Decision: Lee Watt (Panel Meeting)

Fitness to Teach Panel Consideration Outcome

Panel Meeting

20 October 2021

TeacherLee Watt (not present)
Registration Number185401
Registration CategorySecondary – Modern Studies
PanelJoanne Sharp, Ruth Sharp, and Catriona McDonald
Legal AssessorAmanda Pringle
Servicing OfficerJamie Roy
Teacher’s representativeN/A

Definitions

Any reference in this outcome to:

  • ‘GTC Scotland’ 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 GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them;
  • the ‘Register’ means the GTC Scotland Register of teachers; or
  • ‘COPAC’ means the GTC Scotland Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Notification of Meeting

The Panel had before it a copy of the Notice of Panel Consideration, dated 21 September 2021. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had been provided with notice of the meeting in accordance with Rules  1.6 and 2.3.1. Accordingly, the Panel proceeded to consider the case.

Preliminary Matters

The Panel did not deal with any preliminary matters.

Allegation(s)

1  On 13 October 2020, whilst at his place of employment, Supporting Positive Paths, it is alleged that the Teacher had a Class A drug, namely cocaine, in his possession, during a shift.

And in light of the above it is alleged that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired and he is 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 2012.

Information Available to the Panel:

  1. GTC  Scotland  Investigation  Report  –  Final,  dated  16  September  2021,  with appendices including:
    • Online referral form from Supporting Positive Paths, dated 10 November 2020
    • Employer dismissal letter with further explanation, dated 28 October 2020
    • Signed Statement from Witness A, dated 2 April 2021
    • Signed Statement from Witness B, dated 31 March 2021
    • Email sent to Teacher, dated 3 September 2021
  2. Notice of Investigation, dated 24 November 2020 with cover email and delivery receipt
  3. Notice of Panel Consideration dated 21 September 2021, with cover email and delivery receipt.

There has been no response to the Notice from the Teacher.

Teacher’s Response

  1. There has been no response from the Teacher to the final allegations. However, the Teacher did respond to the Notice of Investigation where he admitted to being in possession of what he believed to be a drug at work, although he did not know what it was. He explained he had picked it up at home with the intention of disposing it after finding it in his home after having some friends over.
  2. It is unclear what the Teacher’s view is in relation to his fitness to teach. The Teacher in his initial communications with GTC Scotland has stated he has obtained work out with the teaching profession.
  3. It is unclear what the Teacher’s position is in relation to an appropriate outcome. The Teacher did indicate in his initial correspondence that he no longer wished to be registered as he asked the question whether an investigation was necessary if he was no longer registered. He stated that he had been meaning to cancel his membership due to gaining employment outside of education.

Summary of Evidence and Submissions

At the time, the Teacher was employed by Supporting Positive Paths and was on shift work alongside a colleague, assisting with a young person. The Teacher’s colleague reported to the employer having observed a packet of white powder which appeared to have been left by the Teacher on the back seat of the car when he exited the vehicle. Upon his return to the car, the Teacher was observed to have returned the packet of white powder to his pocket. Throughout the car journey, the Teacher’s presence had been required to assist with the vulnerable young person, who was also present in the back seat. The colleague reported the matter to the employer who raised the issue with the Teacher. The Teacher admitted to having had the packet, confirming his belief that it was a drug of some form. Under explanation of events which led to his possession of the packet, the Teacher apologised for his behaviour. The Teacher was dismissed from his employment. The matter was not reported to Police Scotland.

Decision

The Panel considered all of the information available to it as described above. The Panel had a range of options open to it, as set out at Rule 2.3.2 (a) to (f). The Panel had regard to the factors set out in the GTC Scotland Panel Consideration Practice Statement.

The Panel did not consider it appropriate to dispose of the case in accordance with Rule

2.3.2 (a). The Panel reached this conclusion for the following reasons:

  • The matter amounts to Relevant Conduct and there is on the face of it, a real prospect of a finding that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired. The Panel considered the following factors relevant in that the conduct alleged relates to:
    • Abuse of a teacher’s position of trust
    • Substance abuse or misuse

The Panel considered the relevant Parts of COPAC to be:

  • Part 1 – Professionalism and maintaining trust in the profession

The Panel also considered the following factors to be relevant:

  • The matter has not already been considered.
  • The matter is not frivolous or vexatious.
  • The allegation(s) have not been made anonymously or by a person who has failed to cooperate with the investigation.

The Panel did not consider it appropriate to dismiss the case based on an insufficiency of evidence as provided for by Rule 2.3.2 (b). The allegation has been admitted by the Teacher. Furthermore, the Panel did not consider the referral to be malicious.

The Teacher had not responded to the final allegation. The Panel noted that the Teacher had admitted to the allegation in his response to the Notice of Investigation dated 24 November 2020 but only in so far as being in possession of a substance believed to be an illegal drug. The Panel noted that the allegation as currently framed specified the drug as a ‘Class A drug, namely cocaine’. The Panel considered whether the admission amounted to a full admission of the allegations. The Panel concluded that it did not. The Panel considered whether it was proportionate to refer the case to a full hearing when the only matter in dispute was whether it was cocaine, or another drug. The Panel did not consider there was evidence available to support the finding that the substance was cocaine as the substance had not been seized or analysed. In accordance with the general objective of dealing with cases fairly and justly under Rule 1.3.7, the Panel determined to amend the allegation to read:

‘“On 13 October 2020, whilst at his place of employment, Supporting Positive Paths, it is alleged that the Teacher had an illegal drug in his possession, during a shift.’”

The Panel considered this to be proportionate in terms of Rule 1.3.8. The Panel considered this to be fair and just in so far as it was in line with the evidence available to the Panel and in line with the Teacher’s response. Having so amended the allegation, the Panel considered it could proceed to deal with the case on the basis of the Teacher’s admission.

Fitness to Teach

The Panel carefully considered all the available information and had regard to Part A of the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance in considering whether the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.

The Panel determined that the conduct in the allegation was serious. It consisted of being in possession of a substance believed to be an illegal drug. The conduct breached Parts 1.3,

1.4 and 1.6 of COPAC. At the time of the allegation, the Teacher’s conduct fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.

Given that the Panel had found the Teacher guilty of misconduct it then required to consider whether the shortfalls identified by the conduct were remediable. The Panel concluded that they were remediable. The Panel also concluded that the Teacher had gone some way to remediate the misconduct. In the response to the Notice of Investigation, the Teacher demonstrated insight into the misconduct and also remorse. The Teacher stated he had left the teaching profession, seeking employment out with the field of education. The Panel concluded that there was a low risk of reoccurrence.

However, the Panel also had to consider the public interest. The Panel considered that the public would be anxious about the nature of the allegation given that it related to a substance believed to be an illegal drug. The Panel had in mind the maintenance of the public’s confidence in teachers and in the integrity of the teaching profession. Further, the Panel reflected upon the maintenance of the public’s confidence in GTC Scotland as a professional regulator. The Panel concluded that the public interest, with reference to the elements above, would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made.

For these reasons, the Panel concluded that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.

Disposal

As the Panel had concluded that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired, it moved on to consider the appropriate disposal of the case. In considering this matter the Panel had regard to Part B of the GTC Scotland Fitness  to Teach Conduct Cases  – Indicative Outcomes Guidance. In line with that guidance, the Panel considered the available options from least to most severe. The Panel noted that not all indicating factors required to be present for a disposal option to be considered appropriate.

The Panel recalled the various points it had considered at the fitness to teach stage. The conduct constitutes an abuse of a position of trust. However, harm had not been caused to any child or young person. The Teacher admitted the misconduct. Further, the Teacher had reflected on the matter, had shown genuine remorse, and had taken steps to remediate. In particular, he had been candid with his employer. The issue represented an isolated incident and there had been no repetition since nor did the Panel consider that there was a risk of recurrence.

Having regard to the circumstances of the case and the factors referred to above the Panel considered that the appropriate and proportionate way of dealing with the teacher’s case was to issue the Teacher with a Reprimand. That disposal indicates to the profession and the public the gravity of the matter at issue and maintains public confidence in teachers, the teaching profession and in GTC Scotland as a professional regulator. Having regard to the whole circumstances the Panel determined that the appropriate time period for the Reprimand be an aggregated period of 12 months.

Having identified the appropriate disposal, the Panel decided to issue a consent order in accordance with Rule 2.7. The terms of the consent order are set out in the separate ‘Consent Order’ document.

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