The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Procedural Hearing 31 July 2017

Respondent Respondent A
Registration category Primary
Panel John Kilpatrick (Convener), Peter Hempsey and Lynda Dalziel
Legal Assessor Una Doherty
Servicing Officer Vivien Whyte
Presenting Officer Gary Burton, Anderson Strathern LLP (not present)
Respondent’s representative Jill Harris, Clyde and Co (not present)

Any reference in this decision to:

  • The “Convener” means the Convener of the Panel;
  • “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 and Appeals Rules 2012 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them.

Background

The Procedural Hearing was arranged to consider a Reasoned Opinion lodged by the Presenting Officer on 23 May 2017, which contained the submissions of the Presenting Officer regarding the disposal of the case.  The Respondent’s representative lodged written submissions in response.  Both parties indicated that they would be available on the day if the Panel required any clarification.

Evidence

In accordance with rule 3.1.3, the Panel admitted all of the documents and statements listed below as evidence for the purposes of the hearing:

PH1 E-mail attaching Notice of Procedural Hearing dated 24 July 2017 along with e-mail delivery and read receipts
PH2 E-mail from Jill Harris to Vivien Whyte dated 27 July 2017 attaching letter of same date
PH3 Reasoned Opinion dated May 2017
PH4 Documentation lodged by the Presenting Officer along with the Reasoned Opinion
PH5 Letter from Clyde and Co dated 21 June 2017 in response to the Reasoned Opinion along with Appendices 1 and 2

Preliminary matters

Subsequent to the notice of the Procedural Hearing being sent to the parties, Ms Harris sent a letter to GTCS dated 27 July 2017 outlining that the Respondent was making an application for the Procedural Hearing to be held in private, should the Panel require to hear from parties and a hearing be held in that respect.  In addition, should the Panel agree with the Reasoned Opinion and dispose of the case, she asked that the Panel anonymise the written decision. 

The Panel determined that it would make its decision based on the written submissions of the parties and that it did not require to hear further from them.  Accordingly, it was not necessary to make a decision as to whether or not the Procedural Hearing should be held in private.  The Panel’s decision regarding anonymity is set out below.

Presenting Officer’s submissions

In the Reasoned Opinion, the Presenting Officer directed attention to two charges referred to a full hearing by the Investigating Panel. He explained that further investigative work had been carried out following the referral to a full hearing, namely the obtaining of witness statements from Witness MW, and Witness ND, and attempts to contact Witness OL.

On a review of the evidence in relation to allegation 1, the Respondent had discharged the duties incumbent on her. There was insufficient evidence to support the allegation. On a review of the evidence in relation to allegation 2, there was insufficient evidence to support the allegation.

GTCS had fully investigated the complaint. At the conclusion of these investigations there was insufficient evidence to support the complaint. In the circumstances, it was not fair or proportionate to continue the case. 

Respondent’s submissionS

In their letter in response to the Reasoned Opinion, Clyde & Co pointed out correctly that in fact only allegation 1 was referred for a full hearing. They agreed that the additional evidence obtained by the Presenting Officer supported the Respondent’s position. They agreed that the Presenting Officer would fail to prove allegation 1. They agreed with the conclusions of the Presenting Officer that the principles of fairness and proportionality would be infringed if the case against the Respondent was not disposed of at this juncture.

Legal Advice

The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel of the effect of a direction under Rule 3.5.2.

She reminded the Panel that the public interest includes the protection of pupils and the wider public, the maintenance of public confidence in the teaching profession and in the GTCS as its regulator, and the upholding of proper standards of conduct and performance by teachers. If the Respondent as Head Teacher had failed initially to deal with the issue properly, this engaged the public interest. She also reminded the Panel that it is in the public interest for GTCS to act fairly and proportionately, so the Panel should not continue with proceedings where, on review, it is considered that the Head Teacher had discharged the duties incumbent on her. 

In relation to the issue over anonymity, she reminded the Panel of the terms of the Conducting Hearings in Private Practice Statement 2014 and the Fitness to Teach Publication Policy 2017. 

Decision

The Panel carefully considered the written submissions by the parties and the documents lodged by them, in making its decision.

The Panel considered the allegations, and noted that allegation 2 had not been referred to a full hearing by an Investigating Panel as there was insufficient evidence to support it. They considered that allegation 1 was unlikely to be proved at a full hearing and that the Respondent had discharged her duties.  The Panel took into account the further evidence obtained from Witness ND and the typed and handwritten notes of the Respondent regarding the conversation she had with Witness MW, which indicated that she had passed the necessary information to the Chief Executive. The evidence supported that the Respondent had identified a child protection issue and reported this in accordance with the correct procedures. In the circumstances, it was not fair or proportionate to proceed further with the case. It was not in the public interest to continue with the case. No issue of the protection of the public arose.

For these reasons the Panel determined that the case should be cancelled in accordance with the Reasoned Opinion, and that the application made under Rule 3.5 should be granted. Accordingly the Panel directed that the Full Hearing should be cancelled and the case disposed of.

The Panel then considered the issue of anonymity. They considered the terms of the Conducting Hearings in Private Practice Statement 2014 and the Fitness to Teach Publication Policy 2017. Given that the proceedings against the Respondent were to be cancelled, the Panel considered that publication of the decision without anonymising could amount to an unnecessary intrusion to the Respondent’s private life and disproportionate damage to her reputation. In the circumstances, any public interest in having the Respondent’s identity disclosed in the decision was outweighed by these factors.  The Panel therefore agreed to the published decision being anonymised.