Decision: Alan MacOnie (Full Hearing)

GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing

27, 28 and 29 October 2021

TeacherAlan MacOnie (not present)
Registration Number850183
Registration CategorySecondary – French and German
PanelArthur Stewart (Convener), Gillian Fagan and Pauline McClellan
Legal AssessorAmanda Pringle
Servicing OfficerJamie Roy
Presenting OfficerSarah Donnachie (Anderson Strathern LLP)
Teacher’s representativeNeil Shaw (ASCL) (not present)

Any reference in this decision 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; and
  • the ‘Register’ means the GTC Scotland register of teachers.

Preliminary Issues

At the outset of the hearing, the Convener explained the etiquette and procedures for virtual hearings.

Proceeding in the Absence

The Teacher did not attend the virtual hearing. Accordingly, at the outset of the hearing, the Presenting Officer referred to Rule 1.7.8 on proceeding in the absence and submitted the Panel required to be satisfied firstly that the Notice of Full Hearing had been properly served, and secondly that it was fair to proceed in the Teacher’s absence. She referred to Rule 1.6.1 on service of the Notice. She submitted that the Notice of Full Hearing had been properly served. She referred to the Notice of Full Hearing emailed to the Teacher on 14 September 2021 and a delivery receipt, both of which were produced. The Panel were satisfied the Notice had been served and received.

The Presenting Officer referred to the GTC Scotland Practice Statement: Postponements, Adjournments and Proceedings in the Absence, Part B. In particular she referred to page 3, point 5 which states that if a hearing is to proceed in the absence of a teacher, the Panel must ensure that the hearing is conducted as fairly and in as balanced a way as the circumstances permit. She referred to Part D of the Practice Statement, in particular, to the factors to be considered by the Panel, namely whether the Teacher has indicated intention to attend or whether the Teacher has engaged with the process. She submitted that this was a voluntary absence by the Teacher. She referred the Panel to a letter from the Teacher dated 22 July 2019 and an email from the Teacher’s Representative dated 17 December 2019 stating that the Teacher did not wish to engage further in the process. She submitted this was a clear statement that the Teacher did not intend to attend or be represented at the Full Hearing. The Presenting Officer submitted the crux of the matter was whether the absence was voluntary or involuntary and that if the Teacher had chosen not to attend, the assumption was that the hearing will proceed. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Panel could be satisfied that the Teacher had voluntarily absented himself from the Full Hearing.

The Panel considered the Practice Statement and had regard to the circumstances surrounding the application and the advice, when required, of the Legal Assessor and Servicing Officer. The Panel had regard to the fact that the Teacher had chosen not to attend. The Panel noted the reasons for the Presenting Officer’s application to proceed in the Teacher’s absence. In his response to the Notice of Investigation dated 22 July 2019, the Teacher stated that he would not be engaging with the GTC Scotland process. The Panel noted that the Teacher’s position was reconfirmed in his Response Form dated 16 September 2021. The Panel concluded, on the basis of the Teacher’s responses, that it was clear that the Teacher had voluntarily chosen not to attend.

The Teacher indicated he did not wish to engage in the hearing. The Panel had regard to the variety and nature of the allegations, the public interest, fairness to the Teacher and his human rights, and the interests of the public and the Teacher in cases being dealt with as quickly as possible. The Panel considered the wider public interest in favour of determining the allegations and the fact that five witnesses had made themselves available for the hearing that day and the consequences of granting or refusing the application on those involved with the hearing. The Panel also had regard to the general objectives set out in Part 1 of the Rules: the need to deal with cases fairly and justly and in ways which are proportionate, informal, and flexible, encourage participation and avoid delay. The Panel concluded that it was both necessary and proportionate to proceed in the absence of the Teacher.

The Panel determined: (i) that the service of the notice had been effected in accordance with the Rules; and (ii) that the Teacher had voluntarily absented himself from the hearing and indicated he would not be attending or be represented at the hearing, so it was just to proceed with the hearing in his absence.

The Panel noted that it must at no point draw any adverse inference from the fact that the Teacher chose not to attend.

Hearsay Evidence

Colleague 2 was not able attend to give evidence to the Panel due to ongoing ill-health. She had provided a witness statement signed and dated 11 November 2020. The Panel had regard to Rule

  1. and the Witness and Hearsay Evidence Practice Statement and the advice of the Servicing Officer that the witness statement could be admitted as hearsay evidence. The Panel considered an email sent by Colleague 2 which explained the serious health difficulties that she was suffering. The Panel decided that the witness had good reason for her non-attendance and decided that it was appropriate for the statement that she had provided GTC Scotland to be admitted as evidence. The Presenting Officer read aloud the witness statement of Colleague 2.

Allegations

The following allegations were considered at the hearing:

  1. Whilst employed as a Principal Teacher at Rothesay Academy by Argyll and Bute Council and in the course of his employment, the Teacher did:
    1. In or around May 2019, advise his colleagues Colleague 1 and Colleague 2 that he had sent 2019 French verification materials to Dunoon Grammar School be cross marked, when this was not the case;
    2. In or around 2018, forge the signature of Colleague 2 on the SQA external verification documents for National 5 German;
    3. In or around 2019, forge the signature of Colleague 2 on the SQA external verification documents for National 5 French;
    4. On or around 11 April 2019 state to Colleague 3, that:
      1. Colleague 2 was ‘a lazy bitch’, or words to that effect;
      2. Colleague 2 had ‘left me in the shit’, or words to that effect. both in reference to Colleague 2 being on sickness absence
    5. In or around April 2019 and in or around May 2019, state to Colleague 4, that:
      1. Colleague 2 was ‘at it’, or words to that effect, in reference to Colleague 2 being on sickness absence;
      2. Colleague 2 was ‘lazy’, or words to that effect.
    6. In or around April 2019 and in or around May 2019, state to Colleague 1, that Colleague 2 ‘should pull herself together and get into work’, and that ‘this was ridiculous’, or words to that effect, in reference to Colleague 2 being on sickness absence;
  2. The Teacher’s action at allegation 1 (a) was dishonest;
  3. The Teacher’s actions at allegation 1 (b) and 1 (c) were dishonest;
  4. In November 2019, the Teacher sent messages via Facebook messenger to a former colleague, Colleague 5, that referred to Colleague 2 and were of a threatening nature, namely:

‘My tetirement washighJACKed and every time I see that dog walking her dog. rat along [redacted] I feel

like kicking them both into the Clyde Hate that bitch [Colleague 5]

Really

Totally ruined my retirement Would happily kill herNot even good at her job Far from it lol

I know [redacted] [redacted] but sometimes a wee walk to the sea is so

tempting Maybe one day very soon R A thanks for nothing [redacted] not the first Treated like ann

an animal’ [sic].

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, 1.5 and 4.3 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct (COPAC) 2012.

Teacher’s Admissions

From the limited response provided by the Teacher, it appeared that the allegations were denied in full.

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

Final Investigation Report, dated 20 October 2020, with appendices including:

  • SQA Verification Documents for Pupil FKD and Pupil DM, dated 22 March 2018
  • SQA Verification Documents for Pupil EMacN and Pupil AS, dated 8 April 2019
  • SQA Verification Report for National 5 and Higher French candidates, dated 10 May 2019
  • Report from Head Teacher, dated 19 June 2019
  • Witness statement of Colleague 1, Chemistry Teacher, Rothesay Academy, dated 27 September 2020
  • Witness statement of Colleague 2, Modern Languages Teacher, Rothesay Academy, dated 11 November 2020
  • Witness statement of Colleague 6, Depute Head Teacher and SQA Co-ordinator, Rothesay Academy, dated 19 November 2019
  • Witness statement of Colleague 3, Head Teacher, Rothesay Academy, dated 16 January 2020
  • Witness statement of Colleague 4, Classroom/ Clerical Assistant, Rothesay Academy, dated 16 January 2020
  • Witness statement of Colleague 5, Teaching Assistant, Rothesay Academy, dated 17 January 2020
  • Email communication between the Investigating Officer Aga Adamczyk and Colleague 3, regarding SQA verification paperwork
  • Letter from Police Scotland, dated 31 July 2020
  • Screenshots from Colleague 5 messenger, dated November 2019
  • Email from Teacher’s Representative, Neil Shaw of ASCL, regarding the Teacher’s position in relation to the allegations, dated 17 December 2019
  • Email to the Teacher’s Representative with Interim Report, and delivery receipt, dated 11 September 2020
  • Notice of Investigation, dated 10 July 2019
  • Notice of Panel Consideration, dated 28 October 2020
  • Notice of Panel Consideration cover email and delivery receipt, dated 28 October 2020
  • Email exchange with Representative re: Teacher not engaging, dated March 2021
  • Notice of Full Hearing, dated 14 September 2021
  • Teacher’s completed hearing response form, dated 16 September 2021, confirming not attending the Full Hearing

Summary of Evidence

Colleague 1 confirmed that she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 15 January 2020 and that what was written there was accurate. At the outset of her evidence, she read aloud her witness statement. She was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer. She confirmed she was the Headteacher of Rothesay Academy, having been teaching at the school since 1997. She spoke to the working relationship of the Teacher and Colleague 2. She spoke to the telephone call received by her from the Teacher on 11 April 2019. She spoke to being approached separately by Colleague 1 and Colleague 2 with regard to inappropriate remarks he made with regard to Colleague 2’s sickness absence. She detailed the school’s SQA verification process. She spoke to Colleague 2 reporting her forged signature on SQA verification paperwork for 2019 and to the Teacher’s admission to her of having forged the signature of Colleague 2 on verification paperwork for 2019 National 5 French and Higher French. She confirmed the Teacher had cited stress as the cause for his actions. She confirmed that the Teacher had not sent off verification paperwork in relation to assessments to Dunoon Grammar School and that she took advice from the Local Authority with regard to this. She spoke to Colleague 2 reporting her finding of verification paperwork for 2018 where Colleague 2’s signature had also been forged. She spoke to Colleague 5 notifying her of messages she had received from the Teacher via Facebook Messenger and being shown screenshots of the message. She confirmed having reported matters to both GTC Scotland and Police Scotland. She spoke to the Teacher’s personal circumstances which she believed may have contributed to the situation.

Colleague 1 confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 27 September 2019 and that what was written there was accurate. She read aloud her witness statement. She was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer. She confirmed she was a Chemistry Teacher at Rothesay Academy and had been a pupil at the school. She spoke to the

Teacher having told her that he had sent 2019 verification documents for external moderation to Dunoon Grammar School. She spoke to being present when Colleague 2 discovered her signature forged on 2019 verification documentation and that she saw the forged signature on the paperwork which was dated when Colleague 2 had been hospitalised and therefore absent from the school. She confirmed that she advised Colleague 2 to report matters to Colleague 6 as the school’s SQA Co-ordinator. She spoke to the Teacher bad-mouthing Colleague 2 but was unable to recall exact dates or the Teacher’s use of the phrase ‘lazy bitch’.

Colleague 2 was not able attend to give evidence to the Panel due to ongoing ill-health. She had provided a witness statement signed and dated 11 November 2020. The statement was read aloud by the Presenting Officer and the statement was considered by the Panel.

Colleague 6 confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 19 November 2019 and that what was written there was accurate. She read aloud her witness statement. She was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer. She confirmed she was the Depute Head Teacher at Rothesay Academy and the school’s SQA Co-ordinator. She spoke to her working relationship with the Teacher and to the SQA verification process within the school. She spoke to Colleague 2 reporting her concerns with regard to 2019 SQA paperwork and showing her the 2 forged signatures with regard to the verification paperwork for 2018 and 2019. She spoke to the Teacher having apologised to her with regard to the forged signature on the 2019 verification paperwork. She spoke to her involvement having ceased once she reported matters to the Headteacher.

Colleague 4 confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 16 January 2020 and that what was written there was accurate. She read aloud her statement. She was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer. She confirmed she was a Classroom/Clerical Assistant at Rothesay Academy. She spoke to her working relationship with the Teacher. She spoke to the Teacher’s frequent presence in her office early in the morning when her duties included receiving telephone calls from teachers who were unable to attend school due to sickness. She spoke to the Teacher’s comments with regard to Colleague 2’s sickness absence however she was not able to recall clearly the dates when the Teacher had made the comments.

Witness Colleague 5 confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland signed and dated 17 January 2020 and that what was written there was accurate. She read aloud her statement. She was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer. She confirmed she was a Teaching Assistant at Rothesay Academy. She spoke to having initiated communication with the Teacher via Facebook Messenger. She spoke to having received a message from the Teacher via Facebook Messenger in which he referred to Colleague 2 in the terms shown on the screenshot. She spoke to reporting the Teacher’s Facebook Messenger message to the Colleague 3 at a later date due to her concerns for the Teacher’s well-being. She spoke to the Teacher being well-liked within the school and that she was not aware of any tension between the Teacher and Colleague 2.

The Teacher did not attend to give evidence and did not provide a witness statement.

Submissions (Presenting Officer)

At the conclusion of the evidence, the Panel heard submissions from the Presenting Officer. In reaching a decision, the Panel had careful regard to the submissions which can be summarised as follows.

It was submitted by the Presenting Officer that where the facts alleged against the Teacher are not admitted, the burden of proof rested upon her to prove the allegations to the standard required, that used in civil proceedings namely the balance of probabilities. She submitted that the witnesses who had given evidence had done so honestly, clearly and consistently and that none had evidenced any animosity against the Teacher. The Presenting Officer commended Colleagues 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6, as credible and reliable witnesses. The Presenting Officer referred to section 1 of the Civil Evidence (Scotland) Act 1988 And Rule 1.7.17 submitting that one piece of evidence was sufficient to find a fact proved. The Presenting Officer referred the Panel to the Fact Finding in Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases Practice Statement. She submitted that whilst it was a matter for the Panel to determine the weight to be placed upon Colleague 2’s statement which had been admitted as hearsay evidence, the evidence therein was consistent with evidence from the other witnesses. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to accept the witnesses’ evidence in full. The Presenting Officer submitted that were the Panel to find allegations 1(a) (b) and (c) to have amounted to dishonesty then the Panel would be entitled to find allegations 2, 3 and 4 proved. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to find all of the allegations proved.

Findings of Fact

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented, submissions made by the Presenting Officer and the Teacher’s limited responses in making its findings of fact on the allegations. The Teacher was absent, and, in the circumstances, the Panel took account of the Practice Statement on Fact-Finding in Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases relating to absent teachers and its obligations to ensure that the hearing is conducted as fairly and in as balanced a way as circumstances permit.

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 firstly considered the reliability and credibility of the witnesses who had given oral evidence at the Full Hearing. The Panel noted they gave their evidence in a clear and straightforward manner and did not appear to have any personal interest in the outcome of the hearing. The Panel noted the witnesses were objective and their evidence was consistent with facts which were known. The Panel considered their evidence was inherently probable.  The Panel concluded that the witnesses were credible and reliable and accepted their evidence in full.

The Panel then considered the witness statement of Colleague 2 which had been admitted as hearsay evidence. The Panel had regard to the Witness and Hearsay Evidence Practice Statement with regard to the weight which could be placed upon her evidence given that it had not heard from her in person. The Panel considered that she was objective in her evidence which related directly to the allegations in which she was concerned. However, the Panel noted that she was more subjective in her evidence in relation to matters which were collateral to the allegations. The Panel noted in particular that her evidence in relation to allegations 1 a., 1 b. and 1 c. was corroborated. Overall, the Panel found her evidence to be probable while also being mindful of the issues that are inherent when considering the evidence of an absent witness such as an inability to ask questions of her.

The Panel was not able to hear oral testimony from the Teacher because he was absent. He had not provided a witness statement. The Panel was not able to reach a conclusion in relation to the credibility and reliability of the Teacher. The Panel was however mindful that the onus of proof rested on the Presenting Officer to prove each allegation to the necessary standard.

The Panel then considered each allegation separately.

  1. Whilst employed as a Principal Teacher at Rothesay Academy by Argyll and Bute Council and in the course of his employment, the Teacher did:

a. in or around May 2019, advise his colleagues Colleague 1 and Colleague 2 that he had sent 2019 French verification materials to Dunoon Grammar School be cross marked, when this was not the case;

The Panel considered the evidence of Colleague 1 and Colleague 2. The Panel considered that the Teacher had been dishonest when he stated to both witnesses on separate occasions that he had sent the 2019 verification materials to Dunoon Grammar School for cross-marking. The Panel determined he had made the fraudulent statements. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(a) to be proved.

b. in or around 2018, forge the signature of Colleague 2 on the SQA external verification documents for National 5 German;

The Panel considered the evidence of Colleague 2. The Panel determined the Teacher had forged Colleague 2’s signature on the 2018 verification documents. The Panel considered that it was inherently improbable that Colleague 2, as an experienced Modern Languages Teacher in French and Spanish, would verify external verification documents for National German 5. The Panel noted the Teacher had never been challenged in regard to this forgery due to its discovery following his being signed off sick by his doctor. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(b) to be proved.

c. in or around 2019, forge the signature of Colleague 2 on the SQA external verification documents for National 5 French;

The Panel Considered the evidence of Colleague 3 and Colleague 6, and that the Teacher had admitted forging the signature. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had forged the signature of Colleague 2. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1 c. to be proved.

d. On or around 11 April 2019 state to Colleague 3 that:

i. Colleague 2 was a ’lazy bitch’, or words to that effect;

ii. Colleague 2 had ’left me in the shit’, or words to that effect. both in reference to Colleague 2 being on sickness absence.

The Panel considered the evidence from Colleague 3 and that she was a credible and reliable witness. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had made the comments with regard to Colleague 2. The Panel was satisfied the Teacher had apologised to Colleague 3 with regard to the comments when rebuked by her. The Panel was satisfied the remarks showed a lack of respect for colleagues. Accordingly, the Panel found allegations 1 d. i. and ii. to be proved.

e. In or around April 2019 and in or around May 2019, state to Colleague 4 that:

i. Colleague 2 was ‘at it’, or words to that effect, in reference to Colleague 2 being on sickness absence;

ii. Colleague 2 was ’lazy’, or words to that effect.

The Panel considered the evidence from Colleague 4 and that she was a credible and reliable witness with no personal interest in the matter. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had made the comments concerning Colleague 2. The Panel was satisfied the remarks showed a lack of respect for colleagues. Accordingly, the Panel found allegations 1 e. i. and ii. to be proved.

f. in or around April 2019 and in or around May 2019, state to Colleague 1 that Colleague 2 ‘should pull herself together and get back into work’, and that ‘this was ridiculous’, or words to that effect, in reference to Colleague 2 being on sickness absence.

The Panel considered the evidence from Colleague 1 and that she was a credible and reliable witness. The Panel considered Colleague 1 had been factual in her evidence. The Panel was satisfied the Teacher had made the comments concerning Colleague 2. The Panel was satisfied the remarks showed a lack of respect for colleagues. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1 f. to be proved.

2 The Teacher’s action at allegation 1 a. was dishonest.

The Panel noted that it had found allegation 1 a. proved. The Panel considered the test of honesty as defined in Ivey v Genting Casinos [2017] UKSC 67. The Panel considered the Teacher had made a conscious decision to lie when he stated on separate occasions to Colleagues 1 and 2 that he had sent verification documents to an external school for cross-marking. The Panel also considered that from the perspective of an ordinary, reasonable person the Teacher’s conduct was dishonest. The Panel viewed the conduct as dishonest. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 2 to be proved.

3 The Teacher’s actions at allegation 1 b. and 1 c. were dishonest.

The Panel noted it had found allegations 1 b. and 1 c. proved. The Panel again considered the test of honesty as defined in Ivey v Genting Casinos [2017] UKSC 67. The Panel considered the Teacher made a conscious decision to be dishonest when he forged the signatures with regard to the 2018 and 2019 verification paperwork. The Panel determined that the Teacher had concealed the forgeries. The Panel considered that from the perspective of an ordinary, reasonable person the Teacher’s conduct was dishonest. The Panel viewed the conduct as dishonest. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 3 to be proved.

4 In November 2019, the Teacher sent messages via Facebook messenger to a former colleague, Colleague 5, that referred to Colleague 2 and were of a threatening nature, namely:

‘My tetirement was highJACKed and every

time I see that dog walking her dog. rat Along [redacted] I feel

like kicking them both into the Clyde Hate that bitch [Colleague 5]

Really

Totally ruined my retirement Would Happily kill herNot even Good at her job Far from it lol

I know [redacted] [redacted] but Sometimes a wee walk Into the sea is so Tempting Maybe one day Very soon R A thanks for

Nothing [redacted] not the First Treated like ann

An animal (sic)’

The Panel considered the evidence of Colleague 5 and Colleague 3 and concluded that they were credible and reliable witnesses. The Panel had in mind that it should apply the ordinary meaning of words in its consideration of the contents of the message. The Panel considered the terms of the message, as detailed in the screenshot provided, were of a threatening nature towards the Teacher’s colleague. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 4 to be proved.

Accordingly, by reason of the Panel’s consideration of evidence in relation to the allegations, the Panel found all of the allegations were proved.

Proceeding in the Absence (Stage 2)

Having found all of the allegations proved, the Panel considered whether to proceed to the next stage of the case, namely consideration of Fitness to Teach, in the absence of the Teacher. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Panel could proceed. She submitted that notice of the hearing had been served and received and that there was a voluntary absence by the Teacher. The Presenting Officer further submitted that the crux of the matter was whether the absence was voluntary or involuntary and that if the Teacher had chosen not to attend, the assumption was that the hearing would proceed. She referred the Panel to the GTC Scotland Practice Statement on Postponements, Adjournments and Proceedings in the Absence.

The Panel considered the issues of fairness, the public interest, the serious nature or otherwise of the allegations found to be proved and whether there had been a statement by the Teacher of whether he wished to attend or be represented at the hearing. The Panel considered the Practice Statement on Postponements, Adjournments and Proceedings in the Absence. The Panel considered that the Teacher had indicated he did not wish to attend the hearing or engage in the GTC Scotland process.

The Panel determined to proceed with the hearing into the Fitness to Teach stage. It considered that the Teacher had been given sufficient opportunity already to participate in the process. The Panel considered that it was unlikely that the Teacher would re-engage with the process were they to pause at this stage. The Panel was also of the view that it was in the public interest to proceed further with the case and bring it to a conclusion.

For the reasons given the Panel decided to continue with the hearing in the absence of the Teacher.

Findings on Fitness to Teach

Given that the Panel found that all of the allegations were proved, the Panel invited the Presenting Officer to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

No additional evidence was presented by the Presenting Officer.

The Presenting Officer submitted the Teacher was unfit to teach due to misconduct. If the Panel were not in agreement with her on that, she submitted that they could find the Teacher’s fitness to teach to be impaired. She referred the Panel to the cases of Mallon v GMC [2007] CSIH 17 and Roylance v GMC [2000] 1 AC 311. She submitted the Teacher had breached 1.3, 1.4, 1.5 and 4.3 of COPAC. She submitted that the Teacher had acted dishonestly in forging signatures and failing to obtain external moderation and in so doing had shown a disregard for SQA exam verification procedures and the potential for imperilling pupils’ exam results and achievements. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher had shown a callous disregard for a colleague’s health and had made threatening remarks with regard to the same colleague.

She submitted that the case was very serious, and that allegations of dishonesty was one of the most serious types of misconduct that comes before a professional regulator and that it was difficult to remediate due to the likelihood of reoccurrence. The Presenting Officer referred to the case of Bolton v LSS [1994] 1 WLR 512 citing that whilst it dealt with dishonesty of a solicitor, it applied equally to dishonesty on the part of a teacher.

She submitted that there was little evidence of remorse, and no evidence of insight or remediation. She submitted that it had not been an isolated incident but that there had been a series of events and that the risk of reoccurrence was high. She submitted that in terms of the seriousness of the allegations of breaches of COPAC and the behaviour found proved that the Teacher’s actions fell significantly short of what was expected and that he had acted in a way incompatible with being a registered teacher. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to find the Teacher unfit to teach.

The Panel also had regard to the legal advice, including the need to consider remediation and the public interest when determining current fitness to teach.

Decision on Fitness to Teach

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented, the authorities referred to and submissions made by the Presenting Officer in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Panel addressed the relevant considerations in relation to fitness to teach, as outlined in the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance Practice Statement (IOG).

In making their decision, the Panel considered the following questions.

a. Did the Teacher’s conduct at the time of the incidents fall short of the expected professional standards?

The Panel assessed the Teacher‘s conduct by reference to COPAC. The Panel determined that the Teacher’s conduct breached Part 1.3, 1.4, 1.5 and 4.3 of COPAC. They concluded that he fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that his actions amounted to misconduct.

While there had been no breach of the criminal law, the messages sent by the Teacher to Colleague 5 breached 1.3 of COPAC due to the threatening nature of them. These messages could have resulted in criminal charges, although ultimately, no action was taken by Police Scotland. Part 1.4 of COPAC was breached because the Teacher had acted dishonestly in forging the signature of Colleague 2. Part 1.5 of COPAC was breached because the Teacher had failed to act with honesty and integrity with his employer. Part 4.3 was breached because of the comments that the Teacher had made about Colleague 2’s professionalism and competence.

b. Are the shortfalls identified remediable, have they been remedied and is there a likelihood of reoccurrence?

Having found that the proven allegations amounted to misconduct, the Panel then went on to consider, with reference to the IOG, whether the conduct was remediable, whether the conduct had been remedied, and whether there was a likelihood of reoccurrence. The Panel regarded the conduct as very serious due to the Teacher’s dishonesty, lack of respect for colleagues and threatening behaviour. The Panel recognised that acting dishonestly is often an indicator of an attitudinal issue that is difficult to remediate. The Panel considered that the Teacher’s conduct was not remediable. The Teacher had apologised when confronted by colleagues, but he had not demonstrated any insight or genuine remorse. The Panel considered whether there was any aggravating or mitigating factors. The Teacher had chosen not to engage in the GTC Scotland process and so there was no evidence of remediation. As the Teacher had not given evidence, it was not possible for the Panel to ascertain more clearly the level of his insight in order to remediate the conduct and mitigate against the risk of it happening again. The Panel identified a pattern of behaviour that displayed a disregard for regulations and procedures, in addition to the potential risk of harm to pupils’ attainments in exams.

There was a lack of evidence before the Panel to demonstrate that the Teacher had taken any appropriate steps to address his behaviour. The Panel had no evidence from any current employer and as indicated above, the Teacher had stated that he had retired from his teaching post at Rothesay Academy on 14 August 2019. There was no independent evidence of the Teacher’s current circumstances. The Panel considered that in all the circumstances there was a high likelihood of reoccurrence if the Teacher were to continue to teach.

Therefore, there was insufficient evidence to satisfy the Panel that the conduct, in this particular case, was remediable, had been remedied and that there was no likelihood of reoccurrence.

c. Is a finding of impairment required in the public interest?

The Panel considered that the public perception of the seriousness of the allegations would be high and that the public would consider the actions of the Teacher as misconduct. The Panel also determined that the public interest required a finding that the Teacher was unfit to teach in order to maintain the public’s confidence in the teaching profession and in GTC Scotland as its regulator. Further to this, the Panel determined that there were multiple breaches of COPAC and that areas of the Teacher’s conduct were fundamentally incompatible with being a registered teacher.

Accordingly, for the reasons set out above, the Panel determined that the Teacher’s conduct falls significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that he is, as a result, unfit to teach.

Disposal

As the Panel determined that the Teacher is unfit to teach, in accordance with the terms of Article 18(2)(b) of the Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011, it directed that the Teacher’s name be removed from the Register.

Given the Panel found the Teacher unfit to teach the Panel invited the Presenting Officer to make submissions on the appropriate period for which the Teacher should be prohibited from making an application to be restored to the Register.

The Presenting Officer directed the Panel to Rule 2.10.1, Article 18 of the 2011 Order and to the IOG. She submitted that the nature of the conduct in the allegations married with the lack of evidence of remediation or of insight by the Teacher, entitled the Panel to determine a period of 2 years was appropriate in the circumstances of the case.

The Panel gave careful consideration  to the evidence before it and the Presenting Officer’s submissions. As set out in the IOG, the Panel required to determine the period during which the Teacher should be prohibited from applying to be restored to the Register. The Panel noted the seriousness of the Teacher’s conduct, in particular the dishonesty. The Panel noted the lack of any evidence in regard to remediation on the Teacher’s part and the lack of any mitigating factors. The Panel determined the appropriate period of prohibition to be 2 years. That was the maximum duration indicated by the IOG and permitted under the 2011 Order. The Panel selected that period due to the seriousness of the conduct and as a deterrent to the wider profession.

Once the Teacher’s name has been removed from the Register, his name remains so removed unless and until an application for re-registration is made by him and a Fitness to Teach Panel directs that the application be granted.

Appeal

The Teacher has the right to appeal to the Court of Session against the decision within 28 days of service of the Decision Notice. The Teacher’s name will remain on the Register until the appeal period has expired and any appeal lodged within that period has been determined.

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