The General Teaching Council for Scotland

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Outcome

Full Hearing

Monday 18, Tuesday 19, Wednesday 20, Thursday 21, Friday 22 March and Tuesday 7 May 2019

 Teacher Rodrigo Cintra (not present/ not represented)
 Registration Number 139150
 Registration category Secondary
 Panel Maureen Anderson (Convener), Tony Bragg and Jennifer Speirs
 Legal Assessor James Mulgrew
 Servicing Officer Aga Adamczyk
 Presenting Officer Sarah Phillips, Anderson Strathern

Any reference in this decision to:

  • "GTCS" means the General Teaching Council for Scotland
  • the "Panel" means the Fitness to Teach Panel considering the case
  • the "Rules" (and any related expression) means the GTCS Fitness to Teach and Appeals Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them
  • the "Register" means the GTCS register of teachers

Preliminary Issues

  1. Absence of the Teacher

    The Teacher did not attend the Full Hearing on 18 March 2019. As set out in Rule 1.7.8, the Panel required to consider (a) whether notice of the hearing had been sent to the Teacher in accordance with the Rules, and (b) whether or not it was just to proceed to hear and dispose of the case in the absence of the Teacher. In approaching this matter, the Panel had regard to the Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence Practice Statement. The Panel also had regard to Rules 1.6 and 1.7.11 to 1.7.14.

    The Panel had been provided with a copy of the Notification of Full Hearing, dated 18 February 2019. That notification had been sent to the Teacher by email. The email address used was the same as had been used previously to contact the Teacher. He had sent an email to GTCS from that address on 24 October 2018. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had been sent the Notification of Full Hearing in accordance with the Rules and that he had received it. The Panel was satisfied that the Notification complied with the Rules.

    As the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had been notified of the Full Hearing in accordance with the Rules, the Panel moved on to consider whether to proceed with the hearing in the Teacher’s absence.

    The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Teacher. The Presenting Officer was ready to proceed with the Full Hearing and witnesses had been arranged to give evidence at it. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher had voluntarily chosen not to attend. In his email, dated 24 October 2018, the Teacher indicated that “he did not wish to take part in the process”.

    The Panel was of the view that there was a significant public interest in the matter being determined as soon as possible. In addition, the Teacher had been given the opportunity to participate in the proceedings and give evidence via video link; however, he had elected not to participate.

    For all of these reasons, the Panel concluded that the Teacher had voluntarily chosen not to attend the hearing, that he was unlikely to attend were the hearing to be reconvened on a later date and that it was just to proceed with the hearing in his absence.

  2. Late Evidence

    The Presenting Officer asked the Panel to admit late documents or evidence at various stages of the Full Hearing. On each occasion, the Panel considered Rule 1.7.22 and the Fact-finding in Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases Practice Statement.

    The first occasion the Presenting Officer sought to admit late evidence was prior to the start of the Full Hearing. The Presenting Officer sought to admit a recording of an audio message said to have been left by the Teacher on Pupil A’s phone. The transcript of the audio message had already been lodged in the Hearing Papers. The explanation was that the particular message had been missed when others had been lodged. The Presenting Officer submitted that the recording was relevant given the nature of the allegations. Further, there was no prejudice to the Teacher as the transcript of the recording was already admitted. The Panel decided to admit the audio recording. The recording of the audio message represented the best evidence of it.

    The second occasion the Presenting Officer sought to admit late evidence was during the evidence of Mother A. Mother A had indicated that she had a transcript of text messages between the Teacher and Pupil A. Those text messages were referred to in her statement and in the allegations. The Presenting Officer submitted that the transcript was relevant to the credibility and reliability of Mother A. The Panel considered that the transcript was the best evidence of the text conversation between the Teacher and Pupil A, and therefore, decided to admit the transcript.

    The next occasion when the Panel required to consider whether to admit late evidence was prior to the commencement of the third day of the Full Hearing. The evidence related to an email that GTCS had received from the Teacher. The email requested that the Full Hearing be conducted in private. The consideration of that application is discussed below. However, the email also contained submissions by the Teacher which could have a bearing at the Fact Finding stage. The Presenting Officer did not oppose the receipt of the email. The Panel decided to admit the email.

    The final occasion when the Panel required to consider whether to admit late evidence occurred during the Panel’s deliberation of the facts. The Panel discovered that not all of the audio messages corresponding to the transcript of audio messages within the hearing papers had been lodged by the Presenting Officer. The Panel had understood that they had been lodged. However, when the Panel considered the evidence, the omitted messages were identified. The Presenting Officer sought to admit the audio messages previously omitted. The omission had been an oversight. The Panel decided to admit the audio messages given that they represented the best evidence of them.

  3. Private Hearing Application and Anonymity

    The Teacher emailed GTCS prior to the third day of the Full Hearing enclosing submissions in relation to the allegations and also seeking that the proceedings be conducted in private. The basis of the Teacher’s application was that he was deeply concerned about press publicity regarding the hearing. He submitted that the allegations were unfairly made and manipulated to give the impression of something that they were not. The Presenting Officer opposed the application for privacy. She submitted that the serious nature of the allegations required that the hearing be heard in public. Further, the Teacher had not provided a compelling reason why the hearing should be heard in private. The Presenting Officer submitted that embarrassment to the Teacher was not a sufficient reason.

    In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to Rules 1.7.2 and 1.7.3 and the Privacy and Anonymity Practice Statement. Rule 1.7.2 sets out that hearings will be held in public. However, Rule 1.7.3 provides that all or any part of a hearing may be conducted in private where the Panel is satisfied that there is a need to protect the privacy, confidentiality or other interests of a party, third party or witness and that need outweighs the interests of the Teacher and the public in the hearing being held in public. The Practice Statement provides guidance as to how a Panel should exercise that discretion. It makes clear that the decision of a Panel that all or part of a hearing be held in private must be consistent with Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Panel was clear that it must be satisfied that there was a compelling reason for deciding that all or part of a hearing should be held in private in order to protect an individual’s private life.

    The Panel refused the Teacher’s privacy and anonymity application. The Panel was not satisfied that the Teacher had provided a compelling reason to depart from the default position that proceedings be conducted in public.

    However, the Panel ordered that the names of the pupil, witnesses and locations be anonymised in order to protect the identity of Pupil A. That included within any reporting of the Full Hearing by the press. In order to give effect to that decision, the Panel ordered GTCS to remove any reference to the pupil, witnesses and locations relating to this hearing from the public website.

Allegation(s)

The following allegations were considered at the hearing:

  1. Between 2014 and August 2016 whilst employed at School A (the "school"), Location 1, the teacher did:

    1. engage in inappropriate conversation with Pupil A (an ex pupil of the school) who has additional support needs, specifically [information redacted], in which the teacher did discuss his own sexuality;

    2. engage in inappropriate conversations with Pupil A by way of text messaging and WhatsApp voice chat and, in particular did:

      Express inappropriate opinions and make comments about other colleagues; specifically mentioning other staff members he does not get on with or he does not like working with;

      Share confidential information with Pupil A, specifically about a relationship regarding another co­ worker and the teacher cautions Pupil A not to tell anyone.

      Instruct Pupil A to keep communications with him a secret, specifically, a long voice chat in which the teacher refers to having told private things that he should not have shared with Pupil A: "The thing is most of the time people are discreet; I tell you things as my friend but I don't tell these things to others. You need to remember that most people before treated you as a pupil therefore they didn't share these things with you because it is wrong. All of these things that I shouldn't have shared with you. I just did because we were friends. But I think you just, you should just consider some of these things and that one of those is that it's really important for you to be really careful”. Further texts stating "nobody else hearing these conversations”.

      Make inappropriate comments about Pupil A's family and attempt to influence the decision making of Pupil A, specifically a text where the teacher encourages Pupil A not to go home and expressing his surprise and disappointment when Pupil A did choose to go home. Further text messages in which there are comments from the teacher revealing his lack of respect for family or parental involvement in Pupil A's life whereby he says to Pupil A about his parents: "I was really surprised to find your parents are still there with you, yeah, really surprised they were still there with you". Further text messages from the teacher to Pupil A: "Good luck at home", "I don’t remember you ever going home and that being straightforward".

      Make comments of a sexual nature, specifically texts where the teacher talks about a saleswoman approaching him and chatting him up and keeping her hanging on just to talk longer to her because she was "so freaking hot and you would have loved her". Reference and texts to the teacher talking about wanting to stalk a girl on Pupil A's Facebook. A text conversation where there is reference to one of the teacher's previous boyfriends as in his previous partner not just a friend who is a boy. A text conversation encouraging Pupil A to go back to Location 1 "to work and have a nice time here" and to "wank the whole day". Text comments from the teacher about Pupil A getting a tattoo suggesting he may put this on his genitals. Texts from the teacher to Pupil A about being on "Tinder" and perhaps he should join also. Asking Pupil A if he is going to meet a girl from Tinder and generally encouraging Pupil A to be promiscuous.

      Make inappropriate comments to Pupil A about his behaviour towards a 14 year old girl, specifically the teacher sends texts to suggest and enquire whether Pupil A may have "hooked up" with a 14 year old girl and asking Pupil A "if anything happened".

  2. Between 2014 and August 2016 the teacher:
    1. was present when Pupil A consumed alcohol in Location 2 in July 2016 and in Location 1 in August 2016, in the knowledge that he had [information redacted]. A common feature of [information redacted] is impulsiveness and not being able to regulate ones behaviour. There is a pre-disposition of not being able to deal with alcohol;>/em>
    2. did stay with Pupil A at his own accommodation; and
    3. did take Pupil A on nights out in Location 1, during which Pupil A consumed alcohol and allowed him to stay in the teacher's accommodation.
  3. Between 2014 and August 2016 the teacher provided sex education lessons to Pupil A in the metal workshop without the agreement of the school and provided condoms.
  4. Between 2014 and August 2016 the teacher did not maintain appropriate professional boundaries with Pupil A, of a teacher and pupil and a teacher and former pupil.

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 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, and 2.3 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland's Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Teacher’s Admissions

The Teacher made no formal admissions in relation to the allegations considered by the Panel as contained in the Notice of the Full Hearing.

Hearing Papers

 In accordance with Rule 1.7.17, the Panel admitted all of the documents and statements listed below as evidence for the purposes of the hearing:

Presenting Officer’s hearing papers (including late papers/ recordings)

1. Notice of Presenting Officer’s case form, dated 7 November 2018
2. Signed statement of Pupil A’s Mother [Mother A], dated 24 January 21019
3. Transcripts of messages from recordings provided by Pupil A’s Mother [Mother A]
4. Signed statement of Witness 6, dated 15 June 2017
5. Signed statement of Witness 1, dated 5 June 2017
6. Signed statement of Witness 2, dated 13 June 2017
7. Signed statement of Witness 8, dated 7 June 2017
8. Signed statement of Witness 3, dated 12 June 2017
9. Signed statement of Witness 4, dated 7 June 2017
10. Statement of Witness 5, (undated)
11. Statement of Witness 9, (undated)
12. Signed statement of Witness 7
13. Statement of the Teacher, signed and dated 16 January 2017
14. Email from the Teacher to GTCS Regulation department, dated 24 October 2018
15. Letter from the Educational Psychologist to Witness 6, dated 28 September 2016
16. Letter to the Teacher from Colleague 1, dated 24 January 2017
17. Minutes of Investigatory Meeting with Witness 3, dated 23 December 2019
18. Minutes of Investigatory Meeting with Witness 5, dated 23 December 2016
19. Minutes of Investigatory Meeting with Witness 4, dated 23 December 2016
20. Minutes of Investigatory Meeting with Witness 2, dated 23 December 2016
21. Minutes of Investigatory Meeting with the Teacher, dated 11 January 2017
22. Investigation Report, dated 13 January 2017
23. Disciplinary Meeting notes, dated 20 January 2017
24. Timeline prepared by Witness 8
25. School A, Conditions of Service
26. School A, Co-Worker Information Handbook, dated July 2015
27. Panel Consideration Decision, dated 15 September 2017
28. Notice of Panel Consideration, dated 2 July 2018 with email delivery receipt
29. Letter from Police Scotland to Anderson Strathern, dated 4 December 2017
30. MP3 Recordings.

Teacher’s Hearing Papers

1. Response email from the Teacher to the GTCS Regulation department, dated 24 October 2018
2. Email from the GTCS Regulation Officer to the Teacher, dated 22 October 2018.

Servicing Officer’s Hearing Papers

1. Notice of Hearing, dated 18 February 2019, with cover email and email delivery and read receipts
2. Email from the GTCS Regulation Officer to the Teacher, dated 30 November 2018
3. Email from the GTCS Regulation Officer to the Teacher, dated 12 November 2018
4. Email from the GTCS Regulation Officer to the Teacher, dated 2 November 2018
5. Email from the Teacher to GTCS, dated 24 October 2018
6. Email from the GTCS Regulation Officer to the Teacher, dated 22 October 2018
7. Email delivery receipts, dated 30 November 2018 and 12 November 2018
8. Procedural Decision from the Procedural Panel Meeting on 7 March 2019.

Summary of Evidence

1.Mother A

Mother A had provided a statement to GTCS and also gave evidence before the Panel at the Full Hearing. She is Pupil A’s mother. She was unemployed but did voluntary work and sat as a Panel Member on Children’s Panels. She had been a Panel Member for around eighteen years. Mother A and her husband adopted Pupil A and his brother. Pupil A had resided with Mother A since he was 6 years old. Prior to his seventh birthday, he was [information redacted]. He then received [information redacted]. That falls under the umbrella of [information redacted]. That can lead to primary disabilities such as cognitive, physical, behavioural and mental health difficulties. She described Pupil A as a vulnerable young man for many reasons. He did not have cause and effect thinking. He struggled with long term and short term memory deficits. There were elements of autistic behaviours. He lacked the ability to understand other people’s emotions. He was a risk taker and was easily influenced and could be exploited. He functioned at approximately his chronological age and below in some areas of functioning. It affected how he dealt with authority and relationships. He would not understand when he had upset people. An Educational Psychologist had dealt with Pupil A since he was aged about 13 years old. Pupil A had been disruptive in many schools he attended. While other schools had turned him away due to his complex needs and behaviour, School A had accepted him as a pupil. Pupil A was 16 when he went to School A. At that time, his functioning level was generally that of an individual who was 10 or 11 years old but in some areas as young as 8 or 9 years old. However, his reading age had always been above his chronological age. Mother A was a little concerned with the culture at the school. It was an open environment and family orientated. Co-workers and teachers were on first name terms with pupils. Even when co-workers left the school they would still keep in touch with pupils, which Mother A found concerning.

An issue had arisen towards the end of June 2016 when Pupil A had an end of term event. Mother A’s understanding had been that it would not be an issue if she and her husband were unable to attend the event. They did not attend as they attended a separate function for Pupil A’s brother [information redacted]. Mother A was told by staff that Pupil A was upset that she and her husband had not attended the end of term event. Pupil A had been due to return to the family home on Friday 1 July 2016, which was the end of term. The wider family had made arrangements to collect Pupil A and his belongings, and to bring him home for a week before he moved to Location 2 where he was to attend college. At the last minute, Pupil A announced he was not coming home. This was unusual. There was a tight timescale to move Pupil A to Location 2. There were also issues regarding funding for Pupil A to allow him to remain at School A beyond the end of term.

On Saturday, 2 July 2016, Mother A received a letter of apology from Pupil A. That was unheard of. She rang him. He told her he wanted to go to Location 2, that he was still going to go and that the Teacher was possibly going to take him and his belongings to Location 2 the following weekend. Mother A did not accept that the offer from the Teacher was well intentioned or a kind offer. She considered that something else was going on. The letter from Pupil A was out of character. The wider family’s arrangements had been disrupted by Pupil A’s decision. Pupil A later decided that he wanted to be collected by Mother A on Tuesday 5 July 2016. Pupil A returned to the family home on Tuesday 5 July 2016. On Friday 8 July 2016, Mother A and her husband took Pupil A to Location 2.

Mother A and her husband had a contract with Pupil A that they could look at his mobile phone and his technology if they ever had concerns about him. Pupil A later gave permission in the summer to access his mobile phone following concerns expressed by his landlord at Location 2. The concerns had started only one week after Pupil A had arrived at Location 2. Mother A accessed Pupil A’s mobile phone and found all texts, WhatsApp and voicemail messages between Pupil A and the Teacher. The content of these caused Mother A great concern. Mother A and her husband spoke to Pupil A about it but he did not have a level of understanding of the concern. Mother A’s impression was that the Teacher was subtly grooming Pupil A and that their relationship was a predatory one. Mother A contacted the Educational Psychologist. They agreed that the Educational Psychologist would contact School A setting out concerns. The Educational Psychologist wrote to School A by letter of 28 September 2016. Mother A’s evidence was that Pupil A at that point was still very easily led, very impressionable and a very vulnerable young person.

Mother A discovered a number of concerning messages on Pupil A’s phone: there were inappropriate conversations between the Teacher and Pupil A including:

the Teacher referring to other staff members he did not get on with or did not like working with;

  • messages where the Teacher instructs Pupil A not to tell anyone about the content of their conversations;
  • Pupil A mentions not telling other staff members of things he did or was planning to do with the Teacher;
  • a message in which the Teacher encourages Pupil A not to go home and expresses surprise and disappointment when Pupil A did chooses to go home;
  • messages which include comments from the Teacher that reveal a lack of respect for Pupil A’s family and  parental involvement in Pupil A’s life and which are not encouraging of the family involvement;
  • a message in which the Teacher refers to a saleswoman approaching him who has been “so freaking hot and you would have loved her”;
  • the Teacher talking about wanting to stalk a girl on Pupil A’s Facebook;
  • a message in which the Teacher indicates to Pupil A that he, the Teacher, should not have told him [Pupil A] certain things but did so as they were friends;
  • comments from the Teacher requesting secrecy;
  • messages in which the Teacher encourages Pupil A to use the WhatsApp voice chat facility;
  • 19 comments of a sexual nature either with direct sexually explicit comments or innuendo;
  • a conversation regarding one of the Teacher’s previous boyfriends;
  • messages in which the Teacher encourages Pupil A to return to Location 1 and referring to the fact Pupil A could “wank the whole day”;
  • a message in which the Teacher comments about Pupil A getting a tattoo on his genitals;
  • comments from the Teacher to Pupil A about being on Tinder and encouraging Pupil A to join Tinder; and
  • messages from the Teacher to Pupil A asking if Pupil A was going to be meeting a girl from Tinder, and generally encouraging Pupil A to be promiscuous.

Mother A was also concerned about the Teacher enquiring whether Pupil A may have “hooked up” with a 14 year old girl and asking Pupil A “if anything happened”.

Further, within the first week of Pupil A being at his lodgings in Location 2, the Teacher and three other persons arrived at the lodgings, pitched a tent in the garden, filled the house with alcohol, created noise and ate there. The noise caused the landlord to get annoyed and he told them to be quiet or leave. Pupil A was given enough drink to make him very sick resulting in a very bad hangover the following day. The landlord also advised that the Teacher was in the bathroom with Pupil A whilst he was sick and taking a shower. This showed a blatant disregard or even a complete lack of knowledge or understanding of Pupil A’s [information redacted]. Pupil A had been advised not to drink alcohol [information redacted] and this could spiral out of control in the future. Mother A had spoken to the landlord. 

Another concern was that when Pupil A later visited Location 1, a group of tutors and co-workers from School A had taken Pupil A out drinking and clubbing, including the Teacher. Pupil A asked if he could stay with the Teacher when he visited Location 1 and the Teacher allowed him to do so. Pupil A did not want his house co-ordinators to know this and avoided telling anyone where he was staying.

Mother A was concerned that persons in positions of authority at the school, and who made an impression on Pupil A, were actively encouraging him to risk his overall health, his mental health and his sexual health by risk-taking. In particular, Pupil A was being encouraged to consume alcohol [information redacted], ill health and sexual promiscuity which would add to Pupil A’s [information redacted] problems.

Mother A’s concern was that the Teacher had been subtly grooming Pupil A as his next male partner. These concerns were based on a number of separate factors and Mother A viewed those factors as signs of a predatory relationship. They were: that the Teacher paid special attention to Pupil A; that the Teacher was separating and isolating Pupil A; over familiarity between the Teacher and Pupil A behaving like brothers or friends; the Teacher desensitising Pupil A to physical attention or to touch; the Teacher taking advantage of Pupil A’s natural curiosity about sexual subjects in conversations; the Teacher providing alcohol to Pupil A and getting him very drunk and expecting Pupil A’s compliance with requests that information or activity be kept secret; the Teacher presenting himself as a sympathetic listener when parents and friends, or even life in general, disappointed Pupil A or they did not meet his expectations.

Mother A later learned that the Teacher had been dismissed from his employment at School A following her concerns being reported by the Educational Psychologist.

Mother A had instructed a mobile phone technician to download text messages, WhatsApp conversations and voicemails which were stored on Pupil A’s phone. She advised that she had produced the data and recordings to the Presenting Officer. During her evidence, the transcripts of the messages were considered. Further, recordings of audio messages were played in evidence. Mother A identified the voices on the audio messages as being those of Pupil A and of the Teacher.

2. Audio Messages

There were a total of 22 separate audio messages which had been transcribed. The dates of the messages were said to range from 11 July 2016 to 4 August 2016.  All but one message were left by the Teacher. The transcripts produced were not entirely accurate compared with the recordings of them. There were some typographical errors and some had been transcribed incorrectly. There were repeated messages left on the same day. In one message the Teacher stated, “It already sounds like you eventually want to sleep with the whole world.” In another message, the Teacher stated, “If you start asking all the girls around in your first week, next week you’ll run out of girls to ask for their number.” In another message referring to Pupil A’s mobile phone, the Teacher stated, “So yeah then it burns a lot more but once you are using it just to make phone calls and not to talk to the world and wank the whole day then it’s a bit easier.”  In another message left by the Teacher, a clip of audio could be heard of the song “Let’s Talk About Sex” by “Salt n Pepa”.  In other messages, the Teacher referred to Pupil A being on Tinder and that the Teacher wanted to stalk a girl, and asking whether Pupil A had her on Facebook. In another message, the Teacher stated, “How is the hunt for jobs and ladies and everything going.” In a further message, the Teacher stated, “I spoke a bit fast I see well I was wondering if you two hooked up or if anything happened or if it is was just a meeting of saying hi and chatting or how you are feeling as well you know with your heart and everything, did it bring old feelings up and stuff like this?” In another message, the Teacher stated, “When I am going to convince to use voice messenger? Do you know that there is nobody else here who hears me but me right? What’s the hesitation about it? Blackadder nah I don’t know, my ex-boyfriend always wanted me to watch it I somehow didn’t manage to get into it.” In the final message, the Teacher stated, “Oh no, that’s not why I said that at all actually ehmm no I just happened to be painful down there that’s why I was saying.”

3. Text Messages

A transcript of text messages recovered by the mobile phone technician from Pupil A’s phone had been prepared. The messages were from the period 11 July 2016 to 10 August 2016. The messages downloaded were messages between the Teacher and Pupil A. Some messages were text only and the content of the texts could be observed. Other messages were sent via a media which could not be viewed on the transcript. However, the date and time that the media had been sent could be used to associate the media with the voice messages referred to above.

Within the text conversation, the fact that the Teacher was to visit Pupil A at Location 2 is covered, including the fact that the Teacher and his companions would reside with Pupil A. In the text conversation, Pupil A stated, “Last time I spoke to him, he was more than happy to let me have friends over, but I will ask him about the tent in the garden. And is it going to be this weekend?” Pupil A later texted “So I just spoke with [information redacted], he is more than happy for you to come and camp and sleep on the sofa.” There are also texts relating to Pupil A attending Location 1 and socialising with the Teacher. The Teacher stated in a text, “And what will b the plan for the weekend?” Pupil A responds, “Well, we HAVE to go clubbing at least once!!” Later the Teacher responds, “We should plan to go clubbing in Friday and then we c about Saturday if wet survive Friday ….?” There were also texts of a sexual nature including sexual innuendo. The Teacher stated in a text, “Otherwise it will just make you even hornier throughout the day …????” The Teacher later texted, “Means you wanking a lot …???” and immediately thereafter “A lot more …???” In a later text, Pupil A stated, “I just had some yoghurt.” The Teacher responded, “Was it your own yoghurt?” Pupil A responded, “Of course it was mine I bought it.” The Teacher replied “Just teasing you.” In a later text, Pupil A referred to getting a piercing and tattoo. Pupil A then stated “I would totally get a unicorn!!” The Teacher then responded, “It’ll be the first unicorn to “spit” through its horn …???” Pupil A responded, “I won’t get it down there!!” This set of texts corresponded with the final audio message referred to above where the Teacher indicated what he, the Teacher, had said had been misconstrued relating to being “painful down there”. There were also some texts relating to Pupil A meeting a girl and the Teacher enquiring about that. Pupil A stated, “Her mum and little brother was there but I think she told her parents about us! As her mum didn’t seem to batter and eyelid when she held my hand and kissed me!!”

4. Letter from the Educational Psychologist to Witness 6

The Educational Psychologist wrote to Witness 6 by letter dated 28 September 2016. The letter attached information that had been presented to the Educational Psychologist by Mother A. The information provided by Mother A contained the detail that was covered in the summary of Mother A’s evidence above. The Educational Psychologist observed that the allegations contained in the information questioned whether there had been an abuse of a position of trust by the Teacher. She confirmed that Pupil A was a vulnerable young person [information redacted]. The Educational Psychologist indicated that the allegations were most concerning given that Pupil A [information redacted].

5. Witness 1

Witness 1 gave evidence at the Full Hearing. Witness 1 was the Executive Director of School A. He was previously the Deputy Executive Director. He had worked at the school for over twelve years. The school offered education to children and young people with additional support needs on a day or residential basis.

Witness 1 knew of Pupil A but had never worked with him on a one-to-one basis.

Witness 1 stated that on 30 September 2016, Witness 6, Head of Care, received a letter from the Educational Psychologist detailing concerns regarding the Teacher and Pupil A. Witness 1 was very surprised to read the contents of the letter. The content was shocking. A number of points were raised. It was agreed that Witness 6 would carry out an investigation and that Witness 1 would remain involved as the Child Protection Officer and Witness 8 as HR Manager. The Teacher was immediately suspended.

Witness 1 knew of the Teacher for around 5 to 7 years through the school. Witness 1’s impression of the Teacher was that he was a dedicated, enthusiastic teacher who had a “can do” attitude. There were occasions when the witness had to remind the Teacher of his teacher/pupil professional boundaries. The Teacher had a very loose perspective of this but was not malicious in any way. The Teacher liked to make up his own rules but always had the best of intentions. The Teacher was friendly and very well liked at the school.

Witness 1 and Witness 6 met with the Teacher around the time that Pupil A turned 18 years old. The Teacher had arranged to invite Pupil A to the Club Room at the School to have a few alcoholic drinks to celebrate Pupil A turning 18. The Teacher was told that this would not be happening. The Teacher did accept that but could not understand why it could not happen. The Teacher was of the view that it would be better for Pupil A to try things out such as drinking alcohol under supervision. Witness 1 reminded the Teacher specifically that he had to adhere to certain codes of conduct. The codes which Witness 1 had in mind were the School’s own Code of Conduct, the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct and the Scottish Social Services Council Code of Conduct.

Witness 1 stated that Pupil A had [information redacted]. The Teacher was aware of this and therefore should not have been planning to drink or drinking with Pupil A. There would be an expectation on a teacher involved with a young person to be aware of the young person’s care plan and additional support needs.

Witness 1 stated that there were occasions when the Teacher would put himself at risk. The Teacher wanted to take Pupil A on an outing with others but he was not on duty and was told by Witness 1 he could not do so. The Teacher responded that he was going to do it anyway contrary to Witness 1’s advice. He was not disciplined because a co-worker who was on duty also participated on the outing.

Witness 1’s view was that teachers were encouraged to form connections with pupils. That was good practice. However, that needed to be done in a professional and organised manner. A professional relationship had to be maintained and this did not change when a pupil left school. There were clear boundaries. During the investigation into the concerns raised by the letter from the Educational Psychologist, Witness 1 discovered incidents that had transpired. The Teacher had delivered sex education to Pupil A in a metal workshop. That was not an appropriate setting for such education. The Teacher had also invited Pupil A to his private home, Location 1, and Witness 1 understood that they were drinking alcohol and went out clubbing. Witness 1’s position was that if the allegations in the letter received by the school were correct in relation to the exchange and content of the text messages then they were highly inappropriate and concerning. Witness 1 was asked to view the transcripts of audio and text messages. Witness 1 was shocked by their content and he described the content as inappropriate due to age difference, timing, language use, tone of friendliness and sexual innuendo. Witness 1’s view was that the Teacher had gone far beyond the teacher/pupil relationship.

The investigation report was completed, which Witness 1 countersigned. The report was dated 13 January 2017. It recommended that a formal discipline process should be undertaken in line with the school’s disciplinary policy and procedure in respect that the Teacher faced allegations of serious misconduct. In particular, it was considered that the Teacher had probably been involved in the exchange of inappropriate messages with Pupil A. That was based on the Teacher’s evasive responses to questions put to him. The investigators did not have a copy of the transcript of messages at that time. There was a concern that the Teacher had not maintained the appropriate professional boundaries required by the school and as set out in the relevant external Codes of Conduct. There were also serious concerns regarding the Teacher’s understanding of his role in a teacher/pupil relationship and maintaining professional boundaries. The investigation report was sent to the Teacher. Disciplinary proceedings followed. As a result of the disciplinary proceedings, the Teacher was dismissed.

In response to Panel questioning, Witness 1 explained that a worker was made aware of her/his responsibilities as every worker received an Employee Handbook, received PVG Training, Child Protection Training as well as refresher trainings on such topics.

6. Witness 2

Witness 2 gave evidence at the Full Hearing. Witness 2 is the Head of Education at School A. She had held that role for over 3 years. She had been employed at the school since 1998. Witness 2 was a Child Protection Officer at the school. She was involved in delivering training, including refresher training.

Witness 2 knew the Teacher. When she took on the role as Head of Education, the Teacher had the role of managing/coordinating programmes for young adults between 18 and 25 years of age. Her overall impression of the Teacher was that he had a good rapport with the pupils. Education Scotland inspectors had made positive comments about work he had done.

Pupil A joined the school around 2014. Witness 2 knew him well. She described him as a lovely, bright, sociable, chatty boy. There were academic possibilities for him. He became very well known within the school. He was a vulnerable young adult [information redacted] and had been [information redacted].

Witness 2 confirmed that information was available to staff about pupils when they joined the school. There would be parental information and departmental information. Important parts of the information would be incorporated into the pupil’s care plan, which included the Independent Education Plan and the personal plan on the residential side of the school.

Witness 2 stated that teachers are permitted to use text messages to contact pupils. The important issue was safeguarding pupils. Witness 2 was shown the transcripts of the text and audio messages. Her view was that the content was inappropriate. They overstepped the mark in a teacher and ex-pupil relationship.

Witness 2 was aware that the Teacher visited Pupil A in Location 2 when Pupil A had left the school and was living there independently, and that they got drunk together. Witness 2 would never drink with ex-pupils and would never put herself in that situation as they are not friends. Witness 2 stressed that there would always be a pupil/teacher relationship even though the pupil had left school.

Witness 2 did not think that the Teacher’s relationship with Pupil A was predatory in nature. She had never observed anything untoward between Pupil A and the Teacher. Witness 2 understood that the Teacher had allegedly delivered sex education to Pupil A in the metal workshop at the school. Witness 2 stated that it was a difficult issue dealing with a pupil and sexuality in sex education. Sex education should not have been delivered in the metal workshop. However, conversations of that nature can occur and it is difficult to say what is right and wrong in every situation.

Witness 2 was aware of an occasion sometime during the first part of 2016 when concerns were raised regarding the Teacher taking Pupil A down to the river for a social evening with other co-workers. Witness 2 had held a conversation with the Teacher about the situation. The Teacher explained that Pupil A should experience possibilities of friendships amongst people who were working at the school and provide a peer group for Pupil A. Witness 2 spoke to the Teacher about his professional responsibilities and boundaries and told him that they were not there to have friendships with pupils but rather there to offer them support. She highlighted that pupils are never their friends. Witness 2 was also aware of an allegation that the Teacher had provided condoms to pupils. A former co-worker at the school whose son had been a pupil, and was now an ex-pupil, had been provided with a condom by the Teacher. The ex-pupil was in a relationship at that time. The former worker was appreciative of the Teacher’s support. However, Witness 2 stated that whether that is right or wrong is a difficult question to answer.

7. Witness 3

Witness 3 gave evidence at the Full Hearing. Witness 3 was a class teacher at the school. She had been at the school for over 13 years both as a volunteer and as a class teacher. She had been Pupil A’s teacher for 2.5 years. Pupil A joined to the school in March/April 2014. Initially, Pupil A was reserved and shy but also curious. He was a very friendly and personable individual, and eventually he formed close friendships but did have his favourites. Pupil A was deemed a vulnerable adult due to his background.

Witness 3 had her own concerns regarding the Teacher’s conduct towards Pupil A. It was clear to Witness 3 that the Teacher had developed a connection with Pupil A as a friend. They seemed to joke around a lot and talk about a variety of topics including girls, sex, relationships and independence. Witness 3 thought it was quite unusual and that is why she was concerned. Pupil A felt comfortable and free to talk to the Teacher about such issues. Witness 3 noticed this around the end of 2015. Witness 3 shared her concerns with colleagues. She shared her concerns with her tutor. She could not recall whether any action was taken following her raising her concerns.

Witness 3 referred to an internal review meeting in respect of each pupil which took place twice a year. At a review meeting in relation to Pupil A, the question of who could provide sex education to him was discussed. It was decided that the Teacher might be the best person to discuss sex education with Pupil A. However, an appropriate person to support the Teacher to deliver the sex education could not be identified and therefore no further action was taken. It was acknowledged that Pupil A was interested in such topics and it would, therefore, have been important for him to have sex education lessons.

The witness also had concerns about the Teacher taking Pupil A out of the school to courses, out shopping and going to the cinema on his weekends off. It was not clear whether the Teacher had completed the necessary Risk Assessments required for such activities. Pupil A advised a classroom assistant that when the Teacher and he travelled to the course, they would listen to loud music and talk about girls. Pupil A was 17 years old at the time. Witness 3’s concern was that the Teacher should not be a friend of a pupil and support such discussion or behaviour. Concerns were again raised with colleagues, the witness’ tutor and ultimately with the Head of Education.

Witness 3 stated that she does text pupils but only in relation to school issues, safety and independence.

Witness 3’s overall impression of the relationship between the Teacher and Pupil A was that Pupil A thought the relationship was innocent. Pupil A could relate to the Teacher as a friend, especially as someone who was normal and did not have special needs.

Witness 3 stated that she had known the Teacher for a number of years both on a professional and personal basis. She believed that the Teacher found it difficult to maintain the professional relationship of pupil/teacher. Witness 3 stated that the Teacher was a character, very friendly but sometimes too friendly. Witness 3 could not say for sure whether or not the Teacher was aware of Pupil A’s [information redacted], but he had access to documents and should have made himself familiar with documents containing information about Pupil A.

8. Witness 4

Witness 4 gave evidence at the Full Hearing. Witness 4 was employed as a House Co-ordinator at School A. She had been so employed for 18 years. Her role was to supervise the co-workers, support residential pupils and meet all their day-to-day needs such as meals, school timetabling, medication, activities etc. 

Pupil A had been a pupil at the school. Witness 4 was aware of his background. She stated that, at times, one had to be strict with Pupil A to ensure that his behaviour was managed appropriately. Witness 4 referred to the personal plan and Independent Education Plan relating to Pupil A, as well as internal reviews carried out together with Risk Assessments.

Witness 4 had known the Teacher, who had been a teacher at the school for a number of years. She only knew him on a professional basis. She described him as very charismatic, that he could be charming but that she was not attracted to his personality.

Witness 4 referred to certain issues between Pupil A and Mother A. Witness 4 described it as a “difficult relationship”. She also stated that she did not agree with Mother A’s approach to Pupil A at certain times.

Witness 4 had a number of concerns with regard to Pupil A and the Teacher’s relationship. It was a gut feeling. She could not understand why the Teacher was investing so much time and interest in Pupil A. The Teacher would go out of his way to spend time with Pupil A when he was not working. There was an incident when Pupil A went camping with other pupils and co-workers. The Teacher was not working but joined the trip regardless. He took Pupil A away from the group for a discussion. The Teacher asked if Pupil A could be part of a co-workers’ play. After the play, a request was made by the Teacher for Pupil A to miss an English class to go swimming at the river. There was a blanket rule that pupils were never to swim in the river as it was not safe. Witness 4 and Witness 5 told the Teacher that what he had intended to do was forbidden. Witness 4 stated that the Teacher should have discussed it first with Witness 4 and Witness 5, but he did not.

Witness 4 was also told by Witness 3 that the Teacher was giving informal sex education in the metal workshop. Witness 4 learned of another occasion when the Teacher was driving a minibus with Pupil A and another pupil. The other pupil swore. The Teacher did nothing to intervene. Another co-worker had to reprimand the pupil. The Teacher’s response was that that was what teenage boys did. The Teacher also invited Pupil A to the ballet at the weekend with the Teacher’s girlfriend. He would also come into the school on days off to ask if Pupil A would help him fix his car. The Teacher would also seek to go on trips with Pupil A without it being organised properly and without Risk Assessments having been completed. Witness 4 stated that she would often see the Teacher with his arm around Pupil A whispering. Witness 4 remembered thinking that it looked intimate. However, it could just be an aspect of the Teacher’s demeanour; nevertheless, it felt conspiratorial. 

Witness 4 stated that, following the Christmas holidays in 2015, Mother A had advised Witness 5 that she was concerned that there was going to be a birthday party to celebrate Pupil A’s 18th birthday. Pupil A’s birthday was on [information redacted]. Witness 4 stated that Mother A had advised Witness 5 that the Teacher had texted Pupil A asking how he intended to celebrate his birthday. Mother A had observed the texts. Mother A told Witness 5 that Pupil A must not be provided with alcohol [information redacted].  Witness 4 was not aware whether the Teacher specifically referred to alcohol in the texts. Witness 4 stated that Witness 5 advised Mother A that she would ensure that no alcohol would be provided.

Witness 4 stated that the relationship between the Teacher, Witness 4 and Witness 5 had been up and down over the years.

Witness 4 was aware that the Teacher had made the arrangement with Pupil A to drive up to Location 2 to take some of his belongings to him.  At the time, she did think it was unusual. 

Witness 4 stated that it did cross her mind whether there was a sexual intent on the part of the Teacher in relation to Pupil A. She knew the Teacher had many sexual relationships with male/female co-workers. Witness 4 felt uncomfortable that it had crossed her mind. Witness 4 was of the view that the Teacher had crossed professional boundaries as he had made it difficult for the other staff to work with Pupil A and to support him in the best way. The Teacher would make arrangements on behalf of Pupil A without discussing them with other staff. The relationship appeared too intimate in Witness 4’s view. If the Teacher did not agree with how Witness 5 and Witness 4 were supporting Pupil A, he should have spoken to senior management if he had concerns. Witness 4 stated that the Teacher had his own agenda with regard to what he thought Pupil A needed and Witness 4 did not agree with that; however, there was simply no room for discussion with the Teacher.

When Pupil A turned 18, an 18th birthday party was arranged at the house. Everyone was invited. Music and food was organised. On the day of the party, the Teacher came into the kitchen and said he was going to invite Pupil A to the metal workshop around 9pm with other co-workers to have an alcoholic drink. Witness 4 was stunned. She could not recall precisely what she said but she told the Teacher that this was forbidden. The Teacher turned up at the party. Later that night, he texted Witness 4 to ask where Pupil A was as he and others were waiting for Pupil A. Witness 4 texted back that Pupil A would not be attending.

Witness 4 now considered that perhaps there was an element of grooming going on by the Teacher in relation to Pupil A. Witness 4 referred to Child Protection courses and updates that staff attend at the school and discussions about friendships and professional boundaries which, in her view, were based on common sense.

Witness 4 was not sure what the Teacher’s level of knowledge of [information redacted] was. However, Witness 4 recalled conversations that she and Witness 5 had with the Teacher about what Mother A had said about Pupil A not drinking alcohol.

9. Witness 5

Witness 5 gave evidence at the Full Hearing. Witness 5 was a House Co-ordinator at School A. She had been employed there for over 22 years. She was responsible for one of the residential units.

Witness 5 knew Pupil A. He came to the school in or around March 2014 and left in July 2016. He was a residential pupil. Initially, when he joined the school, the staff had to supervise him very strictly but as time went on they supervised him less. He blossomed at school. Witness 5 stated that she had been told that Pupil A [information redacted].

Witness 5 knew the Teacher as a teacher at the school although did not work with him closely on a professional basis. The Teacher came across as sociable and was well liked by many in the school. He was charismatic and confident. Witness 5 and the Teacher got on relatively well.

Witness 5 spoke of a difficult relationship between Pupil A and Mother A.  She recalls that at one point he had refused to return home and the school agreed to a further extension of the stay at the school for one week.

After the Christmas holidays in 2015, Witness 5 received a telephone call from Mother A. Mother A had advised that she had checked Pupil A’s mobile telephone. The Teacher and Pupil A had been texting each other over the holidays. The texts were about Pupil A’s 18th birthday on [information redacted], and how to celebrate it. Mother A made it clear that there should be no alcohol involved. Mother A was also concerned about the relationship between Pupil A and the Teacher. Mother A described the relationship to Witness 5 as more like friends, as opposed to a teacher/pupil relationship. Witness 5 reassured Mother A that no alcohol would be involved. Mother A stressed over the telephone that Pupil A could not touch alcohol as a specialist had told her that if Pupil A drank alcohol [information redacted].

Witness 5 stated that there were a number of incidents which caused Witness 5 and Witness 4 concerns regarding the relationship between the Teacher and Pupil A. Witness 5 referred to the incident of swearing in the minibus and lack of reprimand by the Teacher. She was aware of the Teacher discussing issues around sex education with Pupil A. Witness 5 and Witness 4 reported this to Witness 2. Witness 5 stated that Witness 2 said, “Well it’s better than nothing.” The Teacher had approached Witness 5 about celebrating Pupil A’s 18th birthday and advising that beer would be provided. The witness and Witness 4 said that would not be happening. The witness, at all times, tried to convince the Teacher to support Pupil A in the way that Witness 5 and Witness 4 were supporting him. 

Witness 5 also described the occasion when the Teacher wanted an English lesson to be cancelled to allow Pupil A to attend a party. Witness 5 also referred to an occasion when the Teacher turned up on a camping trip when he was not supposed to go on it and that he informally went alone with Pupil A for a wander. Witness 5 also referred to the Teacher offering to take some of Pupil A’s belongings up to Location 2 for him after he left the school.

Witness 5 referred to a further incident during the time when the school had an internal review for Pupil A. Reviews were conducted twice a year. The Teacher was invited to participate in the review due to his close relationship with Pupil A. Witness 5 found it odd that the Teacher hardly said anything at the review meeting. Throughout the meeting, he displayed disinterested body language. The Play Therapist, who also attended the meeting, provided information about [information redacted]. The Teacher was therefore aware that Pupil A had [information redacted]. Witness 5’s impression at the time was that the Teacher did not take the information seriously.  She recalled that when she and the Teacher had an argument regarding Pupil A’s birthday celebrations he responded “Pupil A needs to learn how to deal with alcohol.”

Witness 5 was not sure whether the Teacher knew his boundaries with regard to what a pupil/teacher relationship should be. The Teacher’s views were certainly different from those of Witness 5. Witness 5 did not know if the Teacher had any sexual intent but Witness 5 had thought about that a lot. She considered that it could simply be down to the Teacher’s personality as he was very easy-going. The Teacher and Witness 5 had many disagreements regarding Pupil A and how to support him. The Teacher had a certain attitude that did not resonate with Witness 5. 

10. Witness 6

Witness 6 gave evidence at the Full Hearing. Witness 6 was employed as the Head of Care at School A. She had been employed at the school for over 17 years and had held a number of separate positions at the school. She had been part of the Management Team of the school for 4 years. She held the role of Vulnerable Group Protection Officer. That involved her providing training and refresher training to all staff and contacting external authorities. The school had a Code of Practice which was referred to in the Co-worker Information Handbook. The Handbook also referred to compliance with competence and professional conduct. 

The Teacher was a teacher at the school. Witness 6 did not know him well as she did not work with him directly. However, over a period of 2 years more recently, she had more contact with him as he took over the role of timetabling workshops. 

Pupil A joined the school in March 2014. Witness 6 first met Pupil A and his parents in December 2013. Pupil A’s specific needs were discussed. She was advised that his specific needs included requiring strong boundaries relating to rules and behaviour and needing appropriate role models. Witness 6 was advised that Pupil A had been [information redacted]. Witness 6 was aware that this could present itself in a number of forms with varying degrees of severity.

Witness 6 stated that in January 2016, Witness 4 and Witness 5 contacted Witness 1 to raise a concern with regard to the Teacher organising a party for Pupil A’s 18th birthday, without speaking to Witness 4 and Witness 5 first. Witness 6 and Witness 1 had a meeting with the Teacher. The main concern was that the Teacher was going to provide alcohol. At that meeting, the Teacher was told that under no circumstances was alcohol to be provided to Pupil A on school grounds or outwith school grounds. At the time, Witness 6 thought the Teacher’s intentions were misguided but not malicious. She recalled telling the Teacher at the meeting that there would be severe consequences if alcohol were provided. Witness 6 stated that the issue of [information redacted] was discussed at the time, as well as the whole aspect of professional boundaries and the inappropriateness of supplying alcohol to a school pupil whether 18 or not, on or off school premises. Witness 6 stated that the Teacher had a huge amount of arrogance and he would also try to rationalise the situation by saying it would be best if Pupil A could have experiences in a safe environment.

Witness 6 referred to the letter received by the school from Mother A detailing her concerns. Witness 6 was shocked by the letter. The Teacher was suspended immediately. All other relevant individuals and authorities were contacted. Having been initially advised by police not to proceed with an internal investigation, that permission was later granted. An internal investigation was carried out by Witness 6 and Witness 1. The Teacher was interviewed during that investigation by Witness 1, Witness 6 and Witness 8. Witness 6’s impression, at the time, was that the Teacher did not deny the allegations but tried to justify them. It was apparent to Witness 6 that the Teacher did not seem to understand that there were clear pupil/teacher boundaries and that he had overstepped the mark in respect of those boundaries as regard his relationship with Pupil A. During the investigatory meeting, the Teacher referred to conversations with Pupil A in the workshop relating to sex education and admitted having handed out condoms to pupils. Witness 6 and Witness 1 also investigated an allegation that the Teacher had allowed boys to watch pornography in a particular part of the school. During the investigatory meeting, the Teacher stated, “What is pornography?” In relation to text messages, the Teacher’s position was that he wanted to see evidence of the text messages. 

During her evidence at the Full Hearing, Witness 6 viewed the transcript of the text messages and listened to audio messages. Witness 6 identified the Teacher’s voice on the recording of the audio messages. Her view of them was that they were “horrible”. Witness 6 would not expect a 1-year volunteer to be in contact with a pupil in this way, far less a teacher.

Witness 6 had heard of another incident after Pupil A had left the school and had gone to Location 2 to live independently. The Teacher had then attended Location 2 to visit Pupil A and they drank alcohol and got drunk together. Witness 6 stated that the Teacher knew that Pupil A had [information redacted]. Witness 6 stated that she failed to understand why the Teacher would have drunk alcohol with Pupil A and why, in his eyes, he thought that it was appropriate. Witness 6 was also aware that Pupil A had gone out clubbing with the Teacher in Location 1. The Teacher and Pupil A were drinking and Pupil A had stayed overnight at the Teacher’s flat.

Witness 6 prepared the investigation report. She had checked the terms and accuracy of the interview of the Teacher the day after the interview. Her report recommended a formal disciplinary process be undertaken in line with the school’s disciplinary policy and procedure on the basis of allegations of misconduct. A formal disciplinary hearing took place on 20 January 2017. On 24 January 2017, the Teacher was dismissed.

In response to the questioning of the Panel, Witness 6 stated that she did not know whether the Teacher was an ignorant, arrogant person in relation to his intentions towards Pupil A. She would question now what his intentions were. That was based upon the content of the text and audio messages.

11. Witness 7

Witness 7 gave evidence at the Full Hearing. Witness 7 was an employee at the school. He first attended at the school in 2005. He was now workshop leader and had held the position for 3 years.

Witness 7 worked with the Teacher and is a friend of his. Witness 7 knew Pupil A as he was an ex-pupil of the school. Pupil A was not a student of Witness 7 but Witness 7 spoke to Pupil A a few times when he was in the company of the Teacher. In Witness 7’s view, Pupil A was the most capable pupil at the school as he was independent and clever. However, Pupil A was also vulnerable. Witness 7 accepted that Pupil A [information redacted].

Witness 7 described the Teacher as being very protective of Pupil A. The Teacher considered the co-workers in Pupil A’s house to be over-protective of him and not promoting his independence. The Teacher was trying to promote Pupil A’s independence and worried about his transition from school to everyday life. The Teacher felt that there was no one to support Pupil A or promote his independence once he left school.

The Teacher became friends with Pupil A. Witness 7 spoke about an occasion when the witness, the Teacher and Witness 9 invited Pupil A to go swimming. On the journey there, Pupil A talked about wanting to see a girl. Pupil A indicated that she was 14. Pupil A was 18 at the time. All three members of staff made it clear that it was illegal to have anything sexual to do with a girl who was under age and that Pupil A could get himself into serious trouble. Pupil A seemed to understand that. Witness 7 stated that this conversation made him aware of how vulnerable Pupil A was. The Teacher, in particular, very much wanted to make Pupil A understand that any type of sexual contact with an underage girl was illegal. Witness 7 thought that it was wrong that teachers could not openly discuss such issues with pupils as it could lead pupils into serious trouble.

Witness 7 stated that both the Teacher and Pupil A worked together a lot. Pupil A would be open with the Teacher and tell him many things. Pupil A looked to the Teacher as a role model and as a person he could trust. The Teacher felt very strongly about his work and about being a role model. He had conviction in what he did and wanted to make a difference.

Witness 7 honestly believed that the Teacher was not aware that he was crossing any professional boundaries. Pupil A was very trusting of the Teacher and Witness 7’s view was that this should be seen as a positive. Witness 7’s observations of the relationship between the Teacher and Pupil A were that there was nothing morally questionable about it. The Teacher simply did not understand the boundaries of being both a Teacher and a friend. As far as Witness 7 was concerned, the Teacher did everything for Pupil A with the best of intentions to support Pupil A.

12. Witness 8

Witness 8 was employed as the HR Manager of School A. She had been employed by the school for the past 13 years.

Witness 8 did not attend the Full Hearing. Witness 8 had provided a written statement to GTCS.

Witness 8 spoke to the school having received the letter detailing Mother A’s concerns and to the investigation thereafter. Witness 8 also spoke to the disciplinary proceedings and the fact the Teacher was dismissed on 24 January 2017.

Witness 8 advised that the Teacher had first attended the school as a 1-year volunteer from 5 August 2005 until July 2006. He worked with young adults between 18 and 25 years of age. He returned to the school in August 2007. On 6 September 2013 he was employed as a special educational needs teacher who ran the metal workshop full time. He held a BA in Social Pedagogy from Aberdeen University in 2012.

Witness 8 advised that every new employee received induction training on the protection of vulnerable groups and that everyone was given annual refresher training. The school specifically told its employees what was, and what was not, appropriate behaviour towards pupils. The Teacher’s last refresher course was February 2016.

13. Witness 9

Witness 9 had been a co-worker at School A for over 3.5 years. He was a long term volunteer who worked and resided at the school. He was responsible for running the candle craft workshop.

Witness 9 did not attend the Full Hearing. Witness 9 had provided a written statement to GTCS.

Witness 9 knew the Teacher as he was a teacher at the school but they were also friends. Witness 9 spoke of an occasion when the Teacher, Pupil A, Witness 7 and Witness 9 had gone swimming in Location 2. En route, Pupil A had said something along the lines that he had met a girl and, during the conversation, the staff discovered that the girl was 14 years of age. Immediately, the three members of staff made it clear to Pupil A that he should end the relationship as the girl was only 14 years old and that it was illegal. They told Pupil A that he would get into trouble and that it was morally wrong. Witness 9 continually urged Pupil A to end the relationship and not to see the girl again. Witness 9 made it clear to Pupil A that it was not an appropriate relationship to have.

Witness 9 confirmed that the Teacher did not make inappropriate comments to Pupil A during the course of that conversation.

Witness 9’s view was that the Teacher cared for Pupil A. Witness 9 knew that the Teacher had gone to visit Pupil A in Location 2 and had gone out dancing in Location 1. Witness 9 stated that he would not do that with an ex-pupil. Witness 9 would feel funny, especially as it was someone whom he used to teach. Witness 9 stated he could not have a friendship with a pupil as his professional boundaries are quite clear. Witness 9 was of the view that the Teacher saw Pupil A as a friend and wanted to help him in any way that he could. Witness 9 observed that it was difficult for Pupil A to get support once he left School A. Witness 9 stated that the Teacher felt that he was in a moral dilemma and wanted to help individuals such as Pupil A who had no support on the outside.

14. Other Documentary Evidence

The Presenting Officer’s papers contained copies of the minutes of investigatory meetings with Witnesses 3, 4, 5 and 6, together with the minutes of the investigatory meeting with the Teacher on 11 January 2017. The hearing papers also contained a copy of the investigation report dated 13 January 2017. Further, the papers contained the notes of the disciplinary meeting conducted on 20 January 2017. The letter of dismissal from Colleague 1 to the Teacher dated 24 January 2017 was also enclosed.

The hearing papers also contained School A’s condition of service dated September 2015 and School A’s co-worker information handbook dated July 2015.

15. Teacher’s Evidence

There were various sources indicating the Teacher’s position in respect of the allegations. In chronological order, the first were the minutes of the investigatory meeting at School A with him on 11 January 2017. The Teacher, Witness 1, Witness 6 and Witness 8 were present. The meeting was for information to be gathered and then to be passed on to anyone conducting a disciplinary hearing in the future.

The interview followed on from receipt of the letter raising concerns from Mother A. The Teacher had been provided with a copy of that letter. Based on the minutes from the interview, the Teacher indicated that he would like to see the evidence upon which the letter was based before answering some questions. The Teacher was asked whether he had discussed his own sexuality with Pupil A. The Teacher responded that, at the school, it was generally known that he was bisexual. He had had [information redacted]. He had discussed his sexuality with Pupil A. However, it was known generally in the community.

The Teacher was also asked about sex education in the workshop. The Teacher indicated that this had been discussed with Pupil A. He had obtained leaflets from the medical practice and issued them. He told pupils where to get information. The pupils did not want to have the sex lessons in class. The Teacher also accepted giving out condoms. He could not remember if that was agreed as part of sex education. However, he got a package from the medical practice and the condoms were in that package. The Teacher had been trained in delivering sex education during his BA.

In relation to alleged texts and voicemail communication with Pupil A, the Teacher indicated during the interview that he would like to see the evidence. The Teacher did indicate that he, his family and friends had planned a trip to Location 2. The Teacher indicated that when the last day of term came, his professional relationship with Pupil A was done.  The Teacher indicated that, in relation to Pupil A, he thought someone needed to do something to support him, which he did by simply providing friendly, practical support for Pupil A. He had helped Pupil A move. The Teacher took some of Pupil A’s possessions as he had space in his car. The Teacher indicated that Pupil A had never had experience of friendships and did not know what drinking meant. Pupil A had no idea how a social life works. The Teacher indicated with Pupil A’s [information redacted] it was very that important Pupil A had support. The Teacher stated Pupil A was going to drink anyway. The Teacher knew that Pupil A’s [information redacted]. He said he had read about it and spoken to others in School A. He knew that Pupil A should not drink. The Teacher stated he had read about [information redacted]. There was no expert at the school. The Teacher described that it was always said that Pupil A could not drink alcohol. The Teacher thought, however, that this was neglecting Pupil A. The Teacher accepted having alcohol with Pupil A in Location 2. The Teacher stated that he had also wanted to give Pupil A experience of a social environment where drinking was happening, for his 18th birthday, but that was denied him.

The Teacher said that he has always been very empathetic. He always tried to be there for pupils. He stated that the boundaries were very clear. He described boundaries as certain things he could not do. The Teacher accepted going drinking and clubbing with Pupil A and that Pupil A stayed with the Teacher. The Teacher described it as integration.

The Teacher recalled Pupil A referring to a 14 year old girl. The Teacher stated one or two staff members knew about that. He stated that he and the staff members were very clear that Pupil A could not go any further with the relationship.

The interview had returned to the topic of alcohol. The Teacher was asked why he had disregarded the advice he had been given about Pupil A and bought alcohol when visiting Pupil A in Location 2. The Teacher responded that he took it to be because Pupil A was a pupil and, therefore, implying that the advice only applied while Pupil A remained a pupil at the school.

The Teacher was then asked how external organisations could interpret the concerns in the letter. It was highlighted that the concepts of “grooming” and “predatory” were referred to in the letter. The Teacher recognised that. He stated that he only had Pupil A’s best interests at heart and wanted to make sure he transitioned and was alright. The Teacher said he only wanted, and intended, to help youngsters.

At the end of the interview, the Teacher was asked whether he could work with guidance. He indicated that he did think he could work with guidance.

The second account from the Teacher was in a prepared statement which he signed on 16 January 2017. The statement contained information about the Teacher’s personal circumstances; his background, which included university; ongoing training and education; and voluntary and paid employment. The Teacher also referred to Pupil A within the statement. He strongly denied that his actions were predatory behaviour or amounted to “grooming” Pupil A. He had never tried nor wanted to have an inappropriate relationship with Pupil A. He denied that he committed any abuse of trust concerning Pupil A.

In the statement, the Teacher raised an issue of the fact that no concerns or criticisms had been raised by the school in relation to his behaviour towards Pupil A. The Teacher then went on to address particular allegations. The first allegation the Teacher discussed was that he had engaged in inappropriate conversations with Pupil A, in which he had discussed his own sexuality. The Teacher accepted that it was known to people at the school [information redacted]. His sexual orientation was [information redacted]. The Teacher stated that his sexual orientation was not a secret within the school, and he had never been told to keep it secret. He did not believe that it was a taboo topic. He accepted that it was likely that he would have said that he was [information redacted] in conversations with Pupil A. He could not clearly recall any occasion when he said that he was [information redacted]. However, he had always been open about this. He stated that the conversations where sexual orientation was discussed happened infrequently.

The Teacher also responded to allegations relating to text messaging and WhatsApp voice chat with Pupil A. He accepted that he did have conversations with Pupil A by way of text messages and WhatsApp after he left school and voice chat while he was a pupil at the school, but mainly after. He tried to be a friend/mentor to Pupil A. The Teacher indicated he would like to know the detail and see the evidence of particular messages before responding fully.

The Teacher then addressed the allegation that he had expressed inappropriate opinions and/or comments about colleagues. He stated that the school was a community where most of the people working there also lived in as a community with their families. He stated that most of the communication that included other members of staff happened after Pupil A had left the school. None of these communications was aimed at damaging or undermining anybody’s work. His intention was to provide Pupil A with an idea of how people will be relating to him in the future. He stated that he would like to know more detail about specific opinions or comments that were attributed to him and which were alleged to have been inappropriate before responding fully.

The Teacher then discussed the allegation that he had shared confidential information with Pupil A. The Teacher accepted that he shared his own opinions and personal feelings on certain subjects related to carers, as mentioned above. He accepted that he did tell Pupil A about a potential future student coming for a visit. However, he did not mention the name or details about the future student. The Teacher accepted that he should not have shared this information with Pupil A.

The Teacher then discussed the allegation that he had instructed Pupil A to keep communications with the Teacher secret. The Teacher accepted that a few times he had asked Pupil A not to share information which the Teacher had shared with him. He did not want Pupil A to share with other pupils who were still in the school, information that he had told Pupil A as a friend. However, when the Teacher asked Pupil A not to share it, he did tell Pupil A the reason, as he would have with any other friend.

The Teacher further indicated that all those involved with Pupil A were aware that the Teacher and Pupil A had exchanged communications and so that was not a secret. He also stated that friends and co-workers at the school also knew that he had stayed (with friends) at Pupil A’s house in Location 2 and that Pupil A had stayed at the Teacher’s house (with the Teacher’s girlfriend present) in Location 1.

The Teacher then went on to discuss the allegation that he had made inappropriate comments about Pupil A’s family and attempted to influence the decision making of Pupil A. The Teacher did not accept that he had made inappropriate comments about Pupil A’s family nor that he had tried to influence Pupil A not to go home. The Teacher accepted that he tried to encourage Pupil A to speak up for himself and to have confidence to communicate his thoughts. The Teacher’s position was that he had always encouraged Pupil A to try and find ways to connect to his family. As a teacher, he felt that he had a duty to educate and a duty towards Pupil A’s wellbeing. This included helping Pupil A to communicate with his mother. The Teacher’s position was that Mother A had misconstrued the Teacher’s support and had thereby accused him of making inappropriate comments about Pupil A’s family.

The Teacher responded to the allegation that he had made comments of a sexual nature. The Teacher indicated that he treated Pupil A as a friend. He saw a youngster with potential but who lacked understanding of many social rules. Pupil A was like any other 18 year old and wanted friends and a girlfriend and eventually to meet a sexual partner. Pupil A expressed very little understanding of relationships and that reflected on a few situations which he shared with the Teacher. The Teacher stated that his discussions with Pupil A might have contained comments of a sexual nature. He stated that he was trying to be supportive of a friend who had left school and who had limited understanding of these topics.

In response to the allegation of a text including the words “wank the whole day”, the Teacher stated it was not intended to encourage that type of behaviour and not the purpose for which Pupil A was to come to Location 1. The Teacher may have commented on Pupil A’s boredom sarcastically and made such a sexual joke but the Teacher was not suggesting that Pupil A should come to Location 1 and behave in this way. The Teacher reiterated that he was not trying to influence, de-sensitise or groom Pupil A. He believed that he was helping Pupil A understand things so that he could be safer when the time came.

The Teacher also discussed the allegation that he had made inappropriate comments to Pupil A regarding a 14 year old girl. The Teacher responded that he and Witness 7 and Witness 9 had spoken to Pupil A and had explained the situation very clearly. Pupil A insisted that the girl’s mother and father were aware of their relationship and that he had met her mother a few times. One of the occasions was when he was living in Location 1 and they had visited him with her little brother as well. The Teacher recommended that statements be taken from Witness 7 and Witness 9 about the conversations that were had on that occasion.

The Teacher discussed the allegation that he had been present when Pupil A had consumed alcohol in the knowledge that Pupil A [information redacted]. The Teacher stated that Pupil A had started talking about going out and having a drink before he turned 18 years old. The Teacher looked into [information redacted] and what the effects of drinking were. The Teacher thought it would be more appropriate for Pupil A to experience drinking first within a group in which he could feel safe rather than Pupil A going out for drinks himself. The Teacher indicated that he had spoken to Pupil A many times about the fact that he should not drink due to [information redacted]. The Teacher believed that Pupil A was going to drink at some point whether the Teacher was present or not. The Teacher wanted him to be healthy and responsible in life and he tried to help him achieve this.

The Teacher accepted that he stayed with Pupil A at Pupil A’s accommodation in Location 2. There were other persons present with the Teacher when he stayed over.

The Teacher also discussed the allegation that he had taken Pupil A on nights out in Location 1, during which Pupil A had consumed alcohol and had allowed Pupil A to stay in his accommodation. The Teacher indicated that, for some time, Pupil A had wanted to go on a night out and had regularly mentioned that to the Teacher. The Teacher confirmed that he allowed Pupil A to stay with him over a period of 3 days in August 2016. The Teacher also accepted that Pupil A had been drinking. The Teacher indicated that being involved in drinking was less than ideal for someone [information redacted]. However, the two situations were ones in which Pupil A would experience being in a social group of adults and learn how to interact in such a situation, as well as being able to exercise self-control in the case should he decide to drink.

In conclusion, the Teacher indicated that his approach to Pupil A was an exception to his practice as a teacher and carer for pupils at the school. It was in that context that they became friends and the Teacher was prepared to act as a mentor to him. His intentions to help Pupil A were not a secret to anyone at the school. He strongly denied the suggestion that he was grooming Pupil A.

The Teacher regretted using this approach with Pupil A as it had put the Teacher at risk of accusations such as those made by Mother A. However, he wished to reinforce the fact that, at all times, he had the best of intentions towards Pupil A’s development and growing independence. The Teacher accepted that he had made errors in judgement but he was able to recognise this and to learn from it. He realised that although his motives were entirely innocent, his actions could be misconstrued by others, including Mother A.

The Teacher indicated that he had a clean disciplinary record and good performance. He stated that, if given the opportunity, he would learn from the mistake and could guarantee it would not happen again.

The third account from the Teacher was contained in an email he sent to GTCS on 24 October 2018. In the email, the Teacher stated that he did not wish to take part in the GTCS process. The Teacher also highlighted points that he had made earlier at the investigatory meeting and in his statement in response to some of the allegations.

The Teacher also emailed GTCS on 20 March 2019. Within that email he asked for the hearing to be conducted in private, as referred to above. The Teacher also addressed some of the allegations. He referred to the fact that the transcripts of the texts that he had received demonstrated that the texts were not as Mother A had narrated in her letter of concerns. The Teacher repeated that his dealing with Pupil A was an exception to his practice. He was trying to be a mentor and was not grooming Pupil A. His motivation had been entirely innocent.

Presenting Officer’s Submissions on the Alleged Facts

The Presenting Officer made submissions on the evidence that had been led during the Full Hearing. She invited the Panel to find all of the witnesses led by her as credible and reliable. In relation to Mother A, the Presenting Officer submitted that she had given her evidence in a straightforward manner without exaggeration. The Presenting Officer also highlighted Mother A’s knowledge and understanding of [information redacted]. The Presenting Officer also invited the Panel to find the witnesses from School A as credible and reliable. The Presenting Officer helpfully identified and summarised the parts of the evidence that she relied upon in support of each allegation.

Findings on the Alleged Facts

The Panel considered all of the evidence and submissions on the evidence. In particular, the Panel considered the various accounts provided by the Teacher. Further, the Panel took the opportunity again to consider the recordings of the audio messages that had been presented to it. During the Panel’s consideration of the recordings of the audio messages, it discovered that not all of the recordings of the audio messages had, in fact, been lodged. That matter was brought to the attention of the Presenting Officer by the Servicing Officer and, following inquiry, the Presenting Officer asked to have the outstanding recordings of audio messages admitted as late evidence. As narrated above, the Panel allowed the admission of the late evidence and, thereafter, the Panel considered the recordings of all of the audio messages.

The Panel found Mother A to be a credible and reliable witness. She was articulate and knowledgeable about her son [information redacted]. She obviously cared greatly for him. Her evidence was measured without being overly emotional.

The Panel also found the witnesses from School A to have been credible and reliable. All of the witnesses had been careful and thoughtful in their responses to questioning. The Panel was also impressed by the professional approach of the witnesses.

Allegation 1(a)

The Teacher had accepted that he had discussed his own sexuality with Pupil A. Whilst his sexuality may have been discussed, those discussions did not amount to inappropriate conversation in the particular circumstances. The context of School A, especially the fact that it was a residential school with a community associated with it, was an important factor in the Panel’s deliberations. Further, the nature of the discussions that the Teacher had accepted having with Pupil A was also an important factor for the Panel. The discussions which the Teacher referred to in his responses were not improper or inappropriate in the circumstances.

The Panel found allegation 1 (a) not proved. 

 

Allegation 1(b)

The Panel was satisfied with the provenance of the text message transcript and audio message transcripts that were admitted as evidence. Mother A had referred to the recovery of the messages. Further, from the recording of the audio messages, Mother A and Witness 6 identified the Teacher’s voice. The transcript of the text messages was incomplete, in that some of the text messages were missing and it was noted on the transcript “media missing”. The media was not included in the transcript. However, when reading both the text message transcript and the audio message transcript together, there was a consistency between them and a chronology through them which promoted an understanding of the sequence of messages. Some of the “media missing” were obviously the voice messages. Further, the content of the messages was consistent with other evidence that the Panel had heard relating to persons, locations and events.

During the Panel’s assessment of the evidence, and in particular the assessment of the audio recordings and the transcript of the audio recordings, the Panel noted that there had been errors in transcription. The Panel also noted that secondary evidence of what was said in text or audio messages, for example the letter of concern or Mother A’s account, was inconsistent with the primary and best evidence contained in the actual recordings and text transcripts produced. As narrated below, where there was an inconsistency between the primary and secondary evidence, the Panel preferred the primary evidence.

The Panel required to consider different components of this allegation. The first was narrated in the allegation as follows:-

Express inappropriate opinions and make comments about other colleagues; specifically mentioning other staff members he does not get on with or he does not like working with;

The transcript of text messages contained a message which related to an audio message which the Panel listened to and which had also been transcribed. The Teacher admitted in his own statement that he had conducted himself in this way. The Panel was satisfied that it had been inappropriate to be involved in a discussion of this nature with a recent pupil.

In order to assist an understanding of the Panel’s findings in relation to allegation 1(b), the Panel proposed to identify, separately, the sub paragraphs of the allegation in order to ensure that the Panel’s decision making was clear. The Panel proposed to identify this particular paragraph of the allegation as allegation 1(b)(i).

The next sub paragraph of allegation 1(b) stated:-

Share confidential information with Pupil A, specifically about a relationship regarding another co-worker and the Teacher cautions Pupil A not to tell anyone.

A particular audio message related to this part of the allegation. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had shared confidential information with Pupil A about a relationship regarding another co-worker. However, the Panel was not satisfied that the Teacher had cautioned Pupil A not to tell anyone in relation to the sharing of information. The Panel considered the recording of the audio message in full and was not satisfied that the Teacher had conducted himself in that particular way. Accordingly, the Panel proposed to amend the allegation by deletion of the words “and the Teacher cautions Pupil A not to tell anyone”. Further, the Panel proposed to identify this particular part of the allegation as allegation 1(b)(ii). 

The next part of the allegation was worded as follows:-

Instruct Pupil A to keep communications with him a secret, specifically, a long voice chat in which the Teacher refers to having told private things that he should not have shared with Pupil A: “The thing is most of the time people are discrete; I tell you things as my friend but I don’t tell these things to others. You need to remember that most people before treated you as a pupil therefore they didn’t share these things with you because it is wrong. All of these things that I shouldn’t have shared with you. I just did because we were friends. But I think, you should just consider some of these things and that one of those is that it is really important for you to be really careful.”  Further texts stating “Nobody else hearing these conversations”.

Again, the Panel considered the recording of the audio message that had been transcribed in the hearing papers. The Panel noted that the transcription of the audio message was inaccurate within the hearing papers. When that audio message had been transposed into the body of the allegation there had been further mistakes made. The Teacher had denied this particular part of the allegation.

The Panel was not satisfied that the Teacher had conducted himself in the manner contended by this part of the allegation. In order that the Panel’s decision in relation to the allegation could be understood, the Panel proposed to make this particular part of the allegation become allegation 1(b)(iii). 

The next part of the allegation was lengthy, but, in short, contended that the Teacher had made inappropriate comments to Pupil A about Pupil A’s family and had attempted to influence the decision-making of Pupil A. 

As referred to above, the Panel had the benefit of the primary evidence of the text messages and audio messages in the form of a transcript of the text messages and the recordings of the audio messages. Within her statement to the GTCS and in her evidence at the Full Hearing, Mother A had construed the meaning of messages in a certain way. In relation to the particular messages which were relied upon in support of this part of the allegation, the Panel was not satisfied that the content, tone and sense of the messages were necessarily pejorative. Accordingly, the Panel was not satisfied that the Teacher had conducted himself in the manner suggested by this part of the allegation. In order to allow the Panel’s decision on this part of the allegation to be understood, the Panel proposed to have this part of the allegation read as allegation 1(b)(iv).

The next part of the allegation was, again, detailed and, in short, referred to the Teacher allegedly making comments of a sexual nature to Pupil A. Again, the Panel had the benefit of considering the primary evidence in relation to the text and audio messages. Having considered the primary evidence, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had made comments of a sexual nature. The Panel was also satisfied that the Teacher had made some of the particular comments referred to in that part of the allegation. However, the Panel was not satisfied that all of the particular detail in the allegation was supported by the primary evidence. Accordingly, the Panel proposed to amend this particular part of the allegation in order that only those particular messages supported by the primary evidence which were of a sexual nature would be referred to. Further, in order to allow the Panel’s decision to be easily understood the Panel proposed that this part of the allegation read as allegation 1(b)(v). The amendments to the detail of the allegation which the Panel proposed to make were as follows:-

  1. To delete “Reference and texts to the Teacher talking about wanting to stalk a girl on Pupil A’s Facebook. A text conversation where there is reference to one of the Teacher’s previous boyfriends as in his previous partner not just a friend who is a boy”
  2. To make adjustments to the following sentence in the allegation:-

    A text conversation encouraging Pupil A to go back to Location 1 “to work and have a nice time here” and “to wank the whole day” so that the sentence reads “Text conversations referring to Pupil A masturbating.”

  3. To delete “Text from the Teacher to Pupil A about being on “Tinder” and perhaps he should join also. Asking Pupil A if he is going to meet a girl from Tinder and generally encouraging Pupil A to be promiscuous.”

The next part of the allegation read as follows:-

“Make inappropriate comments to Pupil A about his behaviour towards to a fourteen year old girl, specifically the Teacher sends texts to suggest and enquire whether Pupil A may have “hooked up” with a fourteen year old girl and asking Pupil A “If anything happened”.”

The Panel found that the conversation between the Teacher and Pupil A was inappropriate given the time of day that the texts were sent and the nature of their previous relationship. However, the Panel was not satisfied that the comments were inappropriate in the sense of being sexually suggestive as contended by the allegation. The Panel also reflected upon the evidence of the Teacher and Witness 7 and Witness 9 about a discussion they had had with Pupil A around Pupil A’s relationship with a fourteen year old girl. It was clear from that evidence that the Teacher, along with those other witnesses, had given Pupil A correct advice. That evidence provided a context to the messages referred to in this part of the allegation. Accordingly, the Panel was not satisfied that the Teacher had conducted himself in the manner contended by this part of the allegation. In order to allow the Panel’s decision-making to be easily understood, the Panel proposed to have this part of the allegation read as allegation 1(b)(vi).

Allegation 2(a)

The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher was aware that Pupil A had [information redacted]. The Teacher confirmed his knowledge of that at the investigatory interview on 11 January 2017 and within his statement provided to GTCS. Witness 5 confirmed she had attended a review meeting relating to Pupil A when a Play Therapist attended to discuss and provide information about [information redacted]. The Panel was also satisfied that a common feature of [information redacted] is impulsiveness and not being able to regulate one’s own behaviour. The Panel was also satisfied that there is a predisposition of a person with [information redacted] to not being able to deal with alcohol. Evidence in relation to these features of the allegation had been referred to by Mother A, the Educational Psychologist, and staff members at School A and was also recognised by the Teacher in his responses. The Teacher would also have been provided with a copy of the Staff Handbook. The Teacher had confirmed in his responses to the allegations that he was aware of the issues of [information redacted] and alcohol use, having researched the topic. Various witnesses who were employed at School A at the time spoke about their conversations with the Teacher regarding his involvement with Pupil A and alcohol. In particular, on the occasion of Pupil A’s 18th birthday in [information redacted] and after the [information redacted], the Teacher had planned a party with Pupil A where alcohol was to be consumed. The Teacher’s colleagues had told him that such a party with alcohol would not be permitted. 

The Panel was also satisfied that the Teacher was present in Location 2 in July 2016 and Location 1 in August 2016 when Pupil A consumed alcohol. The Teacher accepted those facts during the investigatory interview and in his response to GTCS. Various witnesses also spoke to those aspects of the allegation.

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

Allegation 2(b)

The Teacher had admitted this conduct during the investigatory interview, and in his response to GTCS, dated 16 January 2017 referred to above. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 2(b) proved. 

Allegation 2(c)

 The Teacher had admitted this conduct during the investigatory interview, and in his response to GTCS, dated 16 January 2017 referred to above. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 2(c) proved.

Allegation 3

The Panel noted the evidence of a number of witnesses who raised the issue that the Teacher had discussed sexual matters with Pupil A in the metal workshop. Some witnesses had escalated their concerns to their Line Manager, these being that the Teacher had not received any training or support in relation to that topic. The discussions did not take place in the context of the Curriculum for Excellence, which covered the topic as would be expected. Further, no parental consent had been sought. The Teacher had admitted that he had discussed sexual matters with Pupil A. However, the Panel also noted what was said by Witness 3 regarding an internal review meeting at which the topic of the provision of sex education to Pupil A was raised and that the Teacher was identified as the best person to discuss sex education with Pupil A. That witness indicated that no further action was taken as they could not identify an appropriate person to support the Teacher in the delivery. However, it was noted at the time that Pupil A was interested in such topics and that it would be important for him to have sex education lessons. The Panel also had regard to the evidence of a number of witnesses from the school to the effect that the workshop was not an appropriate place for sex education to be delivered, as opposed to their having been any other issue with the Teacher giving Pupil A sex education.

The Panel found allegation 3 not proved.

Allegation 4

The Panel considered that the allegation was a catch all allegation under which the other allegations could fall. The Panel had heard evidence and read statements of various witnesses who stated that the Teacher had not maintained appropriate professional boundaries with Pupil A, both whilst Pupil A was a pupil and when he was an ex pupil. Whilst Pupil A was a pupil, the Teacher had spent time with him when the Teacher was not on duty, in relation to a number of different social activities. The Panel also noted the evidence of the Teacher’s colleagues regarding disagreements they had had with the Teacher about the best way to support Pupil A. The other allegations largely covered the time period when Pupil A was an ex-pupil.

In his response to GTCS, the Teacher had indicated that he regretted his approach with Pupil A as it had put himself at risk of accusations such as those made by Mother A. The Teacher indicated that he had simply treated Pupil A as one of his friends. The evidence of the Teacher’s colleagues supported that. The Teacher wished to reinforce the fact that, at all times, he had had the best of intentions towards Pupil A’s development and independence. The Teacher indicated that where he had made errors in judgement, he was willing to recognise this and to learn from it.

The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had not maintained appropriate professional boundaries with Pupil A, neither when he was pupil nor when he was a former pupil.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 4 proved.

Prior to making its findings in fact, the Panel invited the Presenting Officer to make submissions in relation to the Panel’s proposed amendments to allegation 1(b), as narrated above. The Presenting Officer did not oppose the proposed amendments. Prior to making the proposed amendments, the Panel had regard to advice from the legal assessor and considered the terms of Rule 2.8.4. In relation to the numbering of particular paragraphs of allegation 1(b), the Panel considered the amendments were necessary in order that the Panel’s decision on individual parts of the allegation could be easily understood. The other amendments proposed related to the detail of the allegation. They were proposed following the Panel’s assessment of the primary evidence and largely deleted parts of the allegation that, in the Panel’s view, were not supported by the evidence. Accordingly, the Panel made the amendments proposed.

Thereafter, the Panel made the following findings in relation to the allegations as amended:-

The Panel found allegation 1(a) not proved.
The Panel found allegation 1(b)(i) proved.
The Panel found allegation 1(b)(ii) proved.
The Panel found allegation 1(b)(iii) not proved.
The Panel found allegation 1(b)(iv) not proved.
The Panel found allegation 1(b)(v) proved.
The Panel found allegation 1(b)(vi) not proved.
The Panel found allegation 2(a) proved.
The Panel found allegation 2(b) proved.
The Panel found allegation 2(c) proved.
The Panel found allegation 3 not proved.
The Panel found allegation 4 proved.

The Panel’s decision on the facts was reached near to the conclusion of the five days which had originally been assigned for the Full Hearing. However, prior to considering Stage 2, the Panel indicated to the Servicing Officer that it wished its decision on the facts to be sent to the Teacher; that he be advised of the adjourned date of the Full Hearing; and that he be encouraged to attend or make representations in relation to Stage 2.

When the Panel reconvened for day six of the Full Hearing on 7 May 2019, the Teacher was not present. The Teacher had sent an email to the Servicing Officer on 11 April 2019. That email was passed to the Presenting Officer and to the Panel for their consideration.

The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to proceed to Stage 2 of the Full Hearing in the absence of the Teacher. Part of the reasoning behind the adjournment of the Full Hearing had been to encourage the Teacher’s attendance or participation at Stage 2. He had responded by email. The tenor of the email was that the Teacher would be neither attending nor participating beyond the terms of his email. Accordingly, the Panel decided to proceed to Stage 2 in the absence of the Teacher.

Findings on Fitness to Teach

Given that the Panel found that some of the allegations were proved, the Panel invited the Presenting Officer to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

The Presenting Officer submitted that the allegations found proved by the Panel represented conduct and actions by the Teacher which fell significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and were fundamentally incompatible with being a registered teacher.

Within his earlier responses and in his email dated 11 April 2019, the Teacher had touched upon his fitness to teach. The Panel considered all of the accounts provided by the Teacher. In his most recent email, the Teacher had repeated earlier comments that his approach to Pupil A was an exception to his practice as a teacher and carer for pupils. He regretted trying to help Pupil A when he left school as it had put himself at risk of accusations. He wished to reinforce that at all times he had had the best of intentions towards Pupil A’s development and independence. He had treated him as one of his friends. He believed that Pupil A deserved a chance to succeed in life and that he knew how he could help him. The Teacher indicated that where he had made errors in judgement, he was willing to recognise this and to learn from it. The Teacher submitted that he was not unfit to teach. He stated that this was an isolated situation in which he had been misinformed and ended up forming a friendship that he should not have. The Teacher highlighted his clean disciplinary record and good performance.

The Panel considered all of the evidence and submissions made to it in relation to fitness to teach. In relation to allegations 1(b)(i) and 1(b)(ii), the Panel found that the conduct contravened Parts 1.2, 1.4, 1.6 and 2.3 of the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012 (COPAC). The conduct represented a breach of trust towards colleagues and a lack of appreciation of his relationship with Pupil A. The conduct undermined the school and staff ethos in the eyes of the pupil, especially in the context of a school which was, in part, residential and which dealt with pupils with additional support needs. The Panel considered that this was very serious conduct.

In relation to allegation 1(b)(v), the Panel found the conduct contravened Parts 1.2, 1.4, 1.6 and 2.3 of COPAC. It was not appropriate to use sexually explicit language with a former pupil. The conduct validates a pupil’s view that discussion of that nature with a teacher is appropriate. The conduct crossed the boundary of an appropriate relationship.

Further, this allegation was the one that largely informed Mother A’s perception that the Teacher’s conduct was an example of a sexual motivation towards Pupil A.  It had led Mother A to report concerns to the Educational Psychologist, who had then transmitted Mother A’s concerns and her own professional concerns directly to School A. The additional concern here was due to Pupil A’s own vulnerabilities. The Panel’s view was that this was very serious conduct.

In relation to allegation 2, the Panel found the conduct contravened Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 2.3 of COPAC. The conduct crossed professional boundaries and knowingly put Pupil A at risk, disregarding professional advice and the welfare of Pupil A. The Panel found this to be very serious conduct.

The Teacher demonstrated some insight in his email response dated 11 April 2019, stating that he should not have been involved in some of his activities with Pupil A. However, the Teacher did not refer to the issue of alcohol. Accordingly, the insight was limited. That was further demonstrated by the Teacher’s expression of regret, focusing upon his apparent lack of understanding that he should not have treated Pupil A as a friend. Further, the Teacher failed to identify that the conduct found proved is broader than simply being in contact with a former pupil. He encapsulated the mischief of the allegation as him having had contact with a former pupil.

In relation to allegation 4, the Panel found that the conduct which established this umbrella allegation focused upon the failure to maintain professional boundaries. This conduct was very serious for all of the reasons referred to above.

The Panel considered which of the shortfalls identified by the conduct were remediable. The Panel was able to identify that the conduct transgressed professional boundaries. The Teacher was not acting as a role model to protect Pupil A. The Teacher exposed both himself and Pupil A to risk. The Teacher was dismissive of parental concerns and dismissive of the concerns of colleagues. He had been arrogant and had failed to follow advice, guidance and instruction. The Teacher had failed to demonstrate an ability to work with a team, work collegiately with colleagues and had failed to engage in professional dialogue with colleagues.

The Panel found that the conduct was very serious. Although it was the first occasion that the Teacher had behaved in this manner in relation to a pupil or former pupil, the conduct regarding Pupil A was sustained and planned. The Teacher had made limited admissions in relation to the allegations. His own explanation demonstrated limited insight into the nature and consequences of his conduct. His explanation for the conduct acknowledged only that the conduct was improper, as he had befriended Pupil A and had involved himself in activities with Pupil A at various places.

The Panel was not satisfied that the shortfalls identified had been remediated. That was, in large part, due to the fact that there had not been a full acceptance by the Teacher of inappropriateness in relation to the established conduct. He had made some concessions. However, the Teacher had not demonstrated any understanding of the mischief that professional boundaries are designed to prevent. He had not explained the basis of concessions that he had made. The Teacher had not demonstrated any remorse. His acceptance of responsibility was, in the Panel’s view, superficial and not rooted in any understanding of the reasons why his conduct fell below the standards expected of a registered teacher.

Further, the Panel was not satisfied that there would be no repetition of the conduct contained within the allegations. The Panel formed this view on the basis of the nature of the conduct, the repetition of the conduct, the fact that the input of professional colleagues during the time period referred to in the allegations had no corrective action upon the approach of the Teacher and the lack of insight demonstrated by the Teacher’s response to GTCS. The Panel accepted evidence to the effect that the Teacher was arrogant and reluctant to accept the guidance and instruction of colleagues. The Panel was concerned that this suggested a disposition that the Teacher is resistant to self-reflection and remediation. Additionally, the Teacher’s correspondence with GTCS suggested that the process had caused no significant reflection, remorse or remediation on his part.

For all of the above reasons, the Panel found that the Teacher’s conduct had fallen significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that he is therefore unfit to teach.

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’s name be removed from the Register.

Once the Teacher’s name has been removed from the Register, his name remains so removed unless and until an application for re-registration is made by him 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 due to the seriousness of the conduct.

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’s name will remain on the Register until the appeal period has expired and any appeal lodged within that period has been determined.