. The Panel had found both allegation 2(i) and allegation 2(ii) to have been proved.    

The Presenting Officer submitted that the making of a statement which the Teacher knew not to be true was a clear example of dishonesty. The Teacher’s representative indicated that should the Panel find that the Teacher had lied to a Disciplinary Investigation then that would support a finding of dishonesty.

Applying the standards of ordinary decent people, the Panel found that the providing of false information during a Disciplinary Investigation was dishonest.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 4(c) proved.

Findings on fitness to teach

Given that the Panel found that some of 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 led no additional evidence in relation to the issue of fitness to teach. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher’s conduct amounted to misconduct. He submitted that the Teacher’s dishonesty established in the allegations found proved contravened Parts 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct (CoPaC). The Presenting Officer also submitted that the allegations were serious. He stated that dishonesty was attitudinal. He stated that the Teacher had shown no insight into the allegations. She had shown no remediation at the time of the Internal Audit interview. She had continued with the dishonesty. Further, in relation to the allegations which related to her management of the ISB, there had been no opportunity since for the Teacher to demonstrate any remediation or show that there would be no likelihood of recurrence.  In conclusion, the Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher’s actions fell significantly short of the standards expected to a registered Teacher. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to find that the Teacher is currently unfit to teach.

The Teacher’s representative accepted that there would be a finding of misconduct and that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is at least impaired.  He sought to persuade the Panel that the Teacher was not unfit to teach. The Teacher’s representative submitted that the conduct was remediable.    He pointed to the fact that there was no evidence of any disciplinary issues otherwise in the Teacher’s career, that the conduct was isolated to the period when the Teacher was in post at the ISB when she had a level of autonomy and lack of immediate accountancy support and that she had conducted herself well in other positions throughout her career. The Teacher’s representative submitted that the Teacher’s conduct was an unintended failure to follow procedures or best practice as a result of a lack of appreciation of what to do. The Teacher’s representative also pointed to positives in the Teacher’s performance whilst at the ISB.    He also submitted that there had been some reflection on the part of the Teacher. She had admitted a number of allegations. She also recognised in her own evidence that she had fallen short of the standards expected of her. The Panel was invited to view the whole process as having been an enormous wake up call to the Teacher. In relation to the allegations of dishonesty, the Teacher’s representative acknowledged that the Teacher had denied those allegations throughout. However, he pointed to the fact that dishonesty was not a feature of her practice or part of her general character. The Teacher’s representative reminded the Panel of the Teacher’s retirement and the fact that she did not intend to return to work as a Teacher and accordingly there could be no repetition of the allegations. The Teacher’s representative stated that the misconduct was not at the more severe end of the scale. Finally, having regard to the principles of proportionality and necessity, the Teacher’s representative submitted that there did not require to be a finding of unfitness in relation to the Teacher.   

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 required to take into account the way in which the Teacher had acted. The Panel noted the number of allegations against the Teacher. The Panel also noted the time over which those allegations had been committed. The Panel further considered the nature of the allegations. The Panel finally had regard to the gravity of the allegations in particular those which demonstrated dishonesty on the part of the Teacher and allegation 3(d)ii involving the Teacher contracting her son to carry out work for the ISB over a lengthy period of time at a significant cost without completing and submitting conflict of interest forms and without going through a competitive process. The Panel found that the Teacher’s conduct breached Parts 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of CoPaC. The Panel found that the Teacher’s conduct fell significantly short of the standards expected of a registered Teacher.

The Panel considered that the conduct set out in the allegations was remediable. However, the Panel was not satisfied that the shortfalls had been remedied.  Separately, the Panel concluded that there was a likelihood of recurrence. The allegations demonstrated a pattern of behaviour on part of the Teacher during her time at the ISB. There was a lack of insight on her part in relation to some of the conduct contained within the allegations, for example, the misuse of the voucher scheme, her personal use of the ISB vehicles, the general mismanagement of systems at the ISB and her failure to seek assistance when she felt it was necessary. Further, the Teacher had only made limited admissions in relation to the allegations. She made further admissions eventually as a result of evidence which had been led.  The Panel also found a lack of reflection and remorse on the part of the Teacher in relation to her answers to questioning during the hearing. Notwithstanding the fact that the Teacher had retired, there was the potential that she may change her mind and seek to return to teaching. In that event, there would be a risk of recurrence of the conduct contained within the allegations.

The Panel also had regard to the public interest. In particular, the Panel required to maintain the public’s confidence in teachers, in the integrity of the teaching profession and in GTCS as a professional regulator. The Panel also had in mind the need to declare and uphold proper teaching standards. In light of the seriousness of the allegations found proved, the Panel considered that a finding of unfitness to teach was necessary and proportionate in the public interest.

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

Disposal

As the Panel determined that the Teacher is unfit to teach, in accordance with the terms of Article 18(2)(b) of the Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011, it directed that the Teacher be removed from the Register.

Once the Teacher has been removed from the Register, the Teacher remains so removed unless and until an application for re-registration is made by her and a Fitness to Teach Panel directs that the application be granted.  The Panel directed that the Teacher should be prohibited from making an application for re-registration for a period of 2 years from the date of its decision.  The Panel considered that a shorter time period was inappropriate. The Panel had regard to the Indicative Outcomes Guidance in selecting the time period. The Panel considered that the allegations were serious. The Panel considered that no factors existed which would justify their selecting a shorter period. In particular, the Panel had in mind the absence of insight, reflection, remorse and remediation demonstrated by the Teacher.  

Appeal

The Teacher has the right to appeal to the Court of Session against the decision within 28 days of service of the Decision Notice. The Teacher will remain on the Register until the appeal period has expired and any appeal lodged within that period has been determined.