The General Teaching Council for Scotland

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Outcome

Panel Consideration Outcome

29 April 2019

 Teacher Kristine Gillespie
 Registration Number 089433
 Registration category Secondary, Home Economics
 Panel Tony Bragg, Lily Proudfoot and Ian McDonough
 Legal Assessor Julie McKinlay
 Servicing Officer Louise Jackson
 Teacher's representative James Foulis, Balfour & Manson LLP (not present)

Any reference in this outcome to:

    • “GTCS” means the General Teaching Council for Scotland;
    • the “Panel” means the Fitness to Teach Panel considering the case;
    • the “Rules” (and any related expression) means the GTCS Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them;
    • the “Register” means the GTCS register of teachers; or
    • “COPAC” means the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Notification of meeting

The Panel had before it a copy of the notice dated 5 March 2019. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had been provided with notice of the meeting in accordance with rules 1.6 and 2.3.1. Accordingly, the Panel proceeded to consider the case.

Preliminary matters

There were no preliminary matters considered by the Panel.

Allegations

  1. On 23 January 2017, whilst employed by South Ayrshire Council at Belmont Academy, you did report for work smelling of alcohol and were sent home.
  2. On 15 May 2017, whilst employed by South Ayrshire Council at Belmont Academy, you did report for work smelling of alcohol and were sent home.
  3. On 11 September 2017, whilst employed by South Ayrshire Council at Belmont Academy, you did report for work smelling of alcohol and were sent home in a taxi.
  4. On 12 September 2017, at Ayr Sheriff Court you were convicted of the following offence:
    1. On 11 September 2017 on a road or other public place, namely Belmont Academy, Nursery Road, Ayr, you did drive a motor vehicle, namely motor car registered number [redacted] after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath was 132 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath which exceeded the prescribed limit, namely 22 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath:

Contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1988, Section 5(1)(a)

 

And on 10 October 2017 you were sentenced to a Community Payback Order supervision period of 18 months and disqualified from driving for 36 months.

Information Available to the Panel

  1. Final Investigation Report dated 27 February 2019
  2. Signed Statement from Witness 1, Principal Teacher, Home Economics, Belmont Academy dated 9 January 2019
  3. Signed Statement from Witness 2, Head Teacher, Belmont Academy, dated 14 January 2019
  4. Note of Disciplinary Investigation (redacted)
  5. Investigation Report (redacted) with appendices from South Ayrshire Council
    1. Appendix 1; Interview with Kristine Gillespie on Wednesday 25 October 2017
    2. Appendix 2; Interview with Witness 3 on Thursday 21 September 2017
    3. Appendix 3; Interview with Witness 4 on Monday 18 September 2017
    4. Appendix 4; Interview with Witness 5 on Monday 18 September 2017
    5. Appendix 5, Interview with Witness 6 on Monday 18 September 2017
    6. Appendix 6, Interview with Witness 7 on Monday 18 September 2017
    7. Appendix 7, Interview with Witness 8 on Monday 18 September 2017,
    8. Appendix 8, Ayrshire Post newspaper article from Wednesday 13 September 2017
  6. Additional paperwork from South Ayrshire Council:
  7. Sign Off Sheets
  8. [redacted] Report
  9. Character Reference Letters
  10. Timeline Summary
  11. Copy Complaint and extract conviction from Ayr Sheriff Court in relation to allegation 4
  12. Initial Response to Notice of Investigation letter dated 26 October 2017
  13. Response to Interim Report dated 13 February 2019 with attachments 1-16
  14. Notice of Investigation dated 10 October 2017
  15. Notice of Panel Consideration dated 5 March 2019
  16. Notice of Panel Consideration cover email and delivery receipt dated 5 March 2019

In response to the notice the Teacher provided the following additional information for consideration by the Panel:

  1. Letter from Teacher’s representative dated 2 April 2019 with enclosures:
    • letter from Witness 9 dated 27 March 2019 with [redacted] results
    • letter from Witness 10, [redacted] dated 12 March 2019
    • Signed Statement of Witness 11
    • Copy letter and enclosures from Balfour & Manson to GTCS dated 13 February 2019
  2. Email from Teacher’s representative dated 4 April 2019.

The Teacher admits the allegations in full. The Teacher has indicated that she is willing to consider accepting any conditions which the Panel deem appropriate to impose in order to allow her to resume her teaching career.

Summary of evidence and submissions

The Teacher accepts the allegations in full. The Teacher has provided details of her personal circumstances during the period in which the allegations occurred. She is no longer in contact with her husband and has, after a period of estrangement, begun to rebuild the relationships with her children. The Teacher expresses sincere and profound regret and has reflected on the events and circumstances in her life at the relevant time. The Teacher has sought support from [redacted] and [redacted] and has completed her Community Payback Order.

Decision

The Panel considered all of the information available to it as described above. The Panel had a range of options open to it, as set out at rule 2.3.2 (a) to (f). The Panel had regard to the factors set out in the GTCS Panel Consideration Practice Statement.

The Panel did not consider it appropriate to dispose of the case in accordance with rule 2.3.2 (a). The Panel reached this conclusion for the following reasons:

  • The matter amounts to relevant conduct and there is, on the face of it, a real prospect of a finding that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired. The Panel considered the following factors relevant in that the conduct alleged relates to:
  • Abuse of a teacher’s position of trust
  • Other serious activities which cause harm and affect public confidence

The Panel considered the relevant Parts of COPAC to be:

Part 1 – Professionalism and maintaining trust in the profession

The Panel also considered the following factors:

  • The matter is not over 5 years of age;
  • The matter has not already been considered;
  • The matter is not frivolous or vexatious; and
  • The allegations have not been made anonymously or by a person who has failed to cooperate with the investigation.

The Panel did not consider it appropriate to dismiss the case on the basis of an insufficiency of evidence as provided for by rule 2.3.2(b). The allegations have been admitted by the Teacher. Furthermore, the Panel did not consider the referral to be malicious.

Fitness to Teach

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

The Panel considered whether the conduct of the Teacher fell short of the expected professional standards. The Panel considered carefully the parts of COPAC that had been breached:

1.3 you should avoid situations both within and outwith the professional context which could be in breach of the criminal law, or may call into question your fitness to teach

1.4 you must uphold standards of personal and professional conduct, honesty and integrity so that the public have confidence in you as a teacher and teaching as a profession

1.6 you should maintain an awareness that you are a role model to pupils

The Panel considered that the allegations were serious. They called into question the Teacher’s fitness to teach. Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol was a criminal offence for which the Teacher had been convicted. The conviction, together with attending at the school smelling of alcohol, is a clear failure to uphold standards and could undermine confidence in the profession. The conduct constituted a failure to act as a role model to pupils.

The Panel considered whether the conduct was remediable, had been remedied and whether there was a likelihood of reoccurrence. The Panel considered that the conduct was not such that it could never be remedied. In considering whether the Teacher had remedied the conduct the Panel considered that the Teacher had taken significant steps to address her use of alcohol and the triggers for that. It was acknowledged that she had been experiencing a particularly difficult period in her personal life at the time of the allegations and appeared to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. The Teacher had sought support from [redacted] and [redacted] and was said to be feeling much better and able to cope [redacted]. The [redacted] provided to the GTCS were normal. Nevertheless, there had been two occasions (one in July and one in December 2018) when the Teacher had admitted to excessive use of alcohol [redacted]. As such the Panel could not be entirely satisfied that the Teacher had, as yet, completely remedied the conduct and could not be assured that the likelihood of reoccurrence was now low.

The Panel considered that the Teacher had shown significant insight into her conduct and the reasons for it and had expressed profound regret. She has made significant strides towards remedying the conduct.

The Panel considered whether the public interest demanded a finding of unfitness to teach. The Panel considered each of the factors set out in the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance and reminded itself of the importance of the public interest in regulatory proceedings.

The conduct was not such that a finding of unfit to teach was required to protect the public or pupils from the Teacher. No harm had been caused to pupils by the conduct. Public confidence in the GTCS as a professional regulator would be maintained by the knowledge that the matter had been investigated by the GTCS and considered by this Panel. It was clear that the criminal conviction and ensuing press coverage was a sufficient deterrent to others in the circumstances.

However, The Panel gave careful consideration as to whether a finding of unfitness to teach was still required to declare and uphold standards in the profession. The Panel acknowledged that the public would be concerned about such conduct by a professional teacher but took the view that a fully informed member of the public would be satisfied that the situation had been addressed by an investigation by the GTCS and a finding that the Teacher’s fitness to teach was impaired.

The Panel was clear that the conduct was wholly inappropriate and fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher. For these reasons, the Panel concluded that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.

Disposal

As the Panel concluded that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired, it moved on to consider the appropriate disposal of the case. In considering this matter the Panel had regard to Part B of the GTCS Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance. In line with that guidance, the Panel considered the available options from least to most severe. The Panel noted that not all indicating factors required to be present for a disposal option to be considered appropriate.

The Panel first considered whether the sanction of a Reprimand would be appropriate in this case. The Panel concluded that, although the conduct had not caused harm to a pupil or child, it acknowledged that the Teacher had been stopped from entering a class while smelling of alcohol and so there was some potential for harm to have been caused. The conduct had been admitted. The conduct does represent a breach of trust and was not an isolated incident but had occurred over a period of time. The conduct was serious. The Panel did not consider that a Reprimand was sufficient to mark the seriousness of the conduct.

The Panel next considered whether a Conditional Registration Order would be appropriate. The Panel considered that it was possible to identify areas of the Teacher’s conduct that would be capable of being addressed by the imposition of conditions. In particular, the Panel considered that it was appropriate for the Teacher to continue to access support [redacted]. The Teacher had accepted that she had consumed a significant amount of alcohol in December 2018 on the anniversary of [redacted]. In the view of the Panel this had, therefore, occurred relatively recently and as such a condition was appropriate to require the Teacher to continue to access support for a further period of time. The ongoing monitoring of the Teacher was required to satisfy public confidence in the teaching profession and the GTCS as a Regulator. The Teacher has expressed a willingness to comply with conditions. The Panel considered that the ongoing support should be sought by the Teacher for a period of 12 months to allow sufficient time for any support to be effective. However, the Panel concluded that conditions alone would not sufficiently mark the seriousness of the conduct. The Panel concluded that a Conditional Registration Order and Reprimand would be appropriate.

The conditions identified by the Panel are set out in the attached Conditional Registration Order. The Panel was of the view that the conditions could be realistically complied with and the Teacher could be trusted to do so. The Teacher was already accessing the support and that should continue. The Panel considered the conditions to be proportionate and appropriate with reference to the conduct. The Panel was of the view that the ongoing support together with the Reprimand would provide public confidence in her as a teacher, teaching as a profession and the GTCS as Regulator. The Panel was satisfied that the conditions were measurable and directed at the Teacher.

Having identified the appropriate disposal, the Panel decided to issue a consent order in accordance with rule 2.7. The terms of the consent order are set out in the separate ’Consent Order’ document. Should the Teacher fail to provide her consent to the order, the case is to be referred on for hearing proceedings.