The General Teaching Council for Scotland

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Pavel Stroev Decision

Full Hearing

14 June and 17, 18, 19, 20 September 2018

 Teacher  Pavel Stroev
 Registration number  069365
 Registration category  Secondary - Mathematics
 Panel  John Kilpatrick (Convener), Lynda Dalziel, Peter Hempsey
 Legal Assessor  James Mulgrew
 Servicing Officer  Aga Adamczyk (for Day 1 only)
 Presenting Officer  Natalie McCartney, Anderson Strathern (Day 1), Tom Docherty, Anderson Strathern (Days 2-5)
 Teacher's representative  Fiona Dalziel, SSTA

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

Background

The Panel convened for the Full Hearing in the Teacher’s case. The Hearing was scheduled to take place on 14, 15, 18 and 19 June 2018.

On 12 June 2018, the Teacher’s Representative applied for a postponement of the Hearing. The basis of the application was originally that the Teacher had been invited to two interviews for positions as a Further Education lecturer. The interviews were scheduled to take place on days already assigned for the Full Hearing. Attempts to re-arrange the interviews were unsuccessful. The application to postpone the Hearing was refused by the Convener on 13 June 2018 for the following reasons:

  • The late date the application was made: - the email from the Representative asking for a postponement was not received until the afternoon of Tuesday 12th June with the hearing due to start on the Thursday 14th June.
  • Submissions were not received until the morning of Wednesday 13th June and the submission by the Teacher’s Representative was very short and lacked detail.
  • The reason for the application was to allow the Teacher to attend an interview in Glasgow at 1.45 pm on Thursday 14th June. For a postponement to be granted there should be exceptional and compelling reasons for doing so. Attendance at an interview did not meet that standard.
  • If the Teacher wanted to attend the interview the expectation would be for his Representative to attend the hearing and take any instructions from him by telephone as his interview would only prevent him from being contacted for an hour at the most.
  • His unavailability for the Thursday would have been during day 1 of the Presenting Officer's case. His Representative should have been available to cross-examine witnesses.
  • Although the submission stated that the Teacher had another interview on Friday 15th there was no evidence presented to confirm that such an interview had been organised.
  • Again, the Teacher's Representative should have been present to cross-examine witnesses as the Presenting Officer's case was timetabled to continue on Friday 15 June.
  • The Teacher was available for the Monday and Tuesday of the hearing (i.e. 18th and 19th June) and those days were set aside for the Teacher and his Representative to present his evidence.
  • Agreeing to the application would have caused considerable inconvenience to the witnesses who were scheduled to attend the hearing given the lateness of the application.
  • Granting a postponement would have delayed the hearing for at least 3 months given the school summer holidays and the difficulties in getting dates for the witnesses, the Presenting Officer and for convening another panel.
  • Given the serious nature of the allegation against the Teacher (i.e. violent behaviour towards a pupil) it was in the interests of the public and the Teacher for the case to be heard as quickly as possible.

On 13 June 2018, the parties were advised that the Convener had refused the application to postpone and that the Hearing would go ahead as planned.

However, on 13 June 2018 the Teacher’s Representative advised GTCS that she had already made alternative arrangements to deal with other matters during the dates assigned for the Hearing. These had been arranged on the basis of the Representative’s assumption that the application to postpone would have been granted. The Teacher’s Representative was asked to change her commitments or alternatively to arrange for a colleague to represent the Teacher and to make a fresh application to postpone. The Teacher’s Representative advised GTCS that neither she nor any of her colleagues would be able to attend the Hearing.

Preliminary issues

Proceeding in Absence

On 14 June 2018 the Teacher was not present at the Hearing nor was he represented. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to proceed with the Full Hearing in the absence of the Teacher. The Presenting Officer referred to the background of the postponement application and response thereto. She submitted that the Teacher had voluntarily absented himself from the Hearing and had prioritised securing future employment over the present proceedings. It was acknowledged by the Presenting Officer that securing employment was important, but did not outweigh the importance of having the present proceedings dealt with. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher’s health was not a relative factor in this issue given information contained within materials lodged on the Teacher’s behalf in advance of the Hearing. The Presenting Officer highlighted that the Teacher’s written statement set out his position as did the account of his employer’s interview of him. The Panel could take these documents into account during the Hearing. The consequences of a postponement were also highlighted to the Panel. In particular, the allegations were serious, four days had been assigned for the Hearing to take place and a number of witnesses were due to give evidence over the following days. The Presenting Officer referred the Panel to the Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence Practice Statement and invited the Panel to proceed with the Full Hearing in the absence of the Teacher.

The Panel considered the background to the Hearing, correspondence from the Teacher’s Representative, submissions made by the Presenting Officer and the Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence Practice Statement in determining the issue.

The Panel found the situation to be a highly unsatisfactory one for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Panel was particularly concerned by the fact that the Teacher’s Representative had assumed that the postponement application would be granted and had made alternative diary arrangements for dates when the Full Hearing was scheduled to take place. Secondly, the Teacher’s Representative had been unable to arrange for a colleague to take over the Teacher’s case. Finally, the Teacher’s Representative had been unable to arrange for a colleague to attend before the Panel in order to make a further application to postpone.

The Panel noted that the Practice Statement sets out in detail the process which guides a Panel (and Parties) in coming to a decision on such applications and related applications. In particular Part D of the Practice Statement details a number of steps and issues which a Panel must consider. It was of concern to the Panel that the Teacher’s Representative was “surprised” that the postponement application was refused when it was made so close to the Hearing date, and given the reasons in support of it.

Notwithstanding, the Panel decided to refuse the application to proceed in the absence of the Teacher. The allegations in this case were very serious. The consequences to the Teacher could be a finding that the serious allegations were proved, that he was unfit to teach or that his fitness to teach was impaired and this could potentially lead to the removal of his name from the Register. The Hearing would have required to proceed not only in the absence of the Teacher but also in the absence of any Representative on the Teacher’s behalf. In the particular circumstances, the Panel was concerned that the scenario may lead to injustice.

Given the Panel’s decision in relation to proceeding in the absence, the Panel adjourned the Full Hearing.

The circumstances which caused the Panel to adjourn the Full Hearing were very concerning. The decision to refuse to postpone the Full Hearing had been intimated in advance to the Teacher’s Representative. The Panel had no information as to whether or not that decision had been intimated to the Teacher personally. If it had, then the Teacher had voluntarily chosen to prioritise appointments relating to employment opportunities over his attendance at the Hearing. That was his right. However, the Teacher was represented by the SSTA. The Association has represented other teachers in relation to proceedings at GTCS. The Teacher’s representative indicated in advance that no member of the Association would be in attendance at the Full Hearing. The absence of any member of the Association at the Full Hearing was discourteous. The background called into question the scope and extent of the Association’s instruction by and representation of the Teacher. The Panel was unclear whether their representation of the Teacher was dependent on his attendance. The decision to refuse the postponement of the Hearing had in part been based on the fact that the Representative would attend the Full Hearing and be able to test the evidence given in accordance with instructions provided by the Teacher in advance.

However, the circumstances that resulted the Hearing being adjourned on the first of four days scheduled had a considerable impact on other persons. A number of witnesses had been due to attend to give evidence over the course of the Full Hearing on behalf of the Presenting Officer and on behalf of the Teacher. Some had been due to give evidence on the first day. The Presenting Officer had prepared for the Hearing to take place. GTCS had taken steps to organise the Hearing by way of selecting Panel members and other persons to assist the Panel and to facilitate the Full Hearing. The adjournment resulted in inconvenience to those various persons. However, it also resulted in a financial cost to GTCS bearing the expense incurred by the attendance and proposed attendance of various persons over the course of the Hearing.

The Panel had regard to Rule 1.10 relating to Orders for Expenses. At the conclusion of the Full Hearing scheduled for 17 September 2018, the Panel would invite parties to make representations on the question of an Order for Expenses being considered in relation to the adjourned Hearing which had been due to commence on 14 June 2018.

Allegation

The following allegation was considered at the hearing:

  1. On 9 March 2017, whilst employed as a teacher by Fife Council you did use aggression and exhibit violent behaviour towards Pupil A and you did put him at risk of harm

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 and 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Teacher’s admissions

The Teacher admitted that he had shouted at Pupil A but denied any physical contact.

The Teacher admitted that at the time of the allegation his fitness to teach was impaired. However, the Teacher had now remediated and his fitness to teach was no longer impaired.

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 Case Investigation form dated 31 March 2017
P2 Referral from local authority dated 23 March 2017
P3 Notice of referral letter to the Teacher dated 3 April 2017
P4 Investigation Report dated 2 November 2017
P5 Updated Local Authority Investigation Report REDACTED
P6 Local Authority interview with Colleague 1, dated 29 March 2017
P7 Local Authority interview with Pupil B, dated 26 April 2017
P8 Local Authority interview with Colleague 2, dated 18 April 2017
P9 Local Authority interview with Colleague 3, dated 26 April 2017
P10 Local Authority interview with the Depute Head Teacher, dated 18 April 2017
P11 Local Authority interview with Colleague 4, dated 4 April 2017
P12 Local Authority interview with Pupil A, dated 27 March 2017
P13 Local Authority interview with the Teacher, dated 27 March 2017
P14 Signed statement of the Depute Head Teacher dated 23 June 2017 (Attended)
P15 Signed statement of Colleague 2 dated 29 June 2017 (Attended)
P16 Signed statement of Colleague 3 dated 28 June 2017 (Attended)
P17 Signed statement of Colleague 1 dated 24 August 2017
P18 Email sending Interim Report dated 10 October 2017
P19 Notification of Panel Consideration dated 2 November 2017
P20 Email from the Teacher waving response period dated 20 November 2017

Teacher’s hearing papers

T1 Response from the Teacher dated 20 September 2017
T2 xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx for the Teacher’s mother – xxxxxxxx 12 April 2017
T3 Letter from Thorley Stephenson SSC dated 17 October 2017
T4 Notice of Teacher’s case form and character references
T5 Teacher’s signed statement dated 8 March 2018 (Attended)

Servicing Officer’s hearing papers

S1 Notice of Hearing dated 17 May 2018
S2 Proof of service of notice – email delivery and read receipts
S3 Notice of Hearing Response Form or other form

Summary of evidence

The evidence presented to the Panel consisted of oral testimony, written statements and other documentary evidence including an investigation report prepared by Fife Council. The majority of the evidence was uncontested.

The Teacher had been employed as a class teacher within Fife Council from 19 December 2006. He was employed as a mathematics teacher. He commenced work in another school and then moved to Woodmill High School.

At the time of the incident, the Teacher was going through a difficult period in his personal life. xx xxx xxxxxxxx xxxx xxx xxxx. xxx xxxx xxx xxxx xxx xxxxxx xxxx xxx xxx xxxxx xxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxx xxx xxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxxxx xx x xxxxx xxxxx xx xxxx xx xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxx xxx xxxxxxx. xxxxxxxxx, xxx xxxxx xxx xxxx xxxxxxxxx xxx xxxx xxxxx. Further, the Teacher was physically unwell on the day of the incident suffering from flu.

Pupil A had an issue at home before attending school on the day of the incident. His mother had reported to the school that his behaviour at home had been outrageous, very unruly and that she was concerned about him. The school was aware that Pupil A had certain behavioural issues and xxxxxxxx xxxx xxxx. The school had had some low level problems with Pupil A.

On the day of the incident, the Teacher was teaching Pupil A’s mathematics class. Pupil A was not engaging in the classroom and was speaking during the lesson. The Teacher asked Pupil A, “What do you not understand about the word, quiet?”. Pupil A responded, “Quiet”. The Teacher sent Pupil A out of the classroom into the corridor outside. The Teacher then followed Pupil A into the corridor.

The Teacher was frustrated with Pupil A. The Teacher had noted a change in Pupil A in the class following upon a change in the composition of pupils in the class. The Teacher and Pupil A had previously enjoyed a good relationship and Pupil A had been making progress.

In the corridor, the Teacher asked Pupil A the same question again. Pupil A was unresponsive. The Teacher asked Pupil A what his problem was. Pupil A was unresponsive and confrontational. The Teacher moved into Pupil A’s personal space and shouted at the top of his voice, “What is your problem?”. The Teacher had “lost it” at that point regarding his composure. Pupil A backed away and the Teacher followed him closely thereafter.

Pupil A reported to the Depute Head Teacher and to other members of staff that he had been head butted by the Teacher. Pupil A later stated to the Depute Head Teacher that the Teacher had gone too close to him and they had touched foreheads.

Pupil B reported that he had observed the Teacher head butting Pupil A. Pupil B reported that the Teacher was leaning over Pupil A and that the Teacher’s head hit Pupil A’s head. Pupil B observed Pupil A stumbling back. Pupil B observed a mark on Pupil A’s head above his right eyebrow.

Nearby classrooms had been interrupted by the disturbance and members of staff had left their classrooms to intervene. Colleague 1, a teacher in the school, described observing the Teacher speaking to Pupil A “face to face” and screaming into Pupil A’s face. Colleague 4, another teacher in the school, reported the Teacher as behaving extremely aggressively towards Pupil A and shouting at him at pitch but with a low register. She observed the Teacher approximately three inches from Pupil A’s face. She shouted “Dr Stroev” and walked towards the Teacher briskly. The Teacher did not stop berating Pupil A. She reported the Teacher as not being aware of what was going on.

The witness Colleague 3, a Pupil Support Assistant, gave oral testimony to the Panel. She had a joint Honours Degree from 1979. In 1980 she qualified as a Special Educational Needs Teacher. She had taken a career break to have her family and had returned to work in 1994 in early years child care. She had run a local community crèche and had been involved in other extra curricula activities with children aged between six months up to nineteen years old. She observed the incident involving the Teacher and Pupil A, which was outside a classroom in which she was assisting a pupil. She observed the Teacher shouting very loudly into Pupil A’s face and saw what she thought was the Teacher shoving Pupil A on the shoulder. She described the shouting as being at the top of the scale. She felt Pupil A was at risk as the Teacher had lost his temper. She described the Teacher and Pupil A as moving and then stopping outside the classroom for two minutes and then observing Pupil A stagger back.

Pupil A spoke to a number of persons after the incident and indicated to them that the Teacher had head butted him. One of those persons was Colleague 2, Principal Teacher of Mathematics. When he spoke with Pupil A, Colleague 2 observed a mark on Pupil A’s forehead. He described it as a red circular mark which looked like a contact mark more like a pushing/pressure mark rather than a strike mark.

Pupil A also told the Depute Head Teacher that the Teacher had head butted him and on further questioning Pupil A told her that the Teacher had gone too close to him and they had touched foreheads.

The Teacher stated in evidence that he had not physically touched Pupil A. The Teacher accepted that he had “lost the plot” for a few seconds. The Teacher further explained that he moved sharply into the personal space of Pupil A and shouted into Pupil A’s face. As the Teacher described this in his evidence, he motioned forward from the shoulders up with his head pushed forward. He denied any physical contact had taken place and did not see any mark on Pupil A’s forehead.

However, the Teacher accepted that what he did to Pupil A he did to get a reaction from him. Pupil A was blanking the Teacher. The Teacher accepted that what he did would have come across as aggressive, but that he did not intend to intimidate Pupil A or subdue him. The Teacher accepted that Pupil A would have felt scared and frightened by what had happened.

The Panel also considered the oral testimony and witness statements provided by witnesses on behalf of the Teacher. These were largely character witnesses attesting to the Teacher’s good conduct and the assistance that he provided at a Coding Club.

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.

Ultimately there was little conflict in the evidence led. The Teacher’s response to GTCS indicated that he admitted that he shouted at the Pupil but did put him at risk of harm. The Teacher denied being aggressive or violent. The Teacher denied making physical contact with the Pupil. The Teacher accepted shouting very close to the Pupil’s face. The Teacher indicated that he invaded the Pupil’s personal space and was “nose to nose” with Pupil A. In evidence, the Teacher accepted that he had “lost it” and that given what had happened he would have come across as aggressive. However, he did not intend to intimidate the Pupil, impose his will on the Pupil or subdue the Pupil. The Teacher accepted that the Pupil had been frightened, that he backed off and that he would have felt scared. This had not been the Teacher’s intention.

In light of the uncontested evidence of the other witnesses and the Teacher’s admitted position, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had acted in an aggressive manner towards the Pupil. The Panel judged the Teacher’s behaviour on an objective basis.

The Panel also had to consider whether the Teacher had head butted the pupil and in so doing had exhibited violent behaviour towards the Pupil. The Teacher denied that there had been any physical contact between the Pupil and himself. Pupil A said that he had been head butted. Pupil B said that he observed the head butt. A number of witnesses spoke to Pupil A stating that he had been head butted by the Teacher shortly after the incident. Witnesses also spoke to observing a mark on Pupil A’s forehead. However, Colleague 2, who observed the Pupil’s forehead shortly after the incident, characterised the mark as a contact mark, more like a pushing/pressure mark than a strike mark. Pupil A had also ultimately said to the Depute Head Teacher that the Teacher had gone too close to him and they had touched foreheads. The account of what Pupil B had said he observed had not been tested fully in the interview of him at the school. It was not clear to the Panel that Pupil B had actually observed a “head butt” as opposed to seeing an event which he interpreted as a head butt. The whole circumstances of Pupil B’s observations had not been explored during the school investigation. The Panel noted that the witness Colleague 3 had observed the incident and had interpreted what she saw as the Teacher pushing the Pupil on the shoulder. There had been no other evidence of a push. The Panel concluded that if there had been a “head butt” perpetrated in the manner commonly understood by the term, then the observed reaction of Pupil A would have been different than it was.

The Panel concluded that there had been minor physical contact when the heads of the Teacher and Pupil A connected during the incident. However, the Panel was satisfied that the contact was not intentional as the Teacher had stated in evidence. On that basis, the Panel was not satisfied that there had been any violent behaviour exhibited by the Teacher.

However, the Panel was satisfied that the conduct found proved had put the Pupil at risk of harm. Risk of harm included not only physical harm but emotional and educational harm. The Panel found that Pupil A had been shocked by the Teacher’s behaviour given their close proximity to each other, the manner and tone of the shouting and the location of the incident outside the Pupil’s classroom in the corridor and close to other classrooms. The Panel found that Pupil A would have been embarrassed and humiliated by the incident.

Given the Panel’s deliberations, the allegation required to be amended before the Panel concluded its findings in fact. In terms of Rule 2.8.4, the Panel invited representations from the parties on the proposed amendments. No further submissions were made. The Panel also received advice from the Legal Assessor. The Panel thereafter decided to amend the allegation so that it would read:-

  1. On 9 March 2017, whilst employed as a teacher by Fife Council you did act aggressively towards Pupil A and did put him at risk of harm

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 and 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

For the reasons set out above, the Panel found the amended allegation proved.

Findings on fitness to teach

Given that the Panel found that the allegation as amended was proved, the Panel invited the parties to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach. No additional evidence was lead at this stage. However, both parties made submissions in relation to fitness to teach.

The Presenting Officer submitted that the conduct contained within the amended allegation breached Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of COPAC. The Teacher’s aggressive behaviour amounted to improper contact with Pupil A given the unique position of trust as a teacher. The aggressive behaviour potentially amounted to the crime of threatening or abusive behaviour. The established conduct was such that the public’s confidence in the Teacher would diminish. Finally, by acting in that way the Teacher had, he had failed to remain aware that, as a teacher, he was a role model to pupils. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher’s established conduct amounted to misconduct. The Presenting Officer highlighted the considerable public interest in conduct of that nature in a school.

The Teacher’s representative accepted that at the time of the allegation the Teacher’s fitness to teach was impaired. However, she asserted that the conduct was remediable. She further contended that remediation had taken place and that the Teacher had demonstrated insight into the conduct. Accordingly, the Teacher’s representative submitted that the Teacher’s fitness to teach was not currently impaired.

The Panel concluded that the Teacher’s conduct at the time of the incident fell short of the expected professional standards. The Panel found that the allegation amounted to misconduct. The Panel was satisfied that the misconduct breached Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of COPAC. The conduct was very serious. The Teacher himself accepted that the allegation was a serious one. The Panel was satisfied that the conduct was an abuse of the Teacher’s position of trust and that there was a risk of harm to the Pupil.

The Panel then considered whether the shortfalls identified in the misconduct were remediable. The Panel concluded that the shortfalls were remediable. Notwithstanding that there was evidence about concerns relating to the Teacher’s behaviour management, there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the present incident was part of a pattern of behaviour as opposed to an isolated event. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had not acted in a deliberate nor intentional way. The Teacher had “lost it” and had acted recklessly. He had already been frustrated whilst in the classroom and his frustration increased while in the corridor outside the classroom due to Pupil A’s non engagement. The Panel accepted that, at the time of the incident, the Teacher was unwell and was going through a difficult period in his private life. Those circumstances together resulted in him being more liable to react in the way that he did. The Teacher recognised that those circumstances had impacted upon him. The Teacher demonstrated insight into those circumstances. He also displayed insight into the nature of his conduct, the impact on Pupil A and broader impact on other pupils given that he should be a role model. The Panel noted that the two referees who attended to give evidence personally at the Full Hearing had spoken positively about the Teacher, his engagement with young persons at the coding club his own child attended as well as his teaching qualities coming through when assisting young persons at the club. Further, the Teacher had engaged in supply work after the date of the incident and was presently working in a college. The Teacher had reflected upon the incident and indicated that he had learned a valuable lesson. The Teacher had stated that he is reminded of the incident when he enters a classroom. That demonstrated reflection on his part about the incident and reminded him of the lessons to be learned from the incident. The Panel also had regard to the considerable personal cost of the incident to the Teacher. He had been dismissed from his employment at the school and was out of work for a considerable period of time. The Panel accepted that the Teacher was genuinely remorseful about the incident. He apologised to the Panel for his conduct. The Teacher was upset that he had not had the opportunity to apologise to Pupil A. For all of these reasons, the Panel concluded that there was a low risk of repetition of the conduct within the allegation.

However, the Panel also required to consider the public interest. The Panel did not conclude that members of the public required protection from the Teacher. The Panel had concluded that there was a low risk of recurrence. However, the Panel reasoned that a finding that the Teacher’s fitness to teach was currently impaired was required in the public interest. This was due to the seriousness of the allegation. The finding was necessary to maintain the public’s confidence in teachers and in the integrity of the teaching profession. It was needed to declare and uphold proper teaching standards. It was needed to maintain the public’s confidence in GTCS as a professional regulator. Finally, the finding would have a deterrent effect upon other teachers and the teaching profession. The public interest would have been undermined had the Panel not made such a finding.

Accordingly, for the reasons set out above, the Panel determined that the Teacher’s conduct falls short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that his fitness to teach is therefore impaired.

Disposal

As the Panel had decided that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired, it required to decide what action was appropriate to take in light of this impairment. The Panel heard submissions from the Presenting Officer and the Teacher’s Representative on the issue of disposal.

The Panel again gave careful consideration to all of the evidence that had been presented to it and the submissions made by the Parties in relation to disposal. The Panel addressed the relevant considerations in relation to disposal set out in the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance.

The Panel considered again the various points it had reflected on at the earlier fitness to teach stage. The Panel had in mind that the primary purpose of a disposal is to be protective and not punitive, having had proportionate regard to the public interest, the interest of the Teacher and the particular circumstances of the case.

The Panel concluded that the appropriate disposal in the Teacher’s case was a reprimand. The Panel had concluded that the conduct amounted to an abuse of a position of trust and that Pupil A had been exposed to a risk of harm. However, the Teacher in evidence had admitted the conduct. The conduct was not part of a pattern of behaviour. The Teacher had reflected on the incident, had taken steps to address issues and learn lessons from the incident. The Panel also accepted that the remorse which the Teacher had shown was genuine. The Panel reflected upon the fact that the public interest had been upper most in its mind when it had made the finding of impairment. A reprimand was in the public interest. The Panel concluded that a reprimand appropriately indicated to the profession and the public the gravity of the incident, the Panel’s very careful consideration of the conduct and would therefore maintain public confidence in teachers, the teaching profession and GTCS as professional regulator.

Having regard to the date of the incident, the nature of the misconduct, the steps taken by the Teacher since and the whole circumstances of the case, the Panel considered that the reprimand should be imposed for a period of eighteen months. Accordingly, the reprimand would remain on the Teacher’s registration for that period. It would ensure that prospective employers would become aware of the incident and the Panel’s consideration of it. Further, it would serve to encourage the Teacher to maintain his reflection upon his conduct and also encourage vigilance on the part of the Teacher and of others in relation to his conduct in the future.

Order for Expenses

The Panel had previously issued a decision requesting that parties make submissions to them at the conclusion of the Full Hearing on the issue of an Order for Expenses. This related to the adjourned Full Hearing that had been due to commence on 14 June 2018.

The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to make an Order for Expenses. The Presenting Officer’s estimate of the costs of an adjourned day of a Full Hearing at GTCS included the costs of the Panel and associated staff, the Presenting Officer and the Legal Assessor. The total cost was £1,500. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to make an Order for that amount. He highlighted that the Practice Statement on Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence highlighted that parties should be ready to go ahead with Full Hearings as planned.

The Teacher’s representative invited the Panel to refrain from making an Order for Expenses. She highlighted the background to the allegation involving the Teacher’s difficult personal circumstances and the consequent effect on his health. The Teacher’s GP had advised him to secure employment as a way to deal with depression. Accordingly, the Teacher was anxious to attend the employment interviews which were scheduled to take place during the days assigned for the Full Hearing. The Teacher’s representative applied for a postponement of the Full Hearing on that basis. She explained that the middle of June was a particularly busy time for her and for SSTA and accordingly she arranged other appointments on days scheduled for the Full Hearing after she had applied for the postponement. The Teacher’s representative had never applied for a postponement of a Full Hearing before and had assumed that the application would be granted. During Panel questioning, the Teacher’s representative advised the Panel of the composition of SSTA, of SSTA membership, its annual income and annual subscription of members.

The consequences and cost of the adjourned Hearing in June 2018 were considerable. The circumstances which led to the adjournment were very concerning to the Panel. It was clear to the Panel that the responsibility for the adjournment did not fall upon the Teacher, but rather upon the Teacher’s Representative. The Teacher’s Representative had been candid in accepting that responsibility. She apologised for the circumstances which led to the adjournment.

The Panel noted that the Teacher’s Representative had assumed the application to postpone would be granted. That assumption flew in the face of the Rules and guidance materials relating to GTCS proceedings. Those rules and guidance materials are available on the public website of GTCS.

In particular the Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence Practice Statement, Part A(i) Postponement procedure states:-

“Note: parties should always be ready to proceed as planned in the event that the [postponement] application is not granted. It is important that the Teacher attends the Hearing or has a representative attend on his/her behalf. If, however, the Teacher does not attend, the Hearing may proceed in his/her absence.”

Rule 1.10.1 states “A Panel must not normally make an order for expenses against a party but may do so were it is of the opinion that his/her conduct in proceedings has been vexatious, non-compliant or otherwise unreasonable and has resulted in increased expenses being incurred.” The Panel found that the assumption made by the Teacher’s Representative was non-compliant and unreasonable and had resulted in the adjournment of the Full Hearing on 14 June 2018.

However, in the particular circumstances and with considerable hesitation, the Panel drew back from making an order for expenses for the adjourned Full Hearing against the Teacher’s Representative. The Panel highlighted the Rules and Practice Statement to the Teacher’s Representative. The Panel expects all teachers and representatives involved in GTCS proceedings to be familiar with or make themselves familiar in the future with the Rules and guidance materials which govern and guide how Panels deal with cases before them.