The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

Full Hearing - 20-24 August 2018

Full Hearing

20, 21, 22, 23 & 24 August 2018

 Teacher  XXXXXXXX Present (represented)
Registration Number XXXXXXXX
 Registration category XXXXXXXX
 Panel  Kerr Wilson (Convener), Frieda Fraser, Peter Hempsey
 Legal Assessor  James Mulgrew
 Servicing Officer  Kirsty McIntosh
 Presenting Officer  Robbie Wilson
 Respondent's representative  Graeme Watson, Clyde & Co

Any reference in this decision to:

  • "GTCS" means the General Teaching Council for Scotland
  • the "Panel" means the Fitness to Teach Panel considering the case
  • the "Rules" (and any related expression) means the GTCS Fitness to Teach and Appeals Rules 2012 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them
  • The "Register" means the GTCS register of teachers

Allegations

The following allegations were considered at the hearing:

1. At date unknown but before XXXXXXXX, you did produce a letter that purported to be from one of your colleagues to another, which letter was dated XXXXXXXXXX, was addressed to ‘Witness 3’’ from ‘Witness 2’, and included the following phrases:

a.  ‘What that ugly woman - Science/PSE/SFL? - said is verbal abuse.’
b. ‘I would also speak to XXXXXXXXX if the fat rep keeps giving you the cold shoulder.’
c. ‘… don’t trust anyone around you, especially XXXXXXXXXX teachers.  I say it from bitter experience as you know – they talk and can stab you in the back to support their kind.’
d. '… it was one of the moronic XXXXXXXXXX in the department who must have been the well-wisher.’
e. '… the XXXXXXXXX Academy XXXXXXXXXX brigade started congregating in XXXXXXX classroom …’
the truth being that you had written the letter yourself;
2. Between XXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXX, both dates inclusive, you did anonymously circulate to members of staff at XXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXX the letter referred to in Charge 1, along with other documents including an unsigned covering note which said ‘I have accidently come across this paperwork in Witness 3’s classroom’, in order to support your position with regard to a bullying and harassment complaint made by you against the said Witness 3, who was your line manager;
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 the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012, Parts 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.1 and 5.3; and in relation to each charge, that you were dishonest.

Teacher’s admissions

The Teacher denied the allegations.

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 Statement of Witness 1
P2 Statement of Witness 2
P3 Statement of Witness 3
P4 Letter from XXXXXXX Council dated XXXXXX and relevant attachments
P5 Supplementary statement of Witness 2 and exhibits
P6 Statement of Witness 4

Teacher’s hearing papers

T1 Completed Response Form, dated XXXXXX
T2 Witness statement of the Teacher plus exhibits
T3 Witness statement of Witness 5
T4 Witness statement of Witness 6
T5 Witness statement of Witness 7
T6 Witness statement of Witness 8 (late paper)
T7 Report from handwriting expert (late paper)
T8 Statement of Agreed Facts

Servicing Officer’s hearing papers

S1 Notice of hearing, dated XXXXXXX
S2 Proof of service of notice – e-mail delivery/read receipts
S3 Procedural Hearing Annex, dated 28 February 2017.

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.

The Panel found Witness 2 to be generally credible for the most part. The Panel thought that there were occasions in cross examination when the witness was a little brittle and a little defensive. The Panel also found Witness 3 to generally be a credible and reliable witness. The Panel also found that there was a degree of defensiveness in her response to questioning.

The Panel observed that both witnesses had been professional colleagues for a number of years. The Panel formed the view that the witnesses had built up a strong professional relationship and had a sense that their relationship was a good one. The Panel were a little surprised about the evidence given by both witnesses regarding whether they had discussed the content of the letter of XXXXXXXXX with each other. Further, the evidence given by both witnesses about what, if anything, Witness 2 would drink during the week was quite similar.

The Panel considered the Witness 1 to be a very competent and professional witness who appeared to have no axe to grind. The Panel found the witness’ investigation report to be a comprehensive one.

The Panel found the Witness 5 to have given her evidence in a straight forward and impartial manner.

In relation to the Teacher’s evidence, the Panel considered that he was calm and consistent for the most part as he gave his evidence. The Panel noted that the Teacher was questioned for a long time, Further, he appeared a little agitated during a spell of cross examination. However, the Teacher did acknowledge certain weak aspects of his evidence rather than seek to explain them away.

The Panel then considered the totality of the evidence and submissions made by each Party in relation to the evidence. The crucial question that the Panel required to answer was whether the Teacher had written the letter dated 23 October 2013. In relation to the date on the letter, the Teacher admitted that was a format that he used. However, others may know that was how he put the date on correspondence. The Teacher admitted that he called “XXXXXXXX”, “XXXXXX”. However, there could be others who knew that was what he called her. The Panel found the incorrect reference to Witness 3’s husband as a curious aspect of the letter. The Panel did note that the timing of the circulation of the letter appeared to be almost immediately after the Teacher’s Appeal Hearing. However, there was a lack of clear evidence about the precise timing of the circulation of the various copies of the letter, their location and method of delivery. There was also an absence of evidence that the Teacher knew of the date of the Moderation Meeting or knew that Witness 3 was due to attend. There was also an absence of evidence of how it could be that emails sent by Witness 2 and by Witness 3 and which they accepted being the author of could be obtained by the Teacher. There was no evidence of any forensic computer interrogation to explain that circumstance.

Overall the Panel could see that there were strands of evidence which linked the Teacher to being the potential author of the letter and being the person who circulated the various copies of it. However, in the absence of any direct evidence, the Panel’s view was that the strands were frayed and accordingly the Panel was not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the allegations had been proved. Accordingly, the Panel found both allegations not proved.