The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

James Beattie Full Hearing

Full Hearing

5, 6, 7 December 2017 and 4, 5 and 6 September 2018

 Teacher  James Beattie
 Registration number  922034
 Registration category  Secondary – Modern Studies and Economics
 Panel  Frieda Fraser (Convener), Patsy Rimell and Paul Walker
 Legal Assessor  Gareth Jones
 Servicing Officer  Vivien Whyte
 Presenting Officer  Gary Burton, 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

At the outset of the hearing, the Teacher’s representative made an unopposed application to submit late papers, under Rules 1.7.17 and 1.7.22 of the Rules. The late papers related to copies of Modern Studies past exam papers, a list of topics/themes that had come up in previous exams and a confidentiality key. On the basis that there was no objection to this material being lodged late and in recognition of its relevance, the Panel allowed the application.

The Panel was also advised that two agreed redactions had been made to the Presenting Officer’s papers. These were to redact the last sentence of the penultimate paragraph on page 33 and the entirety of the paragraph under the heading “Additional comments” on page 52. The Panel agreed to redact this information and indicated that no reliance would be placed on the redacted information when making a decision at any stage.

Finally, despite the Teacher not being in attendance at the hearing, the Teacher’s representative made an application for the hearing to be heard entirely in private or, alternatively, that the Teacher’s name be anonymised. This application was made under Rule 1.7.3 of the Rules. The Panel agreed to hear the submissions regarding the application in private on the basis that, to do otherwise, could frustrate the purpose of making the application.

The basis for the privacy application was that the proceedings had already had a profound impact on the Teacher’s health to the point whereby he had been xxxxxxxxxx xx x xxxxxx xx xxxxxxxxx xxx xx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx. xx xxxxxxx, xx xxx xxxxxxxxx xxxx xx xxxxxx xxx xx xxxx. The Teacher’s family had also expressed great concern about his health and wellbeing, particularly in relation to the hearing. The Teacher had advised his representative that he would not be participating in the hearing and that he should represent him in his absence.

The Teacher’s representative indicated that the Teacher’s overriding concern was the publication of his name, which would very likely generate press activity. It was submitted that the prospect of press activity was not only having an impact on the Teacher’s health but also on his decision about whether or not to participate in the proceedings, hence the reason he was not in attendance. The Teacher’s representative conceded however, that he was not in receipt of medical evidence from the Teacher’s GP. A medical report had been requested but would take some time to be prepared. It was hoped that the report would be made available to the Panel during the first week of the hearing. In those circumstances, the Panel was invited to allow the privacy application, failing which an application for anonymity, pending receipt of the medical report. It was submitted that adopting that course would allow the hearing to proceed in the meantime and whatever application the Panel granted could be reviewed in due course.

The application made by the Teacher’s representative was opposed by the Presenting Officer on the basis that no medical evidence had been made available to the Panel despite the Teacher’s representative having had notice that the Teacher was suffering from health issues in the lead up to the hearing. The Panel was therefore invited by the Presenting Officer to refuse the application.

The Panel carefully considered the application and did so having regard to the factors set out in the GTCS Conducting Hearings in Private Practice Statement as well as the Health Matters and Medical Evidence Practice Statement. The Panel reminded itself of the general rule that proceedings should be held in public and that compelling or exceptional circumstances would have to exist to depart from that general rule.

In the absence of medical evidence, the Panel could not be satisfied that it should hold all or any part of the hearing in private. Without clear medical evidence, the Panel considered that such a decision would be disproportionate to the right of the press and other members of the public to attend the hearing. The Panel did, however, consider that it would be appropriate to grant an anonymity order pending receipt of medical evidence. In accordance with the general objective of the Rules, the Panel had a duty to deal with the case fairly and justly, which includes adopting a flexible approach where appropriate. The Panel also considered that it could review the appropriateness of continuing with the anonymity order once the medical report had been obtained. The Panel therefore adopted the least restrictive option of anonymising the Teacher’s name, thereby allowing members of the press and public to attend the hearing.

The decision to anonymise the Teacher’s name until such time as medical evidence became available, was clearly communicated to the two journalists in attendance at the hearing. Both journalists were asked to adhere to the order and indicated that they understood the terms of the order.

On the second day of the hearing however, information was received from the Teacher’s representative that The Lennox Herald, the newspaper that one of the two journalists worked for, had taken the decision to publish the Teacher’s name and had, in fact, done so. This was confirmed by the journalist from the Lennox Herald, when she returned on day 3, under the written explanation that because the Teacher’s name was already in the public domain, the newspaper saw no reason to continue to adhere to the order that was in place. The editor of the newspaper confirmed in an email that she was aware that the Panel had taken the decision to anonymise the Teacher’s name and that a request had been made (by the Panel) to her journalist to adhere to that.

The Panel was concerned that its order had simply been ignored by The Lennox Herald, irrespective of whether the Teacher’s name was already in the public domain. Under Rule 1.7.10 of the Rules the Panel has the power to exclude any individual from the whole or any part of the proceedings. The Panel’s view was that the presence of the journalist had been and could continue to be, detrimental to the proceedings being conducted in accordance with the general objective of the Rules, which is to deal with cases fairly and justly. This includes dealing with cases in ways which ensure that parties are able to participate fully in proceedings. The Panel took account of the interests of the parties, as it was obliged to do when considering whether to exclude any individual from a hearing, in particular the interests of the Teacher. The Panel was fully aware, having been addressed by the Teacher’s representative at the outset of the proceedings, of the potential effect that publishing the Teacher’s name would have on the Teacher and his ability to participate in the proceedings. It was for that reason that the Panel made the order in the first place. Accordingly, the publishing of the Teacher’s name had had a likely effect on the Teacher’s participation at the hearing. The Panel also had no confidence that moving through the proceedings, any subsequent order that it made would be respected by the newspaper.

It was in those circumstances that the Panel chose to exercise its power under Rule 1.7.10 of the Rules to exclude the journalist from The Lennox Herald from the proceedings and indeed any other representative from the newspaper.

Allegations

Having dealt with the preliminary issues raised the following allegations were considered at the hearing:

  1. On exact dates unknown during the 2013/2014 academic year whilst employed by West Dunbartonshire Council at School 1, Dumbarton you did:
    1. Use your prior knowledge of the content of the 2014 Modern Studies exam to advise pupils on the areas to study in advance of the exam;
    2. Have inappropriate contact with pupils personally by email
  2. On exact dates unknown whilst employed by West Dunbartonshire Council at School 1, Dumbarton you did:
    1. Have inappropriate items within your classroom including
      1. a “Free Derry” Christmas Card;
      2. a “Free Derry” postcard and
      3. a “Bobby Sands” mug;
    2. use inappropriate language, within your notes at a development day in August 2014 in that you did write “hun town” in your notes;
    3. Share music with a colleague who was a probationer, which was inappropriate and in doing so, you did breach your employer’s Information Technology Policy;

And 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, 1.5, 1.6 and 5.3 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Teacher’s admissions

The Teacher admitted the conduct set out within allegation 1(b). He accepted that using his private email to communicate with pupils was inappropriate albeit he maintained that the content of the emails related to the subject that he was teaching.

The Teacher also admitted allegations 2(a)(i)-(iii) and allegation 2(c).

The Teacher did not agree that his fitness to teach is currently impaired by reason of misconduct.

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

P1 Witness statement of Investigating Officer 1
P2 Witness statement of the Head of Service
P3 Investigation Report 1, dated 15 July 2014 and appendices thereto
P4 Witness statement of Investigating Officer 2
P5 Investigation Report 2, dated 10 December 2014
P6 Colour copy of Appendix 10 to Investigation Report 2 dated 10 December 2014

Teacher’s hearing papers

T1 Statement of Witness A
T2 Supplementary Statement of Witness A
T3 Statement of Witness B
T4 Statement of Teacher 1
T5 Material provided by the Teacher at revision class
T6 Statement of Pupil M
T7 Word documents and power-point presentations provided by the Teacher to Pupil M
T8 Statement of Pupil N
T9 Essays completed by Pupil N during the 2013/14 academic year
T10 Statement of KD
T11 Statement of ET
T12 Statement of CK
T13 Exam results delivered by the Teacher from 2009 onwards
T14 Teacher's CV
T15 Statement of Teacher
T16 Teacher’s submissions to Disciplinary Hearing - 22 August 2014
T17 Teacher's submissions to Disciplinary Hearing - January 2015
T18 Teacher's submissions to Appeal Hearing - 23 April 2015
T19 Email from Pupil F
T20 Email from Pupil N
T21 Statement of MC
T22 Statement of LD
T23 Reference from DW
T24 Reference from JB
T25 Reference from DMcB
T26 Reference from Pupil R
T27 Letter from Pupil R to DMcB
T28 Reference from Pupil S
T29 Reference from Pupil T
T30 Reference from an MSP
T31 Reference from JO'D
T32 Reference from AMcV
T33 Reference from Pupil U
T34 Reference from IM
T35 Reference from JMcT
T36 Letter from West Dunbartonshire Council - 05 December 2016
T37 Approved statement of Witness C
T38 Copies of SQA Higher Modern Studies Examination Paper 1 for the years 2008-2014 (late papers; day 1)
T39 Document listing sections/study themes for SQA Higher Modern Studies Examination Paper 1 for the years 2008-2014 (late paper; day 1)v T40 Confidentiality Key for various pupils’ names (late paper; day 1)
T41 Additional statements lodged on day 4 (late papers; day 4)

Servicing Officer’s hearing papers

S1 Notice of hearing dated 13 November 2017 (revised)
S2 Proof of service of notice – email delivery/read receipts

Prior to commencement of the hearing on 4 September, the Panel was also provided with documentation lodged by the parties in relation to the Teacher’s application for the remainder of the Full Hearing to be held in private. That documentation was:-

  1. Written submissions made on behalf of the Teacher
  2. Updated written submissions made on behalf of the Teacher
  3. Email from Dr. D to Balfour & Manson LLP dated 7 December 2017
  4. Medical Report by Dr P dated 19 March 2018
  5. Written submissions made by the Presenting Officer
  6. Notice of Full Hearing dated 13 November 2017

Summary of evidence

Presenting Officer’s evidence

Three witnesses were called by the Presenting Officer to give oral evidence to the Panel and for whom witness statements had been lodged. Those witnesses were Investigating Officers 1 and 2 and Head of Service at the SQA. In addition, the Presenting Officer relied upon the documents lodged and made reference to these documents when examining witnesses.

  1. Investigating Officer 1

At the outset of her evidence, Investigating Officer 1 read aloud her witness statement before being asked a number of questions. The salient parts of the evidence given by Investigating Officer 1 are outlined below.

Investigating Officer 1 is currently employed as xxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx with West Dunbartonshire Council. She has a teaching qualification in primary education and in the past has held various positions across three different local authorities.

Following a meeting at School 2 that took place on 29th April 2014, Investigating Officer 1 was approached by the Head Teacher of the school who informed her that a group of Higher Modern Studies pupils had complained that students from School 1 had been given an unfair advantage in the Higher Modern Studies exam. Specifically, the pupils reported that during their discussions on social media it became apparent that the Teacher had provided essays to a number of pupils which then appeared on the exam paper.

Acting on the information received, Investigating Officer 1 contacted the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to get some professional advice about how best to proceed. She was advised by the SQA that due to concerns about a previous leak in the Modern Studies exam paper, the SQA would be carrying out its own investigation. Nevertheless, on reporting the matter to her superior, Investigating Officer 1 was instructed to carry out her own investigation, which would run in parallel with the investigation by the SQA.

It was known prior to the investigation that the Teacher, who taught Modern Studies at School 1, also ran a Modern Studies Masterclass through Dunbartonshire Council that was designed to assist students in their preparation for the Modern Studies exam. Pupils from any school within the local authority could attend the Masterclass and as a result the Masterclass brought pupils together who were from different schools.

Investigating Officer 1 began her investigation by interviewing three pupils from School 2. A summary of what each pupil said was included by Investigating Officer 1 in her investigation report. All three pupils stated that information had come from pupils at School 1 that they had been advised by the Teacher to focus on four essay topics. One pupil, who attended the Teacher’s Masterclass, advised that she had been emailed five essays by the Teacher, copies of which were provided to the investigation.

During her investigation, Investigating Officer 1 also interviewed two pupils from School 1 and considered that these pupils were more guarded in their responses to questions. One pupil reported that she had been absent from a number of classes and that she had received essays from the Teacher’s personal email address to assist her in her preparation for the Modern Studies paper. She also confirmed that the same topics had come up in the exam and that she had shared these essays with other pupils.

Having interviewed pupils from both schools, Investigating Officer 1 then conducted two meetings with the SQA in order to obtain their views. These meetings took place with the Head of Management at the SQA and the xxxx xx xxxxxx xxx xxxxxxxx – Head of Service. They confirmed that the Teacher worked for the SQA as a marker and that, as such, he would not have had access to the exam papers in advance of the exam. They also confirmed that knowledge of the content of the exam paper was tightly controlled and that only a core team of individuals would have been aware of the content of the exam paper, one of whom was Teacher 1, who was employed by the SQA as a xxxxxxxxx. Furthermore, due to a suspected leak in relation to the Modern Studies exam paper in June 2013, a decision was taken to make changes to the Modern Studies exam. These changes had been sent to Teacher 1 for his approval. According to the Head of Management at the SQA and Head of Service, the changes to the exam paper disturbed the notion of sequencing such that it would have been very difficult to predict the questions that came up in the exam.

On being presented with the five essays that the Teacher had provided to pupils, it was the view of the Head of Management at the SQA and Head of Service that there was a strong link between the exam paper and four out of the five essays provided by the Teacher. Their particular concern was that one of the essays on Trade not Aid was exactly right and the other three essays related to the changes made. In short, they were suspicious that the Teacher had inside information about the content of the exam paper because the essays that he provided to pupils were too closely aligned to the questions on the exam.

Further into the investigation, Investigating Officer 1 requested interrogation of the Teacher’s work email. Emails were discovered between the Teacher and Teacher 1 xxxxxxxxxx, which showed that they are friends. In particular, there was an email from the Teacher to Teacher 1 dated 19th December 2013 in the following terms: “I think I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF ALL THE RUBBISH REGARDING THE sqa would love to see what is going on [name redacted] quite concerned very glad that I DON’T have a clue abot exam”. The Head of Service considered this email to be suspicious because the words “I DON’T” appeared in capitals. It was the view of Investigating Officer 1 that this email was a further indicator that the Teacher may have had knowledge of the content of the revised exam paper.

As part of the investigation, the Teacher was interviewed and during interview he vehemently denied any wrongdoing. He claimed that as result of his many years of experience in teaching the subject he was good at predicting exam questions. The Teacher did, however, accept that using his personal email address to provide pupils with essays was inappropriate.

In relation to the words that appear in capitals within the email to Teacher 1 (as set out above), the Teacher indicated that he had left the caps lock on while typing and that this was an innocent mistake.

During cross-examination, Investigating Officer 1 confirmed that she had not taught in secondary education or in relation to Modern Studies but she nevertheless maintained that she was familiar with how such courses work through her involvement with the SQA.

On being asked about the number of pupils she interviewed during the investigation, Investigating Officer 1 agreed that out of approximately forty pupils studying Higher Modern Studies at School 1, she only interviewed two. She also said that she interviewed a further five pupils from School 2 and one from an entirely different school.

During questioning about information that was provided by those pupils, Investigating Officer 1 conceded that the pupils could not shed any light on how and from whom the Teacher had acquired his knowledge about what might come up in the Modern Studies exam, only that he was able to give out essays about topics that did come up in the exam.

Investigating Officer 1 was then questioned about the ambit of her investigation. She conceded that an obvious course of action would have been to speak to the Teacher’s SQA colleagues given it was being suggested that he had inside information about the contents of the exam paper. However, Investigating Officer 1 stated that she did not want to speak to these people because she was aware that the Teacher had obtained written statements from many of them attesting to his good character. Furthermore, according to Investigating Officer 1, she may have jeopardised the SQA investigation because her investigation was running in tandem with the investigation being carried out by the SQA.

In relation to the email correspondence between the Teacher and Teacher 1, Investigating Officer 1 confirmed that during the interview with the Teacher, the Teacher explained that he had mistakenly left on the caps lock and that he had made mistakes in the email because it was written in a hurry. Nevertheless it was the evidence of Investigating Officer 1 that when considered in the context of all of the evidence that she had gathered, the email correspondence was “a bit odd”. It was her belief that “perhaps” the Teacher did have inside information about the content of the exam paper.

Investigating Officer 1 was clear in her evidence that her belief that the Teacher may have had information about the content of the exam paper was based on the email between the Teacher and Teacher 1 and the closeness of the essay questions distributed by the Teacher to pupils to the questions that came up in the exam paper.

Head of Service

At the outset of her evidence, the Head of Service read aloud her witness statement. The salient parts of the evidence given by the Head of Service are outlined below.

The Head of Service is currently employed as xxxx xx xxxxx xxx xxxxxxx by the SQA. She has served as Head of Service for around 15 years and her current responsibilities include xxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xx xxxxx xxxxxxx, xxxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx.

The Head of Service confirmed that the Teacher was an SQA appointee from 2000 and that he held various posts during this time, including being a marker, examiner and external verifier. Prior to 2011, he had also been involved in the production of the annual examination paper for the Modern Studies exam. In 2014, however, the Teacher was only involved in post-exam procedures and had no formal involvement in the preparation of the Modern Studies exam paper.

The Head of Service said that in June 2013, the SQA received an anonymous letter about breaches of confidentiality in the 2014 Modern Studies exam. She said that someone had written in advising that the content of the 2013 examination paper had been made public prior to the exam and that information was in the public domain about what would be in the exam paper for the following year. The person also indicated that he/she wanted something done about it otherwise they would alert the media. As the letter was anonymous it could not be followed up, however, a decision was made to make changes to the Modern Studies exam.

These changes were made between November 2013 and February 2014 and only two Principal Assessors were involved in the process. Once the changes were made they were sent to Teacher 1 in December 2013 for his approval.

The Head of Service subsequently became involved in the SQA investigation involving the Teacher. As part of the investigation, she was provided with copies of five essays that the Teacher had provided to pupils around the time of the study classes as well as copies of essays that he had previously provided to his own class. In the assessment of the Head of Service, three of the five essays provided by the Teacher related very closely to questions that were changed, which caused her concern. It was her opinion that due to the late changes in the exam paper, the questions would have been more difficult to predict. Furthermore, according to the Head of Service, subject specialists agreed that it would have been very difficult for teachers to have been able to successfully predict questions in the 2014 exam.

The Head of Service said that one of the Teacher’s predictions stood out more than any other. Within the Modern Studies exam paper, a question is always asked about either voting behaviour or voting systems. Prior to the changes, the question related to voting behaviour and due to the pattern of previous exams this would have been the far most likely topic to ask about in 2014 exam. However, the question was changed to one related to voting systems and not only did the Teacher predict that topic, he provided pupils with an essay on the Single Transferrable Vote, which directly related to the question in the exam paper. A further essay on Trade not Aid also exactly matched the question that came up in the exam.

It was the view of the Head of Service that the closeness of the essays provided by the Teacher to the essays in the exam suggested “possible” knowledge of the exam content. However, notwithstanding the concerns expressed by the Head of Service, she confirmed that the outcome of the SQA investigations were inconclusive.

During cross-examination, the Head of Service was asked whether, when carrying out an evaluation into the predictability of questions in the Modern Studies exam paper, she had considered past papers for Modern Studies Highers. In response, she said that she thought she had considered the past exam papers. She then confirmed that her assessment that the late changes to the exam paper disturbed sequencing was based on her own consideration of past exam papers, input from subject specialists and input from the Qualifications Manager.

The Head of Service was then taken through a number of past exam papers and study themes by the Teacher’s representative with a view to demonstrating that certain questions and themes were easily predictable. In response to that line of questioning, the Head of Service agreed that certain questions and themes were predictable but maintained that it was the number of predictions made by the Teacher that raised suspicion, particularly when considered in light of the late changes that were made to the exam paper.

Further late papers

Following the evidence of the first two witnesses, the Presenting Officer made an unopposed application to submit an email sent by a female pupil to Investigating Officer 1, in which she attached the five essays that she said she had been provided with by the Teacher. Noting that there was no objection to the application and the potential relevance of this evidence, the Panel allowed the application under Rules 1.7.17 and 1.7.22 of the Rules.

Investigating Officer 2

Like the witnesses before him, Investigating Officer 2 read aloud his statement before being asked questions. His evidence can be summarised as follows.

Investigating Officer 2 is currently employed as a xxxxxx xxxxxxxx with West Dunbartonshire Council. During the week commencing 22nd September 2014, the Council received a call from a member of the management team at School 1 alerting them to certain items within the Teacher’s classroom. Subsequently, on 26th September, Investigating Officer 2 went to the school in order to inspect the classroom.

On entering the classroom, Investigating Officer 2 noticed two large pin boards on the teaching wall. He saw that on one of these boards was a large quantity of thank you cards amongst which was a “Free Derry” Christmas card and a “Free Derry” postcard. Investigating Officer 2 also observed a mug on the Teacher’s desk which related to Bobby Sands. Investigating Officer 2 did not remove the items at this time and the Teacher was absent from work during the inspection of his room. These items were not removed from the classroom until 15th October 2014.

On 22nd October 2014, Investigating Officer 2 was asked to conduct an investigation into the Teacher, the purpose of which was to establish whether he had displayed inappropriate items within his classroom and whether he had breached GTC Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

During the investigation that followed, Investigating Officer 2 interviewed the Teacher and six members of staff. It was discovered that the Teacher had been absent from his work between 12th May and 25th August 2014. At some point during this period, a number of teachers within the Modern Studies department moved rooms, including the Teacher. This had been requested by the Head Teacher at the school because relationships within the department were “fraught”. Following the Teacher’s return to work on 25th August 2014, he was absent from the school again from 23rd September until 6th October 2014.

Investigating Officer 2 also interviewed Staff Member SD, who was a Learning Assistant at the school. She stated that she had been responsible for putting the “Free Derry” cards up on the wall and she confirmed that she had put these cards up at a time when the Teacher was absent from the school. However, she also stated that she had spoken to the Teacher about the cards on an earlier occasion.

During an interview with the Teacher, he accepted that the cards and the mug belonged to him but claimed that the mug had been given to him many years ago by a former janitor. In relation to the cards he stated that he had brought them into the school with a number of other boxed items during a house move. He denied knowing that they had been put up on the wall.

It was the view of Investigating Officer 2 that the Teacher was upset on hearing about the allegations and that the investigation process was having an impact on his health. However, Investigating Officer 2 also considered that the Teacher had given some contradictory answers during interview, especially in relation to the mug or mugs that he used when working at the school.

During the investigation, Teacher 2, xxx xxx xxx xxxxxx xxxx xx xxx xxxxxx, also brought some handwritten notes to the attention of Investigating Officer 2. Teacher 2 reported that, during a CPD development day at the school, he had seen handwritten notes on the Teacher’s desk, one of which included the term “hun town”. The Teacher accepted during interview that he had made this note but was adamant that the note was made at a different time and that it had no connection to the development day.

The Depute Head Teacher at the school then brought a further matter to the attention of Investigating Officer 2, namely that a probationer teacher had reported feeling uncomfortable about some discussions that had taken place with the Teacher. The probationer, who has an Irish name, stated that the Teacher asked him if he had a hard disk because he (the Teacher) wanted to share 1,000 rebel Irish songs. According to the probationer, the Teacher subsequently transferred these songs to a hard disk.

During cross-examination, Investigating Officer 2 expressed the view that it was highly unlikely that the Teacher did not know about the cards being on the wall because the pin boards were either side of the teaching board. He also said that whilst the relevant pin board was on the wall behind the door to the classroom, the door only obscured part of the pin board when open.

During further questioning, Investigating Officer 2 agreed that the only witness who had spoken about the presence of these items in the classroom had been Teacher 2 and that other teachers that he had spoken to positively indicated that they had never seen them.

In relation to the note that contained the word ‘hun town’, Investigating Officer 2 agreed that Teacher 2 told him that he had discovered the note on 29th August 2014 and that he (Teacher 2) photocopied it before returning it to the Teacher’s desk. However Investigating Officer 2 also agreed that Teacher 2 did not mention anything about the note during a first interview in September and no explanation had been given by Teacher 2 for why he returned the note to the Teacher’s desk in full view of pupils. Investigating Officer 2 also confirmed that he was aware of certain grievances and complaints being made by staff against Teacher 2 about his xxxxx xx xxxxxxxxx and general behaviour.

Miscellaneous matters

At the conclusion of the evidence given by Investigating Officer 2, the Panel adjourned the proceedings at the request of the Presenting Officer. The Presenting Officer indicated that further matters had come to light that required to be investigated and that no further evidence could be heard until those investigations were complete.

The hearing resumed on 4th September 2018 and by this time the Teacher was well enough to attend the hearing. However, in advance of the Teacher’s evidence, his representative indicated that he had a number of preliminary matters to raise.

Preliminary matters raised at the resumed hearing

The Teacher’s representative made another unopposed application to submit further late papers, under Rules 1.7.17 and 1.7.22 of the Rules. The late papers related to a number of statements from pupils and former pupils taught by the Teacher as well as statements from his colleagues and former colleagues. The statements attested to the Teacher’s good character. The reason they were being submitted late was because details relating to these individuals had only been provided following the publicity that attached to the earlier days of the hearing.

Once again, on the basis that there was no objection to this material being lodged late and in recognition of its relevance, the Panel allowed the application for late submission of further late papers.

The Teacher’s representative also made an application for the remainder of the hearing to be held wholly in private, under Rule 1.7.3 of the Rules. This application was made in light of email correspondence from the Teacher’s GP – Dr. D, dated 7th December 2017 and a report that had been prepared by Dr. P xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx dated 19th March 2018 along with the fact that the Panel had only granted the Teacher anonymity pending receipt of medical evidence.

In his email, Dr. D summarised the Teacher’s recent medical history before stating that he was not in a position to say whether or not the Teacher could or could not attend/participate with any hearing process. However, he then went on to say that:given [the Teacher] has attended the surgery in more recent times, he could probably attend said hearing in some capacity.

In his report, Dr. P explained that he had assessed the Teacher on 5th March 2018 in order to ascertain his state of xxxxxx health, the potential impact that public fitness to teach proceedings might have on his xxxxxx health and to make recommendations about how best to proceed. Having assessed the Teacher, he concluded that, as at the date of the report, the Teacher fulfilled the criteria for xxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xx xxx xxxxxxx xx xxxxxx xxxx and that GTCS proceedings would exacerbate and be detrimental to his xxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxx xxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx. It was also the opinion of Dr. P that holding the hearing in public would: add another dimension to [the Teacher’s] xxxxxxxxxx xxxxx and may significantly exacerbate his xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx, putting him at increased risk of a physical reaction.

The Teacher’s representative commended the report by Dr. P and also relied on his written submissions to the Panel, which made detailed reference to the contents of the report.

Having been made aware of the contents of Dr. P’s report in advance of the resumed hearing, the Presenting Officer had also provided the Panel with written submissions, in which he outlined his opposition to the remainder of the hearing being conducted wholly in private. Taking matters shortly he submitted that (i) in light of the overarching principles of openness, transparency and fairness, which is the reason for the default position that hearings are held in public, the bar for a hearing to be heard in private is high (ii) the allegations before the Panel were at the higher end of the scale of seriousness (iii) against that background the Panel would require to decide that the interests of the Teacher outweigh the interests of the public in the hearing and decision being held in public and (iv) in light of the seriousness of the allegations it was necessary for the hearing to be heard in public in order to maintain the public’s confidence in the teaching profession; to maintain the public’s confidence in GTC Scotland as a professional regulator; and to act as a deterrent to others. It was also highlighted that the circumstances surrounding the Teacher’s hearing was already in the public domain because the hearing to date had been held in public.

The Panel took account of the competing submissions and once again had regard to the factors set out in the GTCS Conducting Hearings in Private Practice Statement as well as the Health Matters and Medical Evidence Practice Statement. The Panel again reminded itself of the general rule that proceedings should be held in public and that compelling or exceptional circumstances would have to exist to depart from that general rule. The role of the Panel was to undertake a careful balancing exercise in order to determine whether the interests of the Teacher outweighed the public interest in the proceedings being held in public.

Having undertaken that careful balancing exercise the Panel concluded that compelling or exceptional circumstances did not exist that would allow for the remainder of the hearing to be heard in private.

The Panel preferred the submissions made the Presenting Officer and took into account a number of other factors in addition to those mentioned by him. In particular, the Panel noted that the Teacher’s GP did not address the issue of whether the proceedings should be heard in private and expressed his opinion that in all likelihood the Teacher would be able to attend the hearing. Furthermore, the Teacher was present at the hearing and it was not suggested by his representative that he would not participate in the hearing in the event the privacy application was refused.

Whilst the Panel noted and took into account the opinion expressed by Dr. P in his report, the Panel also noted that the report was nearly six months old and there was no up to date medical evidence about the Teacher’s current state of xxxxx health. The Panel also considered that Dr. P’s opinion about the effect that publicity might have on the Teacher was speculative and that the report was vague about what the impact of publicity might be. There was also no suggestion within the report or from any other source that the Teacher was not engaging with the medical support available or that he was failing to make progress in overcoming his difficulties.

For all of these reasons, the Panel concluded that the hearing should be held in public and that the order for anonymity of the Teacher was no longer appropriate. The Panel did, however, also decide that where the evidence touched upon matters concerning the Teacher’s health, those parts of the evidence should be heard in private in order to preserve the Teacher’s right to privacy.

Having dealt with the preliminary matters raised, the Panel proceeded to hear oral evidence from the Teacher and three witnesses.

The Teacher

At the outset of his evidence, the Teacher read aloud his witness statement before being asked questions. The salient parts of the evidence given by the Teacher are summarised below. Throughout his evidence, the Teacher maintained his position that at no stage did he have prior knowledge of the contents of the Modern Studies exam paper.

He explained that during the 2013/14 academic year, he was an examiner and senior verifier with the SQA. He said that all of his work with the SQA would have taken place after the Higher exams were sat and that one of his main roles was to ensure that exam papers had been marked correctly and in accordance with national standards. He was adamant that at no stage would he have had an opportunity to access the exam paper prior to the exam being sat.

The Teacher said that he became aware only later on that the 2014 Modern Studies exam paper required to be changed following an anonymous letter being sent to the SQA in June 2013 about alleged breaches of confidentiality. He had absolutely no involvement in that process nor did he have any involvement in the preparation of the original exam paper. The Teacher also maintained that he has never asked anyone involved in the preparation of exam scripts to reveal the content of any exam paper.

In relation to the email exchange with Teacher 1 on 19th December 2013, as he stated during interview, the Teacher said that the capital text used was a result of him forgetting to turn off the caps lock having put it on to type the word “I” prior to the words “I DON’T”. The Teacher also pointed out that earlier on in the same email he had made the same mistake in that he also typed in capital letters the words “I HAVE HAD ENOUGH”.

In relation to the allegation that he handed out only five sample essays, some of which bore a striking resemblance to the questions in the exam paper, the Teacher was adamant that he did not hand out only five essays but instead handed out a number of other sample essays throughout the course of the academic year when he was teaching the Modern Studies syllabus. He estimated that he handed out over 20 sample essays and that the practice of handing out essays was a method of teaching that was followed by Modern Studies teachers across Scotland.

As regards the content of the Masterclass that he taught, the Teacher said that he wanted to show the pupils the marking standard for each of the essays they would require to complete during the Modern Studies exam and so he prepared essay scripts and pointed out what was required to pass and to gain full marks. Furthermore, he said that it was possible to predict what might come up in the exam because only a certain number of topics could come up and very often topics were repeated through the past exam papers.

The Teacher said that during one of the Masterclasses it became apparent that some pupils had not covered the topic of voting systems only voting behaviour because their teacher had told them that voting systems would not come up in the exam. It was because voting systems was as likely to come up in the exam as voting behaviour that the Teacher then decided to go through the voting systems topic with pupils in detail, not because he knew that it would come up in the exam.

At one revision class, as well as going over the voting systems topic, the Teacher maintained that he gave out about twelve to thirteen essays as well as study guides, PowerPoints, an example decision-making exercise from 2010, a learning intentions document, style essay answers and an evaluation/feedback form as well as information about topics that did not come up in the exam. It was by pure coincidence that some of the sample essays that he gave out resembled some of the questions that came up in the Modern Studies paper.

In relation to the predictability of the Modern Studies exam, it was the Teacher’s position that the exam was “fairly limited” in that there were only a certain number of questions that could come up year on year and, whilst questions would be posed differently each year, the answers to those questions were the same.

In relation to the five essays that were allegedly sent to a pupil, the Teacher said that some of the essays provided had in fact been provided in the course of the academic year whilst the other essays would have been emailed directly to the pupil concerned. He explained that the reason he had emailed essays was because the pupil had had a very difficult time during the school year, made worse by personal issues at home and that following discussion with the pupil and her parents he decided to help. However, the Teacher was adamant that under no circumstances did he advise any pupil to only learn five essays. Indeed, overall the Teacher estimated that he handed out over twenty sample essays during the academic year. The Teacher also highlighted the fact that one of the sample essays provided to the pupil was on the subject of Poverty, which was not a subject that came up in the 2014 exam.

In relation to allegation 1(b), the Teacher admitted to having contact with pupils by email. He said by way of explanation that he encouraged pupils to email him completed work so that he could review the work and give feedback as quickly as possible. He said that he also shared resources with pupils by email to assist them with their studies, which included sample essays, albeit not in the format suggested by Investigating Officer 1 and the Head of Service. Despite his good intentions, the Teacher accepted that he should have shared resources and received/marked completed work in the usual way, namely within the classroom. He was also clear in his evidence that he no longer uses email to communicate with pupils.

In relation to allegations 2(a)(i)-(iii), the Teacher admitted to having the various items described within his classroom.

In relation to the cards, the Teacher said that he had been in Derry and had sent the postcards back to his daughters. The postcards only came to be in his classroom after he boxed and removed items from his house when the roof “caved in” and he was given a certain amount of time to vacate his property before it was declared derelict. He was also adamant that the postcards were stored away in a cupboard within his classroom and were never intended to be put on display because they portrayed political messages that were arguably inappropriate for a school setting. He later learned, however, that when his classroom was moved at a time when he was absent from the school, his learning assistant put the cards up on the wall in order to brighten up the new classroom. Furthermore, he did not realise that she had done so until it was brought to his attention during the disciplinary investigation. Nevertheless, the Teacher accepted that he should not have brought the items into school in the first place.

In relation to the Bobby Sands mug, the Teacher said that he had been given this mug by a former janitor approximately twenty years ago. The janitor’s son was a serving soldier and had been given the mug, which he then passed on to his father. The Teacher said that he was given the mug as a joke and that when he was given the mug it was still in its box. Thereafter, he put the mug in a cupboard in his classroom and forgot about it. The Teacher maintained that the mug was never intended to be on display and that someone else must have taken it out of the cupboard, most likely Teacher 2.

In terms of the note which included the words “hun town”, it was the Teacher’s evidence that he brought the note into the school along with the other items from his home. He said that he had written the note at some point well after the CPD development day and that he was going to send the information contained in the note in an email to a friend as part of a conversation he was having with him about football and a trip that his friend was taking to Northern Ireland. He appreciated that the language was not appropriate and that the note should never have been in the school. He did, however, deny that the note was on his desk and maintained instead that it had been in his bag and must have been removed from his bag by Teacher 2. The Teacher explained that he had a number of previous issues with Teacher 2, as did a number of his colleagues. He later became aware that it was Teacher 2 that had reported him to Investigating Officer 2. He also became aware that some of his colleagues had reported Teacher 2 to the then Acting Head Teacher over concerns that Teacher 2 had been going through their personal belongings without permission. It was against that background that certain grievances and complaints were made by various staff members against Teacher 2.

Finally, the Teacher also admitted sharing music with a probationer under the explanation that the probationer was Irish and had indicated that he enjoyed Irish music. He saved the music on a hard drive at home and gave it to the probationer for copying. Whilst at the time he did not consider the music to be in any way offensive, the Teacher said that he very much regrets causing any upset to the individual concerned.

In the course of his evidence, the Teacher described his sense of deep regret at having gone through the disciplinary process and expressed considerable remorse for his actions. He said that teaching is more than just a job to him and that he would never do anything again to put his career in jeopardy. He said that he wanted nothing more than to continue working in the teaching profession, which he truly loves and respects.

During cross-examination, the Teacher re-iterated his position that he had never advised any pupil to confine his or her studies to four essays and that he only sent one email with attachments in order to assist a particular pupil. In relation to the essays that were attached to the email he said that the essay about voting systems was sent because the pupil did not have a clear knowledge of that subject area. The same applied to Poverty. He could not recall why the essay about the USA was attached to the email and the remaining essays were about topics that regularly featured in the exam.

During further questioning, the Teacher agreed that he may have advised pupils to study particular areas during the Masterclass but he explained that telling them to study areas was different to advising them about specific questions that might come up in the exam.

When the evidence of Investigating Officer 1 and the Head of Service that the exam questions would have been difficult to predict was put to the Teacher, the Teacher strongly disagreed with that assessment and expressed his view that they were not the best people to give that opinion because neither of them are subject specialists.

In relation to the email that he sent to Teacher 1, the Teacher was asked what he meant when said that he was glad that he did not have a clue about the exam. In response, the Teacher said that when he was a vetter, he would have known about the content of the exam but not knowing made it easier to teach the pupils. He was then asked why he did not remedy the caps lock error prior to sending the email and he said that he did not think it was anything that needed to be remedied. He denied meeting up with Teacher 1 and discussing the contents of the exam paper and indicated that they only spoke about once every four weeks.

In relation to sending emails to pupils, the Teacher agreed that acting in that way could blur the boundaries between a Teacher and his/her pupils. He did, however, maintain that the content of any email that he sent was entirely appropriate and related to the course that he was teaching. He was equally adamant that he had learned from his mistake and that he would not do it again.

In relation to the postcards and the mug, the Teacher agreed that it was inappropriate to have these items in the classroom, particularly within a school based in the West of Scotland. Furthermore, the items had no direct relevance to the curriculum that was being taught. However, despite the view of Investigating Officer 2 that the postcards were clearly visible on the wall within the classroom and the evidence provided by Teacher 2 that the mug was on display in the classroom, the Teacher maintained his account that he had not seen the postcards on the wall and that he had not removed the mug from the cupboard. It was his position that Teacher 2 must have done so. The Teacher did, however, agree that he should have thrown the mug away rather than keep it at school.

In relation to the note with ‘hun town’ written on it, the Teacher again maintained his position that the note had been in his bag and that he had written the note a number of weeks after the CPD development day, in the context that he had previously described. Again, it was his position that Teacher 2 must have removed the note from his bag before copying it and putting it back. He also drew attention to the fact that Teacher 2 had not reported finding the note when he was first interviewed by Investigating Officer 2 and that despite being affronted by the content of the note, by his own admission he acted strangely by putting the note back where he had found it.

Finally, the Teacher conceded that some of the songs that he gave to the probationer teacher included political references and that it was inappropriate to bring material of that type into school. He was clear that he would not make the same mistake again.

Witness A

At the outset of his evidence, Witness A read aloud his first witness statement and a supplementary witness statement before being asked questions. The following information is a summary of the evidence that he gave.

Witness A has been a registered teacher for approximately twenty seven years and is currently a Principal Teacher in Modern Studies xx x xxxxx xxxxx xx xxxxxx. He also worked for the SQA for a period of five years as a xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx in Higher Modern Studies. As part of his work with the SQA, Witness A worked closely with the Teacher.

It was the opinion of Witness A that there was no leak of the Modern Studies exam paper and that under no circumstances would the Teacher have had access to the exam paper prior to the day of the exam. He described the Teacher as “honest”, “very able” and “hard working” and that he (the Teacher), like other teachers, would advise pupils about what was likely to come up in exams based on his own vast experience of the subject and of previous exam papers. Furthermore, Witness A spoke of the disappointment that he and others felt at their treatment by the SQA when the allegations were being investigated and how he, like others, formed the impression that the SQA was more focussed on protecting its reputation rather than the reputation of teachers.

Specifically in relation to the Modern Studies exam paper, Witness A explained that the proposed questions for the 2014 paper were largely finalised by him and by two of his colleagues in 2012/13. He was clear that the Teacher formed no part of that process because he was not part of the setting team and would only have been involved at the marking stage. For that reason, Witness A was clear that the Teacher would not have been party to any discussions surrounding the content of the exam paper. He said that exam papers were “never discussed” outside of setting team meetings and, furthermore, final exam papers were kept under “the strictest control by those in possession of them”. It was opinion of Witness A, therefore, that there was no means by which a draft or final exam paper could be accessed prior to the exam by anyone not involved in that paper’s preparation short of them handling a physical copy. However, all physical copies of the exam paper were “kept under lock and key” and were only ever exchanged between those involved in the preparation process.

Witness A stated that in early 2013 he was informed by the Head of Service that the SQA had received an anonymous letter, which he has never seen, alleging that a member of the exam team had provided confidential information on the proposed Higher Modern Studies exam paper to pupils. The person demanded that action be taken otherwise he/she would go to the press. Following the anonymous letter, Witness A said that he was asked by the Head of Service and her colleague to make changes to the proposed Modern Studies exam paper, which he duly did. The revised paper was then submitted to Teacher 1 for final checking xx xxx xxxx xx xxxxxxxx. Witness A was clear that the Teacher had absolutely no involvement in either the production of the revised exam paper and that he had not discussed it with him.

During further questioning Witness A was also clear when expressing his view that the changes to the exam paper did not disturb the notion of sequencing. He said that he had not been asked by the Head of Service to alter the predictability of the exam and, in any event, that was not the objective of the SQA. The objective of the SQA was to be fair to pupils by setting questions in such a way that it allowed them to fully demonstrate their knowledge of the subject areas that they had been taught. Furthermore, if a question was included in the exam paper that was not a “mainstream question” that could potentially “throw pupils”, who were already under strict time constraints.

Of particular significance, Witness A went on to say that, contrary to the views expressed by other witnesses, the exam paper did not represent a significant departure from past papers because there were only a certain number of questions that could be asked. For that reason, past papers would have still been of great value to teachers in the subject.

It was then explained to Witness A that the Head of Service had said that the 2014 exam was different due to the late changes that were made and he was asked for his comment. Witness A strongly disagreed with that assessment and stated that the questions in the exam paper were based on areas of study that would have been familiar to pupils and that the feedback about the exam was that it was “fairly mainstream”. Furthermore, pass marks were where they should have been, which in his view undermined the suggestion that pupils had been given an unfair advantage going into the exam. Witness A also said that it was not surprising that a large number of pupils elected to answer the same questions in the exam because pupils tended to be drawn to certain types of question, for example, the question about the USA was a popular question. Also, given the size of the subject, it was impossible for teachers to cover all areas and so teaching was streamlined to cover particular topics.

During further cross-examination, Witness A reiterated his position that in revising the Modern Studies exam paper he was not attempting to make the questions on the paper less predictable but was aiming to produce “the best paper”. He said that he had never heard of anyone talking about sequencing at any stage.

Witness B

At the outset of his evidence, Witness B read aloud his witness statement before being asked questions. His evidence can be summarised as follows.

Witness B previously worked for the SQA as x xxxxx and first met the Teacher while working in that capacity in 2002/2003. In his work with the SQA, it was his role to put together question papers for exams which would then be quality checked at a later date by people like the Teacher. Witness B was therefore part of the “insider team” and the Teacher was part of the “outer team”.

In relation to the structure of the Modern Studies exam, Witness B explained that there had been widespread concern with the Modern Studies community that the course was fairly limited and there were only a select number of questions that could be asked of pupils. This meant that previous years’ questions were reworded but in essence were very familiar. Witness B was aware that there was also widespread predicting of questions and that teachers of Modern Studies would often “take some kind of pride in the number of questions they predicted would come up”. It was the opinion of Witness B that any Modern Studies teacher could predict with a reasonable degree of accuracy the questions that might come up in the exam, if not the exact questions. He was also aware that a number of his colleagues were teaching Modern Studies by giving pupils essay questions and sample answers based on the questions/answers that had come up in previous years’ exam papers. The predictability of the exam was therefore a frequent topic of discussion during SQA meetings.

Witness B said that he became aware of certain allegations being made against the Teacher in 2013/2014 and that he and a number of his colleagues were interviewed during the SQA investigation. He said that he was never made aware of the basis of the SQA’s concerns but had he been, he would have explained that under no circumstances could any leak have come from the Teacher because he had no access to the paper prior to the exam. Furthermore, the revision sessions that the Teacher carried out were similar to those undertaken in many schools across Scotland and it was common practice to predict questions that might come up in the exam and hand out model answers. It was also the opinion of Witness B that due to the time pressures of the Modern Studies Higher paper, any teacher would have selected very mainstream content areas such as the ones selected by the Teacher.

In discounting the possibility that there may have been a leak, Witness B said that he had known the people that did have access to the exam paper for over twenty years and that Witness A and Teacher 1 in particular were teachers of the “highest integrity who were completely dedicated to making Higher Modern Studies a success”. He said that he was “shocked” and “appalled” at how they were treated by the SQA a result of what was an anonymous and possibly malicious tip off. He felt so strongly about how they and others had been treated that he resigned from the team.

In short, it was the view of Witness B that the SQA, whilst right to undertake a robust enquiry, had wrongly reacted to an anonymous tip off and that no cogent evidence was produced showing that there had been a leak, hence the reason why the SQA investigation was inconclusive.

During further questioning, Witness B said that he was familiar with the content of the 2014 paper and that it was incorrect to characterise the revised paper as a significant departure from earlier Higher papers. He went further to say that the particular exam paper was predictable because the paper had “timing issues” which meant that “a lot of shortcuts had to be taken”. It was his opinion that the 2014 paper was “very predictable” and that predicting was “widespread”. Witness B considered that he was in a good position to make an assessment as to the predictability of the exam paper because he is an expert in the Modern Studies paper having worked for 20 years as x xxxxx. Furthermore, like Witness A, he said that the 2014 paper was well received and that the pass rate did not reveal anything unusual.

When asked specifically about his experience of the Teacher, Witness B said that he was “diligent and hardworking”, that he “operated with complete integrity” and that he was “a highly valued member of the team”.

There was no cross-examination.

Witness C

At the outset of his evidence Witness C read aloud his witness statement before being asked questions. His evidence can be summarised as follows.

Witness C is the xxxxxx xxxx xx xxxxxx xxxxxx at the school where the Teacher presently teaches. The xxxxxxx xx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx and for that reason he has worked closely with the Teacher. He is also fully aware of the allegations made against the Teacher.

Witness C said that having worked with the Teacher since January 2016 he has a high opinion of him and his professional abilities. He has been particularly impressed by the depth of his subject knowledge and the organised and effective way that he teaches classes. The feedback from staff and pupils has also been positive. Due to his positive attributes, the Teacher has shown he has been, and will continue to be, involved in mentoring probationers.

Witness C confirmed that from the time that the Teacher has been teaching at the school, no concerns have been raised about the Teacher’s fitness to teach. Furthermore, the feedback from those who have observed his lessons has been nothing less than positive.

During further questioning, Witness C clarified that there had been no concerns raised about the Teacher’s email communications with pupils, about him expressing sectarian views or about him possessing inappropriate or offensive material. Neither has the Teacher acted in any way to suggest that he holds sectarian or inappropriate views.

There was no cross-examination.

Documentary evidence

In addition to the oral evidence, the Panel had careful regard to all of the documents contained within the Presenting Officer’s papers and the Teacher’s papers. The Panel also had careful regard to the additional material submitted by the Presenting Officer and the Teacher’s representative in the course of the hearing, which included a large number of testimonials from various individuals that had been taught by or otherwise knew the Teacher. All of these individuals attested to the Teacher’s good character in similar terms to the evidence given by the three witnesses called on the Teacher’s behalf.

Findings and reasons

The Panel not only gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented but also to the submissions made by the parties at the conclusion of the evidence, even if not specifically referred to herein. The Panel also had in mind that the burden of proof rested on the Presenting Officer and that the standard of proof required is the balance of probabilities.

The Panel had regard to the GTCS Fact Finding in Fitness to Teach Hearings practice statement and, having carefully reviewed all of the evidence in light of the submissions made by the parties, made the following findings for the reasons set out.

Allegation 1(a) – not proved

It was clear to the Panel that, as far as allegation 1(a) was concerned, the case for the GTCS was predicated on there having been a leak about the contents of the 2014 Modern Studies exam paper. That was clear because the evidence demonstrated beyond doubt that the Teacher would not have had been able to access a copy of the exam paper as access to it was tightly controlled. Furthermore, only those directly involved in setting the exam paper would have known of its content. The Teacher was not one of those individuals.

It was equally clear to the Panel that only a limited number of people could have disclosed the content of the paper to the Teacher and that what was being suggested by the GTCS witnesses was that Teacher 1 was the person responsible. That theory was based on the email between Teacher 1 and the Teacher dated 19th December 2013. It was this email in combination with the fact that, according to the witnesses, the exam questions would have been difficult to predict, that led them to the conclusion that the Teacher had inside knowledge of the content of the exam paper.

However, the Panel noted that the opinion of Investigating Officer 1 and the Head of Service as to the predictability of the exam paper was in stark contrast to the evidence of not only the Teacher but Witnesses A and B. Furthermore, having carefully assessed the evidence, it was the Panel’s view that Witnesses A and B were both credible and reliable witnesses because they gave their evidence in a coherent and straightforward way. They were consistent with each other when discussing the format of the exam paper and the predictability of questions in the exam. It was also clear to the Panel that both of them were more than qualified to give an opinion about the predictability of the exam because they are both specialists in the subject area and, at the relevant time, were both directly involved in the setting of the Modern Studies exam paper.

In their evidence, both witnesses clearly disagreed with the opinion expressed by Investigating Officer 1 and the Head of Service that the 2014 exam was difficult to predict and, in the Panel’s view, they gave clear and persuasive evidence as to why. Witness A explained that the 2014 paper did not disturb the notion of sequencing because that was not the objective of the SQA. Instead, the objective was to provide pupils with good questions so that they had an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of the subject area. Both witnesses also explained that the questions had to be mainstream because pupils were under pressure of time during the exam and if an unexpected question was included in the paper, that might ‘throw’ a pupil. They were also clear that there were only a limited number of areas that could come up in the exam and that certain questions came up repeatedly. Furthermore, the evidence of both witnesses was entirely in keeping with the evidence of the Teacher, which enhanced his (the Teacher’s) credibility and reliability.

Comparatively, Investigating Officer 1 and the Head of Service did not have the same experience in the subject of Modern Studies. Furthermore, whilst it was the evidence of Investigating Officer 1 that subject specialists agreed that it would have been very difficult for teachers to successfully predict questions in the 2014 exam, she did not describe who those subject specialists were. In any event, independent of the Teacher, the Panel heard clear evidence from two subject specialists in Witnesses A and B that the questions on the 2014 paper would have been relatively easy to predict.

There was also a difference in the presentation of Investigating Officer 1 and the Head of Service on the one hand and Witnesses A and B on the other. Investigating Officer 1 and the Head of Service often appeared hesitant when giving their answers, particularly the Head of Service when she was asked about the predictability of the exam. Witnesses A and B answered all questions directly and fully.

For all of the reasons given, the Panel preferred the evidence of Witnesses A and B.

Furthermore, it was clear that only a limited number of pupils had been interviewed during the investigation. Only two pupils from the Teacher’s school had been interviewed out of a possible forty (approximately), along with six pupils from other schools. Transcripts of these interviews had not been provided, only summaries of what each of the pupils said. It was apparent from reading these summaries that none of the pupils described the Teacher stating at any stage that he was aware of the content of the 2014 paper. It was equally apparent that much of what these pupils had to say about the information given out by the Teacher was based on hearsay accounts from other pupils who had not been interviewed. In all the circumstances, the Panel considered that it could attach little weight to this source of evidence.

The Panel was also satisfied that the Teacher had distributed more than five essays in the course of the academic year. Not only did the Teacher give evidence to that effect but there was evidence from former pupils that he had provided them within a number of sample essays and answers. There was also clear evidence from the witnesses called in support of the Teacher’s case that it was standard practice to distribute essays and model answers to pupils and that use of past exam papers was common practice.

In addition, it was significant in the Panel’s view that one of the five essays that had been sent to the pupil by email did not feature in the 2014 exam at all, namely the essay about Poverty. In addition, one of the essays covered the same topic as a question in the original exam paper but not in the final exam paper. Whilst the other essays sent to the pupil covered topics that did come up in the final exam, Witnesses A and B had been clear that those topics came up repeatedly and either voting systems or voting behaviour was bound to feature in the exam. That being the case, the Panel had a clear understanding of how easy it was to predict exam topics and even questions. It was also clear that the Teacher has vast experience in the subject area such that he was well placed to make predictions about what might come up in the exam.

The Panel also attached weight to the evidence given by the witnesses about the Teacher’s good character. The evidence of the witnesses was entirely in keeping with the numerous character references submitted on the Teacher’s behalf. It was apparent that the Teacher was held in the highest regard by colleagues and pupils alike and that he had operated with integrity throughout his career as a Teacher.

Finally, the Panel considered that the Teacher had given his evidence in a straightforward and in the Panel’s view, honest way. He had been consistent in his account and his evidence was consistent with the evidence given by Witnesses A and B. In short, the Panel found that the Teacher was a credible and reliable witness.

Having considered the totality of the evidence, for the reasons outlined above, the Panel was not satisfied that allegation 1(a) had been proved to the required standard. Consequently, the Panel found allegation 1(a) not proved

Allegation 1(b) – proved by admission

The Panel noted that the Teacher admitted allegation 1(b). Furthermore, there was no evidence to undermine his account that he had only ever used his email to communicate with pupils in a professional context. The Panel accepted that was the case.

Allegations 2(a)(i)-(iii) – proved by admission

The Panel noted that the Teacher admitted having inappropriate items within his classroom, namely two “Free Derry” postcards and a Bobby Sands Mug.

The Panel found that there was no clear evidence to undermine the Teacher’s account about how and why those items were brought into the school. The Teacher had also been consistent in his account that he had brought the cards into the school along with a number of others items from his home after his property was damaged. He had also repeatedly stated that he had been given the Bobby Sands Mug by a janitor at the school a long time ago. The Panel accepted the Teacher’s account.

In relation to the cards/postcards, it had also been accepted that at a time when the Teacher was absent from the school, his teaching assistant had put the cards/postcards up on the wall. In those circumstances and absent photographic evidence showing the layout of the classroom and the cards/postcards in situ, the Panel could not be satisfied that the Teacher was aware that the cards/photographs had been put up on the wall by the teaching assistant.

The Panel also accepted the Teacher’s account that when he was given the Bobby Sands mug, he put it in a cupboard within his classroom. In reaching that conclusion, the Panel did note the evidence given by Teacher 2 during interview that the mug had been in the Teacher’s classroom for some time. However, that account was inconsistent with the fact that nobody else at the school had seen the mug in the classroom at any time. Furthermore, the Panel did not hear directly from Teacher 2 and was not therefore in a position to fully assess his evidence under cross -examination. It was also clear from the evidence that a number of grievances and complaints had been made against Teacher 2 by various teaching staff at the school and against that background the Panel could not discount the Teacher’s explanation as to how the mug came to be on display in his classroom.

Allegation 2(b) – not proved

In relation to the note that contained a reference to “hun town,” the Panel found that there was no evidence to undermine the Teacher’s account about why he had written the note. Furthermore, the Panel was not persuaded by the evidence of Teacher 2 as to the circumstances in which the note was found. It was apparent from the evidence that Teacher 2 did not disclose finding the note until some point between 22nd October and 13th November 2014 and there was no clear explanation for the delay. Also, as previously stated, the Panel did not have the benefit of hearing directly from Teacher 2, which affected the weight that could be attached to his evidence. The Panel also noted again that a number of grievances and complaints had been made against Teacher 2 by various teaching staff at the school and against that background it could not discount the Teacher’s explanation that Teacher 2 had removed the note from his bag. Furthermore, on any view, the account given by Teacher 2 that he had photocopied the note before putting it back on the Teacher’s desk in full view of pupils was strange and lacked credibility.

Allegation 2(c) – proved by admission but under deletion of the words: and in doing so, you did breach your employer’s Information Technology Policy

The Panel noted that the Teacher admitted this allegation and that the Presenting Officer conceded that the words: and in doing so, you did breach your employer’s Information Technology Policy should be deleted as no evidence had been led in support of this part of the allegation.

Fitness to Teach

Given that the Panel found that some of the allegations were proved, the parties were invited to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach. Prior to making their submissions, both representatives had been given an outline of the Panel’s findings in relation to allegations 2(a)(i)-(iii), as set out above.

No further evidence was led by either party but both parties did make further submissions.

In summary, the Presenting Officer left it to the Panel to determine whether, on facts found proved, the Teacher’s conduct amounted to ‘misconduct’ and he made no further submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

The Teacher’s representative invited the Panel to carefully consider whether the Teacher’s conduct did amount to ‘misconduct’ but in any event submitted that the Teacher’s conduct was remediable, that it had been remedied and that it was unlikely to be repeated. On that basis, he invited the Panel to find that the Teacher’s fitness to teach was not currently impaired.

Findings on fitness to teach

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and the submissions made by the parties. The Panel addressed the relevant considerations in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach, as outlined in the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance.

In the Panel’s view, the Teacher’s conduct, as reflected in the allegations found proved, did fall short of the standards expected of a registered teacher. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher’s conduct gave rise to a breach of parts 1.2, 1.4, 1.6 and 5.3 of COPAC. The use by the Teacher of his personal email to contact pupils, albeit in a professional context, was inappropriate and the Teacher should not have brought items into the school that had no bearing on the curriculum being taught. Furthermore, the items that he brought into the school had political and religious connotations and the handwritten note was clearly inappropriate. In addition, the Irish songs had been given to a probationer who was made to feel uncomfortable.

Having determined that the Teacher’s conduct fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher, the next issue for the Panel to determine was whether his fitness to teach is currently impaired.

In addressing that issue, the Panel was satisfied that the breaches of the Code were committed in a particular set of circumstances that were highly unlikely to be repeated. The Panel was reinforced in that view by the fact that there had been no repetition of the behaviour since the incidents. To the contrary, there was evidence before the Panel that the Teacher had shown insight and had reflected on what he had done. Furthermore, it was patently clear to the Panel that the Teacher is held in high regard by peers and pupils alike and that he is an exemplary teacher. Witness C also said that he had no concerns at all about the Teacher and that he was a much valued and highly regarded member of the teaching staff at his school.

The Panel concluded that the above factors, when taken together, demonstrated that the conduct giving rise to the allegations was remediable, that it had been remedied and that it was highly unlikely to be repeated.

The Panel did carefully consider whether the public interest nevertheless demanded a finding of impairment of fitness to teach. In the Panel’s view however, the public interest did not demand such a finding. The Panel considered, in the particular circumstances of the case, that a reasonably informed member of the public’s confidence in the profession and in the GTCS as a regulator would not be undermined by a finding of no impairment. Furthermore, the level of insight shown by the Teacher and his otherwise exemplary teaching record meant that there was no need to make a finding of impairment in order to protect members of the public.

For all of these reasons, the Panel found that there was no current impairment of fitness to teach. That being so, the Panel was not required to consider any of the available disposals and the hearing was concluded.