The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing

19 February 2018

Teacher William Burtt
Membership number 1866058L
Registration category Applicant for registration
Panel John Kilpatrick (Convener), Lynda Dalziel and Arthur Stewart
Legal Assessor Julie McKinlay
Servicing Officer Dani Tovey
Presenting Officer Laura Bowen, Anderson Strathern

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; and
  • the “Register” means the GTCS register of teachers.

Allegation

Following receipt of an application to register with GTCS from the Teacher, the following allegation was considered at the hearing:

  1. On or around 17 May 2013, at Bromley Magistrates Court, you were convicted of the following offence:

“Between 04/08/2011 and 09/01/2013 at 16th Lewisham Scout Group, stole CASH to the value of £4,390 belonging to 16TH LEWISHAM SOUTH SCOUT GROUP contrary to section 1(1) and 7 of the Theft Act 1968”

And you were sentenced to a Community Order to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work.

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 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Teacher’s admissions

The Teacher accepted that he was the subject of the conviction as set out in the allegation.

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:

List of Documents

  1. Notice of Presenting Officer’s Case Form
  2. Presenting Officer Document – Memorandum of an Entry in the Register of the South East London Magistrates’ Court
  3. Notice of Respondent’s Case Form
  4. Teacher Document 2 - Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act Request from GTCS as a‘Scottish Public Authority’
  5. Teacher Document 3 - Experience Timeline - CONFIDENTIAL
  6. Teacher Document 4 - Magistrates Guidelines
  7. Teacher Document 5 - Theft Offensive Guidelines
  8. Teacher Document 6 - Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 including all current amendments in force
  9. Teacher Document 7 - Theft Act 1968
  10. Teacher Document 8 - MK Law Statement of events – PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL
  11. Teacher Document 9 - Grounds for Appeal for FF Burtt document from appeal of London Fire Brigade – CONFIDENTIAL
  12. Teacher Document 10 - Advisory & Counselling Service Client Report LFB – CONFIDENTIAL
  13. Teacher Document 11 - FIRST statement from appeal of London Fire Brigade - CONFIDENTIAL
  14. Teacher Document 12 - Crime Report and Witness Statement for Harassment (CAD 7522 30/05/13) – CONFIDENTIAL (not available – document included to provide CAD number only)
  15. Teacher Document 13 - Statement of Discharge – Ministry of Justice and the London Probation Trust – CONFIDENTIAL
  16. Teacher Document 14 - Statement Related to Criminal Conviction - CONFIDENTIAL
  17. Teacher Document 15 - Additional Information in relation to PVG - CONFIDENTIAL
  18. Teacher Document 16 - Enhanced DBS Disclosure for PGCE Course - CONFIDENTIAL
  19. Teacher Document 17 - Canterbury Christ Church University Safeguarding and Student DBS Clearance
  20. Teacher Document 18 - Signed letter of work carried out at Parish C of E Primary School
  21. Teacher Document 19 - Signed letter of observations carried out at Bishop Justus School
  22. Teacher Document 20 - School Attendance Sheet – Teaching Days for PGCE
  23. Teacher Document 21 - Placement 1 – Final Report from PGCE
  24. Teacher Document 22 - Placement 2 – Interim Report from PGCE
  25. Teacher Document 23 - Placement 2 – Final Report from PGCE (confirmation as qualified as an ‘Outstanding Teacher’)
  26. Teacher Document 24 – Procedural Issue Form – Respondent’s Application W Burtt
  27. Teacher Document 27 – European Convention on Human Rights
  28. Teacher Document 28 – Human Rights Act 1998
  29. Witness Statements 1-12
  30. Procedural Hearing Outcome

Note – Teacher Documents 1, 25 and 26 were GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct (COPAC), GTCS Conducting Hearings in Private Practice Statement and GTCS Fitness to Teach Rules 2017. These were available to the Panel.

Findings of fact on the allegation

The Presenting Officer produced a copy of the Memorandum of Conviction from Bromley Magistrates Court dated 4 May 2017.

Having regard to the provisions of Rules 1.7.18 and 1.7.19 and the fact that there was no evidence disputing that the person named in the extract conviction report was the Teacher, the Panel found that the facts set out in the allegation were proved.

Findings on fitness to teach

Given that the allegations set out in the allegation were proved, the Panel invited the parties to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

The Teacher gave evidence and made submissions on his own behalf. The Presenting Officer made submissions on behalf of the GTCS.

The Teacher explained the circumstances of the conviction. He explained that he was 23 or 24 years old. He had been asked to take responsibility for the finances of the local Scout group. No proper accounts had been kept by the Scout group for a period of 10 years. The Teacher explained that he became concerned about the management of the Scout group funds and considered that, in order to prevent others accessing the Scout group funds without authority, he would transfer the Scout group funds to a separate bank account that he opened for that purpose. The Teacher opened a separate bank account from that which held his own personal funds but the account was in his own name and he was the only one with access to it. The Teacher accepted that he had been naïve and somewhat arrogant in doing what he did and accepted that he ought to have sought appropriate support when he considered there was something untoward occurring in relation to the Scout group funds. The Teacher accepted that in moving the sums to a separate account in his own name and over which he had sole control, he had been guilty of theft as he had taken the sums without permission

Prior to the police becoming involved, he had returned the Scout group funds to the Scout group account in full. The Teacher had not spent any of the sums or sought to gain financially from their transfer to his own name. The Teacher completed the Community Order imposed by the court in a period of 6 weeks.

At the time of the offence, the Teacher was not a registered teacher. He began the PGCE course sometime after the conviction. He had become interested in teaching whilst employed in another capacity at a school. The Teacher produced to the Panel the reports of his placements at the various schools at which he worked during the PGCE. The reports were very positive in respect of his performance in the various placements. The head teacher at each of the schools in which the Teacher was placed was made aware of the Teacher’s conviction by the Teacher. He was not required to do so but considered that it was appropriate in the interests of transparency to advise them of the conviction.

The Teacher told the Panel that he had undertaken counselling following the conviction from 2 separate sources, which he considered had helped him in understanding why he had done what he had done. He felt he was a different person now than the person he had been 5 years ago.

The Teacher had previously been employed as a fire fighter. The Teacher is currently a retained fire fighter with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. The Teacher is also a cardiac first responder with the Scottish Ambulance Service.

The Teacher has also recently undertaken a couple of days’ voluntary work with Gordonstoun School.

In giving his evidence, the Panel found the Teacher to be credible and reliable. He answered the questions put to him in cross examination and by the Panel in a straight forward and considered manner. The Panel did not consider that at any point he sought to be evasive. The Panel considered that the Teacher presented as an individual who had reflected on what had happened and why, and had shown insight into his own behaviour and to the impact which his youth and arrogance had had on his conduct. The Panel did not consider that there was any basis upon which to doubt his explanation of events or his commitment to teaching and the value he placed on being active in his community.

Decision

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

The Panel had regard to the terms of COPAC. The Panel considered that the conduct described in the conviction was a breach of Parts 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of COPAC. The Teacher had been found in breach of the criminal law. This was in circumstances which would be considered to be dishonest and call into question a teacher’s integrity. In being so convicted, the teacher failed to act as a role model to pupils.

The Panel next considered whether the conduct could be remedied. The Panel considered that the conduct was capable of being remedied. Further, the Panel considered that the Teacher had taken steps to remedy the conduct. The Teacher had returned the sums to the Scout group’s bank account prior to the police becoming involved. The Teacher had pled guilty at the earliest opportunity. The Teacher had carried out the Community Order which was the sentence of the court within 6 weeks of the sentence being handed down. The Teacher had undertaken counselling from 2 separate sources to understand more about why the offence had been committed.

The Panel was of the view that the risk of reoccurrence was very low. The Panel accepted entirely the explanation given by the Teacher as to the circumstances in which the offence had occurred. The Teacher had no previous convictions. The events leading to the conviction had occurred more than 5 years ago and there was no suggestion that the Teacher had been involved in any similar conduct since that time. The Panel considered that the Teacher was sincere in his assurances that he would not repeat the conduct and had shown insight into the kind of person he was then and the ways in which he had matured and changed. The Teacher had undertaken the PGCE course in the knowledge that the offence would need to be declared and had shown commitment to becoming a registered teacher despite the fact that the conviction would require to be considered by a fitness to teach panel. The conduct had occurred prior to the Teacher undertaking the PGCE to train as a teacher. The Teacher performed to a good standard in the course.

Finally, the Panel considered the public interest. In particular, the Panel considered whether there was, despite their views as to the remediation and likelihood of reoccurrence, nevertheless, a public interest in making a finding that the Teacher is unfit to teach or that his fitness to teach is impaired in the circumstances.

In the view of the Panel, given the nature of the conviction, there was no need for such a finding for the protection of members of the public or children. It was significant in the mind of the Panel that the Teacher was not a registered teacher at the time of the offence. In addition, the Panel was mindful of the view that, whilst a conviction of this nature could call into question his ability to be a role model for pupils, it was clear on the evidence that, in fact, the Teacher was a significant role model to his local community being both a reserve fire fighter and a cardiac first responder.

The Panel was of the view that the public confidence in GTCS as a professional regulator and the deterrent effect that a determination may have upon other GTCS registrants was sufficiently maintained by virtue of the fact that there had been a thorough investigation of the circumstances by GTCS and that there was a hearing before the fitness to teach panel to properly consider all the relevant facts and circumstances before reaching a view as to fitness to teach. For all these reasons, the Panel did not consider that a finding of impairment was required in the public interest.

Disposal

As the Panel determined that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is not impaired, subject to him otherwise meeting the GTCS registration requirements (as specified in the Registration and Standards Rules), it directed that the Teacher’s application for registration be accepted.