The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

Full Hearing

Full Hearing


20 and 21 March, 17, 19, 20, 23 and 24 April 2018

PUBLIC VERSION

Teacher XXXXXX
Registration number XXXXXX
Registration category Primary
Panel John Kilpatrick (Convener), Maureen Anderson and Arthur Stewart
Legal Assessor Robert Frazer
Servicing Officer Vivien Whyte
Presenting Officer Scott Flannigan, Anderson Strathern LLP
Teacher’s representative Alastair Milne, Balfour & Manson LLP

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 Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them;
  • the “Register” means the GTCS register of teachers
  • Preliminary issues

    1. Redactions to Presenting Officer’s papers
      Mr Milne made an application to redact part of the Presenting Officer’s hearing papers at pages 88 – 89. This was not opposed by Mr Flannigan. The redactions related to other matters which did not form part of the allegations and were therefore not relevant to them. In the circumstances, the Panel agreed it was fair and appropriate to agree to the application.
    2. Teacher’s late paper
      Mr Milne applied to allow a document, namely a letter dated 16 March 2018 from the Head Teacher of the Teacher’s current school, to be received late. The application was not opposed by Mr Flannigan. Having regard to Rule 1.7.17 the Panel determined that it was relevant to the Teacher’s case and therefore fair to allow it to be admitted, albeit late. It accordingly granted the application.

    Allegation

    The following allegation was considered at the hearing:

    1. 1. XXXXXXX XX XXXXXX XXXXX XXX X XXXXX XXXX, XXXX XXXXXX XX XXXXX XXXX XXXXXXXX XX XXXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX XXX XXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXX, XXXXXX XXX while on a school residential trip XX XXXXXXXX, XXXXXX you did act in an inappropriate way in that you did:
    1. Tickle male pupils A, B and/or [amendments] C (all P7) while they were on or in their bunk beds and wearing pyjamas;
    2. XX XXXXX XX XXXXX XXXX instruct Pupil B to go alone with you into the shower room, Pupil B having already showered at that time and you did:
      1. Instruct Pupil B to remove his tracksuit bottoms even when advised by Pupil B that he was not wearing any underpants;
      2. Instruct Pupil B to put on his dirty waterproof jacket and underpants;
      3. Wash Pupil B’s jacket while he was still wearing it with just his underpants on;
    3. XX XX XXXXXX XX XXXXX XXXX instruct Pupil A to go with you alone into the shower room and once he was inside the shower room you did:
      1. Shut the door so that you were alone in the shower room with pupil A;
      2. Instruct Pupil A to remove all of his clothing, including his underpants and then put his waterproofs back on;
      3. Wash Pupil A’s waterproofs while he was still wearing them and when he had no underpants on

      And as a result of your actions Pupils A and B felt distressed, frightened and uncomfortable

    4. XXXXX X XXXX XXX XXXXX XXXXXXXX XX XXXXXX XXXX XXXXXXX XX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXX, XXXXXX XXX while on a school residential trip XX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXX, you did take a photograph of a pupil, whilst he was in bed in a state of undress, without his consent and when there was no educational purpose for the photograph.
    5. And in light of the above it is alleged that your fitness to teach is impaired and that you are unfit to teach as a result of breaching the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012, parts 1.2 and 2.4 [amendment]

      Teacher’s admissions

      At the outset of the hearing, the Teacher provided the Panel with a document outlining his response to the allegations. In relation to allegation 1.a. the Teacher admitted tickling Pupil C only. In relation to allegation 1.b.ii the Teacher admitted suggesting to Pupil B that he put on his dirty waterproof jacket but, over something he had already worn. In relation to allegation 1.c.iii the Teacher admitted washing Pupil A’s waterproofs whilst Pupil A was wearing them. In relation to allegation 1.d the Teacher admitted taking a photo of a pupil (Pupil D) without his consent but denied doing so whilst the pupil was in a state of undress.

      The Teacher denied all other parts and the remaining allegations in their entirety. The Teacher denied that his fitness to teach is impaired and that he is unfit to teach.

      Hearing papers

      In accordance with Rule 1.7.17, the Panel admitted all of the documents and statements lodged the Presenting Officer and the Teacher, as well as the documents lodged by the Servicing Officer regarding notice of the hearing and a previous Procedural Hearing decision in this case.

      Application to amend

      At the conclusion of his case, Mr Flannigan made an application to amend the allegations in terms of Rule 2.8.4. Firstly, in relation to allegation 1.a he proposed deleting reference to Pupil B and inserting the word “or” after the word “and” where it appeared in the first line before the letter “C”. Secondly, at the end of the allegations he proposed to add the following:

      “And in light of the above it is alleged that your fitness to teach is impaired and that you are unfit to teach as a result of breaching the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012, parts 1.2 and 2.4”.

      Mr Flannigan submitted that such amendments did not alter the nature of the allegations and, having regard to the merits of the case were fair and could be made without injustice. Mr Milne did not oppose the application. The Panel determined that the proposed amendments did not cause injustice and were fair to both parties. The evidence in relation to allegation 1.a did not support any reference to Pupil B being tickled. The proposed amendment at the end of the allegations simply cured what was an error in failing to make reference to impairment of fitness to teach and the relevant parts of the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct (COPAC). Accordingly, the Panel agreed to grant the application in its entirety.

      Findings of fact

      The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and submissions made by the parties in making its findings of fact on the allegations.

      The Panel had in mind that the burden of proof rested on the Presenting Officer and that the standard of proof required is that used in civil proceedings, namely the balance of probabilities. It took account of the legal advice provided.

      The Panel considered the impression created by each of the witnesses who gave evidence. It firstly considered that Mothers A and B clearly believed what was reported to them by Pupils A and B. However, their hearsay evidence had to be treated carefully and compared with what Pupils A and B had said to others involved in the investigations and the impression they had given to those professionals at that time. The Panel considered that it would have been assisted by hearing direct evidence from Pupils A and B, which would have given it the opportunity to clarify inconsistencies between the mothers’ evidence of what the pupils had told them and the notes of interviews with the pupils.

      The Panel considered that the other witnesses who gave evidence for the Presenting Officer were credible and reliable in what they said but only Excursion Teacher 1 was a direct witness and that was limited to allegation 1.d alone. The remaining witnesses gave evidence of their involvement after the incidents and their opinions based on their professional knowledge.

      The Panel considered the Teacher to be largely credible and reliable in his evidence, although it considered there were aspects where his explanations for some of his actions were somewhat vague and limited.

      In relation to the other witnesses for the Teacher, the Panel considered that they were, again, not direct witnesses to the facts but were able to give credible and reliable evidence on the Teacher’s professional and personal abilities, both before and after the dates of the allegations themselves.

      Allegation 1.a (as amended) – Proved for Pupil C only (by admission)

      In considering this allegation, the Panel had particular regard to the evidence of Mother A, the interviews with Pupils A, B and C and the Teacher’s evidence.

      Firstly, the Panel noted that, at the outset of the hearing, the Teacher admitted momentarily tickling Pupil C under the chin/top of his chest through the duvet in front of the other pupils. He did this because Pupil C was being more talkative than normal. Therefore, the Panel found this part of the allegation proved by reason of the Teacher’s admission. It noted that Mother C, in her written interview with a Police officer on XX XXX XXXX, stated that she did not believe the Teacher had done anything wrong and had no concerns about his conduct.

      In relation to Pupil A, the Panel noted that the evidence in support of this part of the allegation came from Mother A. In paragraph 6 of her written statement, she stated that “Pupil A told me that when they were on their bunks in the dormitory [the Teacher] was tickling the boys whilst they were in their pyjamas.” The statement contained no other reference to tickling. The Panel noted that this passage contrasted with the information recorded in the two interviews of Pupil A with the Social Worker and Police. The first of these was on X XXXX XXXX when, in the ICS (Social Worker) interview, Pupil A was recorded as saying the Teacher “attempted to tickle him but he was on the top bunk”. In the Police interview on X XXX XXXX it is recorded, “Pupil A talked of the Teacher tickling his friend pupil C and pupil B. He described how this was done in a fun way asking them whilst they played if they were ticklish.” The Panel noted that in neither interview did Pupil A state he had been tickled.

      Having considered the above, the Panel preferred the evidence given and recorded by Pupil A in his interviews. They considered that he would have been honest in his answers and that his remarks were noted at the time. The Panel considered his comments to Mother A were made in the generic sense of the pupils (“we”) being tickled and nothing more specific was said by Pupil A to her about it.

      In all the circumstances, the Panel was not satisfied that on the balance of probabilities this part of the allegation was proved and accordingly, found it not proved.

      Allegation 1.b.i. – Not proved

      The evidence in support of this allegation came from Mother B, together with the interviews of Pupils A and B. The Teacher denied instructing Pupil B to remove his tracksuit bottoms and maintained he was not advised by Pupil B that he was not wearing underpants.

      Mother B, in her statement and oral evidence, stated that Pupil B had told her that he had showered himself and put his tracksuit bottoms on without underpants before going back to his dormitory. She stated that the Teacher was in the room and told Pupil B to, “Put your waterproof on and slip your tracksuit bottoms off and we’ll wash the jacket in the shower”. She stated that Pupil B told him that he did not have anything on under his tracksuit bottoms and the Teacher had said, “Just put your underpants on underneath your jacket.”

      The Panel had regard to the interviews conducted with Pupil B on X XXXX XXXX and X XXX XXXX. In the interview notes of X XXXXX XXXX with ICS (Social Worker), Pupil B is recorded as saying that he was asked to shower off his waterproofs and believed this occurred on the same night as Pupil A did the same. The note records Pupil B as saying that he put his waterproof top and old pants, that he had been wearing, back on. The Teacher held the shower and washed the waterproofs down.

      In his interview with the Police and Social Worker on X XXX XXXX it is recorded that; “The subject disclosed how the Teacher told him to go into the shower wearing only his waterproof coat, which was dirty, and his underpants so that he (the Teacher) could hose him down and clean his waterproofs.”

      The Panel noted that, in both interviews, Pupil B did not state that he had been instructed by the Teacher to remove his tracksuit bottoms nor was there any mention of Pupil B advising the Teacher that he was not wearing underpants.

      The Panel considered that these passages of recorded notes of interviews with Pupil B contrasted with the hearsay evidence of Mother B. In the circumstances, the Panel preferred the evidence as recorded in the notes made at the time and, similarly to Pupil A (above) considered that Pupil B would have been open and honest in his answers to the Social Workers and Police. The Panel noted that in the Police interview that, “He came across as very nervous during interview, albeit very honest and truthful.”

      The Panel further considered that this evidence was similar to that of the Teacher who did not deny asking Pupil B to put on his waterproof jacket to wash it but did deny the remainder of the allegation.

      For the reasons given, the Panel found the allegation not proved.

      Allegation 1.b.ii. – Found proved (under deletion of the words “and underpants”)

      The Panel had regard to the evidence as noted above. Whilst Mother B had stated in her evidence that Pupil B had said that he told the Teacher he was not wearing underpants, this did not accord with his interviews with the Social Workers and Police. In neither of these did Pupil B mention having told the Teacher he was not wearing underpants. In his interview with Police, it says “The subject disclosed how the Teacher told him to go into the shower wearing only his waterproof coat…….and his underpants so that he (the Teacher) could hose him down and clean his waterproofs.” The Panel preferred the evidence of the Teacher that he had suggested to Pupil B that Pupil B put on his dirty waterproof jacket over something he had already worn. For this reason, the Panel did not find this part of the allegation proved.

      In relation to the first part of the allegation, the Panel noted that the Teacher denied “instructing” Pupil B to put on his dirty waterproof jacket but had suggested that he put it on. It considered that there was no dispute that Pupil B did put his jacket on and was then washed down in the shower by the Teacher. Whilst Pupil B, in his interview with ICS, is noted as saying he was “asked” to put his jacket on by the Teacher, he said in his Police interview that the Teacher told him to do so. In any event, the Panel considered that, given Pupil B’s age, such a request would be considered by him (Pupil B) to amount to an instruction by his teacher to do as requested. Accordingly, and on the balance of probabilities, the Panel found this part of the allegation proved.

      Allegation 1.b.iii. – Found proved

      As stated above, the Panel considered that there was no dispute that the Teacher washed Pupil B’s waterproof jacket in the shower whilst being worn by Pupil B. The Teacher accepted this both in his written statement and oral evidence. It accorded with what Mother B reported had been said to her by Pupil B and was corroborated by his interviews with the Social Workers and Police. It also accorded with the evidence of Mother A of what was reported to her by Pupil A. In addition, in both interviews Pupil B is noted as saying that he was wearing only his underpants and jacket. The allegation did not state that the Teacher had knowledge that Pupil B was only wearing his underpants.

      For these reasons, the Panel found the allegation proved in its entirety.

      Allegation 1.c.i. – Not proved

      In considering this allegation, the Panel had careful regard to the stem of the allegation which read: “On or around XX XXXXX XXXX instruct Pupil A to go with you alone into the shower room and once he was inside the shower room you did…

      …Shut the door so that you were alone in the shower room with Pupil A.”

      The Panel therefore considered that for the allegation to be proved it was necessary to be satisfied that the Teacher instructed Pupil A to go into the shower room alone with him and once inside shut the door.

      In considering the evidence, the Panel first had regard to that of Mother A. In her statement and oral evidence, Mother A stated that Pupil A had been taken into the shower in only his waterproofs to be “washed off” by the Teacher. He had taken Pupil A into the shower room and closed the door behind them. He had then proceeded to wash Pupil A’s waterproofs whilst he (Pupil A) wore them.

      In Pupil A’s interview with the Social Worker on X XXXX XXXX, it is recorded that; “The Teacher came into the room with the door again nearly closed and held the shower to wash the waterproofs Pupil A was wearing.” In his interview with the Police on X XXX XXXX, Pupil A is noted as saying; “The Teacher suggested that Pupil A wear his waterproof clothing and step into the shower so that they can be hosed down in order to clean them…”. The Panel noted that there is no mention in these notes of the door being shut.

      The Teacher, in his evidence, admitted that Pupil A had gone into the shower room to be washed by him whilst Pupil A wore his dirty waterproofs. He maintained that the door was not shut but partially open or ajar as it swung back once it had been opened.

      On the basis of all of the evidence, the Panel considered that the door was not shut. It was described by Pupil A in his interview with the Social Worker as being “nearly closed” and there was no mention of it in his interview with the Police. The Panel considered that Pupil A would have done his best to give a truthful account in these interviews and is described in the Police interview as “…a truthful boy who is quite naturally naïve and innocent.” This evidence is also consistent with that of the Teacher who described the door as being partially open or ajar.

      On the balance of probabilities, the Panel therefore preferred the evidence given by Pupil A to the Social Worker and Police over that of the hearsay evidence of Mother A to which it attached less weight. It accordingly found the allegation not proved.

      Allegation 1.c.ii. – Not proved

      The Panel again had regard to the stem of the allegation. It noted that it is alleged that Pupil A was instructed to remove all his clothing, including his underpants, once alone and inside the shower room with the Teacher.

      In her statement, Mother A stated that; “I became really concerned when he (Pupil A) told me ….that the Teacher had asked Pupil A to take off all his clothes and then put his waterproofs back on.” She then stated that; “The Teacher then took Pupil A into the shower room by himself and closed the door behind them.” The Panel noted that it appeared that the sequence of events as described by Mother A meant that Pupil A had been asked by the Teacher to remove his clothing before going into the shower room.

      In his interview on X XXXXX XXXX with the Social Worker, Pupil A is noted as saying; “…The Teacher noticed that Pupil A’s waterproofs were dirty so told him to take his clothes off and put his waterproofs on to be showered…” It is then stated; “The Teacher came into the room with him with the door again nearly closed…” In his interview with the Police it is noted that; “…The Teacher suggested that Pupil A wear his waterproof clothing and step into the shower so they can be hosed down in order to clean them….The Teacher hosed Pupil A down in the shower whilst wearing his dirty waterproof coat and trousers…At no time did the Teacher watch Pupil A getting changed or undressed.”

      The Panel was therefore satisfied that, firstly, Pupil A had not been instructed to go into the shower room alone with the Teacher before being instructed to remove all his clothing. The evidence provided by both Mother A and Pupil A did not allege this happened. The Panel noted, in particular, the comment in the Police interview that at no time did Pupil A allege that the Teacher had watched him get changed or undressed. The Panel considered this was the real mischief contained in the allegation but none of the evidence indicated that this had happened. That was also consistent with the Teacher’s evidence that he accepted washing Pupil A in his waterproofs in the shower room but not otherwise in the manner alleged.

      Accordingly the Panel found the allegation not proved.

      The Panel noted that the Teacher accepted washing Pupil A in the shower room whilst he (Pupil A) was in his waterproofs. In his oral evidence, the Teacher could not say if Pupil A was wearing underpants and did not see Pupil A without his trousers on. He did not know what, if anything, Pupil A was wearing underneath. Mother A in her evidence stated that Pupil A had told her that he had asked the Teacher if he could keep his underpants on but the Teacher had told him there was no need. This is consistent with what Pupil A told the Social Worker and the Police. The Panel accepted that Pupil A had no underpants on underneath his trousers but placed more weight on the live evidence of the Teacher when he stated that he had no knowledge of what the pupil was wearing.

      On this basis and, on the balance of probabilities, the Panel found the allegation proved.

      The Panel carefully considered the reactions and feelings of Pupils A and B after the incidents. It noted that in both the Social Work and Police interviews, the pupils are described as being nervous but truthful in what they said. The Panel was satisfied that both pupils felt uncomfortable, however, there was no mention or evidence of fear or distress. Whilst Mothers A and B both spoke of the pupils subsequent reactions and behaviour, the Panel was not satisfied in the absence of independent medical evidence that this behaviour was solely linked to the Teacher’s conduct. Accordingly, on the balance of probabilities the Panel was not satisfied that “As a result of [the Teacher’s] actions Pupils A and B felt distressed….[or] frightened…” but accepted that they were made to feel uncomfortable.

      Allegation 1.d – Found proved

      In his response to the allegations, statement and oral evidence, the Teacher admitted to taking a photograph of a pupil (Pupil D) whilst in his bed and without his consent. He accepted this was inappropriate. He denied that Pupil D was in a “state of undress” and maintained that he was wearing a dark “gorilla onesie”, a single garment which covered his body, including his arms and legs.

      The evidence in support of the allegation came from Excursion Teacher 1 only. His evidence was that, during the trip, the Teacher had shown him a photograph of Pupil D who appeared to be asleep with his legs and feet on the bed with his upper body out of the bed with his bottom on the floor. Excursion Teacher 1 was very clear this was the position Pupil D was in and that he was wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt which had ridden up, so exposing his bare midriff. The Panel noted that Excursion Teacher 1 was expecting to be contacted by the Police but this did not happen. As a result, he voluntarily contacted the Police at the end of the term to notify them of his concerns about the photo.

      In assessing the evidence, the Panel considered that, whilst this was not immediately reported by Excursion Teacher 1, he was expecting to be contacted by the Police and when this did not happen he took steps to do so himself. It also considered that he had no malicious motive in doing so and indeed during his oral evidence was complimentary about the teaching skills and popularity of the Teacher. The Panel found Excursion Teacher 1 to be credible and reliable in his evidence, who had been consistent in his description of what he saw, in the photo, throughout the period of investigation. Whilst he may have seen the photo for only a short period of time, he was able to identify Pupil D (he had known him for a number of years) and was “shocked” by the image he saw. The Panel considered that this was something that was likely to remain clear in his memory and on which he was unlikely to be mistaken.

      The Panel further noted that the Teacher had chosen to delete the photo from his mobile phone, which should not have been used for school photographic purposes in any event. The Panel considered that he was unable to provide a convincing reason for deleting the photo. The Panel further considered that there was no educational value to the photo whatsoever.

      For these reasons and, on the balance of probabilities, the Panel found the allegation proved in its entirety.

      Findings on fitness to teach

      Given that the Panel found some of the allegations, as indicated above, proved, the Panel invited the parties to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

      There was no further evidence presented by either party.

      The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and submissions made by the parties in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Panel considered the advice of the Legal Assessor who reminded the Panel that it must first, determine whether the allegations found proved amount to misconduct before going on to consider if the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired by reason of that misconduct. In doing so, the Panel addressed the relevant considerations in relation to fitness to teach, as outlined in the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance.

      The Panel firstly considered that, taken together, the proven allegations did amount to misconduct, including as they did the washing of pupils wearing dirty clothing in a shower and the taking of a photograph of a pupil in a state of undress without his consent and where there was no educational value in doing so. In the Panel’s view this breached the following parts of COPAC:

      • 1.2 – maintain appropriate boundaries
      • The Panel considered that the Teacher’s conduct, at the time, fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher for the following reasons.

        By taking Pupils A and B (allegations 1.b ii. & iii. and 1.c.iii.) into the shower room and washing them in their waterproofs the Panel considered that the Teacher had failed to maintain appropriate boundaries and had caused them to feel uncomfortable. The Panel did not consider that, at the time or subsequently, the pupils were frightened or distressed. The commentary to Part 1 of COPAC refers to teachers being aware of the potential dangers of being alone with a pupil and avoiding circumstances which are, or could be, perceived to be of an inappropriate nature. It also speaks about being mindful of the need to maintain an appropriate balance between formality and informality during educational excursions. The Teacher should have had regard to the pupils’ feelings and, as an experienced teacher, should have known not to take such action. However, the Panel accepted that the Teacher had no improper motive and acted in the way that he did simply to clean the waterproofs.

        In relation to Pupil C (allegation 1.a) the Panel considered that this did not of itself amount to misconduct. The Panel noted there was no suggestion of any harm to Pupil C, as confirmed by his mother, and that the tickling was done momentarily when the Teacher was responding to Pupil C being more talkative and encouraging him to feel more confident.

        In relation to Pupil D (allegation 1.d.) the Panel considered that there was no justification for taking the photograph whatsoever. By doing so the Teacher did not maintain appropriate professional boundaries and failed to respect Pupil D’s privacy.

        Having determined that the allegations found proved amounted to misconduct the Panel then went on to consider if the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.

        It firstly considered that, by acting as he did, the Teacher’s behaviour had caused Pupils A and B to feel uncomfortable and further, had the potential to cause harm or distress to Pupil D. By doing so the Teacher had breached the above part of COPAC. The Panel considered that, at the time, the Teacher had fallen short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.

        However, the Panel also had regard to the approach to be taken when considering current impairment of fitness to teach.

        Firstly, it considered that the misconduct was remediable. It had regard to the Teacher’s evidence and his explanations of his motives for acting as he did at the time. It noted that he was extremely busy and tired from being up looking after an unwell pupil during the previous night. It noted that he made a conscious decision to wash Pupil A and B’s waterproofs in the way he did as he considered it the quickest and easiest way of cleaning them. It noted that he had tickled Pupil C playfully whilst speaking to him and had taken the photo of Pupil D as a joke to encourage him to get out of bed when he believed Pupil D to be pretending to sleep. In particular the Panel also noted that it was accepted by the Presenting Officer that there was no sexual or other sinister motive to his behaviour.

        Secondly, the Panel considered that the Teacher had remedied the misconduct. It noted the dates of the proven allegations and the fact there had been no evidence of repetition or adverse incident since. In particular, the Panel considered the evidence of Local Authority Staff Member 1, Witness NT and Witness IH in this respect. It noted the contrition displayed by the Teacher in his evidence regarding any adverse effect that his actions had had on the pupils and his obvious distress at what had occurred. It noted that he had reflected deeply since the incidents and had thought about them every day. The Panel accepted his intention to never go on a school trip again or place himself in a similar situation in future. It noted that he was now very wary of any physical contact with pupils and would never physically touch a pupil where it could be avoided, as spoken to by Witness NT.

        Finally, the Panel considered that the misconduct was highly unlikely to recur. The Teacher was highly experienced and had never previously been the subject of a GTCS referral. He had initially been suspended by the school but had since returned to work at another school where he was clearly respected and popular with pupils, parents and staff. A number of colleagues spoke in the highest terms of his professionalism and teaching abilities. The various investigations had clearly had a serious effect on the Teacher’s health, as spoken to by Witness Dr H and, as stated above, the Panel accepted that he was now very wary of physical contact with pupils.

        Taking all of the above into account, the Panel therefore concluded that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is not currently impaired.

        The Panel acknowledged that the pupils had felt uncomfortable due to the Teacher’s conduct and had required to be interviewed by Police and Social Work as a result. However, in all the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the allegations found proved were not sufficiently serious to justify a finding of impairment of fitness to teach on public interest grounds alone. No improper motive on the part of the Teacher had been alleged. The matter had been fully investigated and explored by the Panel at a hearing over several days. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that a finding of impairment of fitness to teach was neither proportionate nor necessary.

        Application for Anonymity

        At the conclusion of the hearing, Mr Milne made an application for the written decision to be anonymised. He did so under rules 1.7.2 and 1.7.3. He submitted that any decision which identified the Teacher, the schools or their locations was likely to have a significantly adverse impact on the Teacher’s health and his ability to cope. He submitted that the Teacher resided in a small community where it would be easy to work out his identity. That would have a significant impact on his ability to continue to teach within that community. He referred to the evidence of Dr H in which she advised that the Teacher is suffering from XXXXX XXXXXXXXXX XXXXXX which had been triggered by the allegations. He is in the process of making a recovery but, any reporting of the decision which in any way identified him would almost certainly lead to an exacerbation of his condition.

        The application was not opposed by Mr Flannigan who submitted that it was a matter of the Panel’s independent judgement.

        The Panel had regard to the Rules and the GTCS practice statement on Conducting Hearings in Private. It was aware that the hearing was held wholly in private following an earlier application based on the Teacher’s health. It considered that similar considerations applied to this application, coming at the end of the case where the Teacher’s fitness to teach was found not to be impaired.

        The Panel was also mindful of the need to consider the public interest in transparency when considering such an application and to ensure it was balanced against a teacher’s personal interests.

        Having considered the application and the evidence presented in respect of the Teacher’s health, including the oral evidence of his wife, the Panel decided it was fair and appropriate to grant the application. It considered that, given the findings, it was not in the interests of the Teacher nor the wider public interest for his identity or any other identifying features to be publicly made known. To do so was likely to seriously affect the Teacher’s health and his ability to teach, particularly given the nature of the allegations. The Panel was very concerned to learn that an anonymous caller had sought to bring to the attention of the Teacher’s current Head Teacher matters which formed the basis of these allegations and which had been investigated and concluded by the local authority.

        Given the Panel’s findings in this case, it concluded that all of the above factors outweighed the public interest in the reporting of the Teacher’s identity. The Panel considered that the public interest, in the particular circumstances of this case, could be served by knowing the reasoning for its conclusion regarding the Teacher’s fitness to teach, without revealing his identity.

        For the above reasons, the Panel granted the application for the Teacher to be anonymised within any written decisions to be published regarding this case. In doing so, the Panel concluded that it would anonymise all features which might identify the Teacher, protect the anonymity of pupils and witnesses but at the same time provide sufficient information to enable a member of the public to understand the allegations, the Panel’s decisions and its reasoning.