The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

21 November 2017

 Teacher  Victor Moncrieff
Registration Number 901060
 Registration category  Secondary - Computing
 Panel  Tony Bragg, Lynda Dalziel, Karen Greaves
 Legal Assessor  Robert Frazer
 Servicing Officer  Gillian Sim

Any reference in this decision to:

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

Notification of meeting

The Panel had before it a copy of the notice 16 August 2017. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had been provided with notice of the meeting in accordance with rules 1.6 and 2.3.1. Accordingly, the Panel proceeded to consider the case.

Allegation

  1. On or about Wednesday 3 May 2017 whilst employed by South Lanarkshire Council at Lanark Grammar School you did make inappropriate comments to an S1 class, preceding the comments with the instruction to the class not to tell their parents.

Information available to the panel:

  1. Case Investigation Form dated 18 May 2017
  2. Notice of Referral dated 22 May 2017
  3. Referral Form dated 8 May 2017
  4. Additional information email dated 3 July 2017
  5. Signed statement of witness A
  6. Signed statement of witness B
  7. Signed statement of witness C
  8. Notification of New Rules and Panel Consideration Meeting dated 16 August 2017
  9. Response to Notice of Referral dated 23 May 2017
  10. Further response dated 27 May 2017
  11. Further response dated 29 May 2017
  12. Response to additional information dated 13 July 2017
  13. Further response dated 31 July 2017

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

None received

Teacher’s response

  1. The Teacher admitted the allegation and apologises for any inadvertent offence caused.
  2. The Teacher denies his fitness to teach is impaired.

Decision

The Panel considered all of the information available to it as described above. The Panel had a range of options open to it, as set out at rule 2.3.2 (a) to (f). The Panel had regard to the factors set out in the GTCS Panel Consideration Practice Statement. The matter amounts to relevant conduct and there is, on the face of it, a real prospect of a finding that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired. The Panel considered the following factors relevant in that the condct alleged relates to:

- Abuse of a position of trust
- Other serious activities which cause harm and affect public confidence

The Panel considered the relevant parts of COPAC to be:

- Part 1 – Professionalism and maintain trust in the profession
- Part 2 – Professional responsibilities towards pupils
- Part 5 - Equality and Diversity

  • The matter is not over 5 years of age
  • The matter has not already been considered
  • The matter is not frivolous or vexatious
  • The allegation has not been made anonymously or by a person who has failed to co-operate with the investigation

The Panel did not consider it appropriate to dismiss the case on the basis of an insufficiency of evidence as provided for by rule 3.2.2. (b), at this stage.

Fitness to Teach

The Panel had regard to all the evidence presented, including the numerous responses from the Teacher. He was, at the time, a supply teacher working at the school. The referral had been made following the Teacher making an inappropriate joke of a sexual and sexist nature to a mixed class of S1 pupils during a Science lesson. It was compounded by the Teacher explicity asking the pupils to not tell their parents what he had said. The matter was witnessed by a support teacher who was present in the classroom at the time. The referral was made by Witness A, whose daughter was in the class and told him what was said by the Teacher. The matter was initially reported to the Head Teacher, and referred by him onto the local authority. As a result of the incident the school requested the Teacher’s name be removed from its supply list.

Having considered the allegation, the evidence, the Teacher’s admission and other responses the Panel determined that the matter was capable of being dealt with in accordance with rule 2.3.2 (e), namely by way of disposal with a Consent Order. It therefore went on to consider whether his fitness to teach is impaired.

The Panel noted that whilst the Teacher admitted the allegation and had provided a written apology he had not provided any reassurances about his future conduct. In his responses the Teacher attempted to minimise any blame for his conduct and appeared to have little insight into how his comments were perceived.

The Panel considered that at the time of the incident, the behaviour was relevant conduct which amounted to misconduct and was a clear breach of the various part of COPAC as specified above. However, whilst the behaviour was inappropriate and had caused offence to some pupils and the support teacher the Panel did not consider that the conduct fell significantly short of the standards expected of a teacher as to be unfit to teach The Panel therefore went on to consider if the the Teacher’s fitness to practise is impaired.

The Panel had regard to the approach taken in PSA v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC 927 and considered that the misconduct had caused offence to some pupils and therefore had the potential to cause harm. By acting as he did the Panel considered that the Teacher had brought the profession into disrepute.

The Panel then considered if the Teacher was currently impaired. It had regard to the approach set out in Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581 (Admin) and considered that whilst the conduct was remediable and had not been repeated it was not satisfied by the Teacher’s responses which suggested he did not appreciate the seriousness of the offence he caused. Whilst he had apologised he did not demonstrate that he had proper insight or understanding into his actions. In particular the Panel considered that the apology given was half-hearted and was not backed up by an expression of genuine regret or remorse. In these circumstances the Panel was not satisfied that the misconduct had been remedied and was unlilkely to recur. The Panel therefore concluded that the Teacher’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

Disposal

Having determined that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired the Panel then considered the sanction options available to it. It had regard to the Indicative Outcomes Guidance and in particular Part B. It looked at the various options in ascending order of severity, starting with the least restrictive. It was mindful that the purpose of any sanction is to protect pupils and public and not to be punitive, although it may have that effect.

The Panel firstly noted that the following parts of COPAC had been breached, namely:

Part 1.4 (uphold standards of professional and personal conduct), 1.6 (maintain awareness of a teacher as a role model); Part 2.3 (aim to be a positive role model to pupils); Part 3.1 (maintain and develop professional practice, including professional values); Part 5.1 (engage and work with pupils and colleagues in an open, inclusive and respectful way), 5.2 (help pupils with different views and perspectives and develop personal relationships); 5.3 (recognise you are a role model and be aware of the impact of intolerant or prejudice upon your fitness as a teacher and your fitness to teach)

Secondly, the Panel had regard to the age of the Teacher (76 years) and the fact that he had not been the subject of previous concerns surrounding his practice in a long and unblemished career. It considered that whilst the Teacher did not appear to appreciate the seriousness of the offence his remarks caused he intended it to be taken as a joke and was not done maliciously.

Whilst the remarks were inappropriate and caused offence the Panel considered that there was no lasting harm caused to pupils. In these circumstances the Panel considered that the appropriate and proportionate sanction was a Reprimand with Consent Order which would reflect the seriousness of the behaviour and was sufficient to mark it as unacceptable. It was also sufficient to protect pupils and the public as well as addressing the wider public interest in maintaining public confidence in the profession and GTCS as the regulator.

Given the Teacher’s previous good record the Panel considered that the length of the Order should be for a period of 6 months which will be sufficient to reflect the seriousness of the behaviour whilst addressing the other protective measures indicated above.