Decision: Alastair Sim (Full Hearing)

GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Professional Competence Full Hearing

25 June 2019, 27 May 2021, 16 and 17 September 2021

TeacherAlastair Sim
Registration Number965179
Registration CategorySecondary – Music
PanelJohn Kilpatrick (Convener), Peter Hempsey and Kathleen McCormick – 25 June 2019
Arthur Stewart (Convener), Michele Knight and Ruth Sharp – 27 May,16 and 17 September 2021
Legal AssessorGareth Jones – 25 June 2019
David McLean – 27 May 2021
John Moir – 16 and 17 September 2021
Servicing OfficerDani Tovey – 25 June 2019
Aga Adamczyk – 27 May,16 and 17 September 2021
Teacher’s representativeDarren Wapplington, NASUWT

Definitions

Any reference in this decision to:

  • ‘GTC Scotland’ means the General Teaching Council for Scotland;
  • ‘the Order’ means the Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011;
  • the ‘Panel’ means the Fitness to Teach Panel considering the case;
  • the ‘Rules’ means the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Rules 2017;
  • the ‘Standards’ means the GTC Scotland Standards for Registration 2012;
  • the ‘SFR’ means the GTC Scotland Standard for Full Registration;
  • the ‘SPR’ means the GTC Scotland Standard for Provisional Registration;
  • the ‘Local Authority’ means Glasgow City Council;
  • the ‘Report’ means the Case Overview Report, dated 19 November 2018; and
  • the ‘Response’ means the Response to the Case Overview Report, dated 1 April 2019.

Recommendation

GTC Scotland received a recommendation, dated 19 November 2018, from the Local Authority that the Teacher’s registration be removed because it is alleged that his professional competence falls below the standards expected of a fully registered teacher.  In the Report submitted with the recommendation, it is alleged that the Teacher lacks professional competence because he has not maintained the sections of the Standards as indicated by an ‘N’ in the following table. Standards met are indicated by a ‘Y’ and ‘NJ’ indicates no judgement:

1Professional Values and Personal CommitmentSFR
1.1Social JusticeNJ
1.2IntegrityNJ
1.3Trust and RespectNJ
1.4Professional CommitmentNJ
2Professional Knowledge and UnderstandingSFR
2.1Curriculum
2.1.1Have knowledge and understanding of the nature of the curriculum and its development.NJ
2.1.2Have knowledge and understanding of the relevant area(s) of pre-school, primary or secondary curriculum.NJ
2.1.3Have knowledge and understanding of planning coherent and progressive teaching programmes.NJ
2.1.4Have knowledge and understanding of context for learning to fulfil their responsibilities in literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and interdisciplinary learning.NJ
2.1.5Have knowledge and understanding of the principles of assessment, recording and reporting.NJ
2.2Education Systems and Professional Responsibilities
2.2.1Have knowledge and understanding of the principal features of the education system, educational policy and practice.NJ
2.2.2Have knowledge and understanding of the schools and learning communities in which they teach and their own professional responsibilities within them.NJ
2.3Pedagogical Theories and Practice
2.3.1Have knowledge and understanding of relevant educational principles and pedagogical theories to inform professional practices.NJ
2.3.2Have knowledge and understanding of the importance of research and engagement in professional enquiry.NJ
3Professional Skills and AbilitiesSFR
3.1Teaching and Learning
3.1.1Plan coherent, progressive and stimulating teaching programmes which match learners’ needs and abilities.N
3.1.2Communicate effectively and interact productively with learners, individually and collectively.N
3.1.3Employ a range of teaching strategies and resources to meet the needs and abilities of learners.N
3.1.4Have high expectations of all learners.N
3.1.5Work effectively in partnership in order to promote learning and wellbeing.N
3.2Classroom Organisation and Management
3.2.1Create a safe, caring and purposeful learning environment.N
3.2.2Develop positive relationships and positive behaviour strategies.N
3.3Pupil Assessment
3.3.1Use assessment, recording and reporting as an integral part of the teaching process to support and enhance learning.N
3.4Professional Reflection and Communication
3.4.1Read and critically engage with professional literature, educational research and policy.N
3.4.2Engage in reflective practice to develop and advance career-long professional learning and expertise.N

The Report, along with the accompanying written evidence, explained why the Local Authority formed this view.  The Teacher was provided with a copy of the Report and evidence, and thereafter stated to GTC Scotland in writing that he wished to challenge the recommendation made.  Accordingly, the hearing was arranged to consider the matter.

In the Response, the Teacher admitted that he had not maintained the SFR by indicating a number of elements of the SFR as areas of development, namely 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.5, 3.2.1, 3.2.2, and 3.4.2.

Accordingly, the Panel noted at the hearing that its options in this case were either to order that:

  • Rule 3.8.1 (c): – the Teacher be subject to a conditional registration order for such period of time (which may be unlimited), and with such conditions attached, as may be specified by the Panel provided always that he/she is, and continues to be, eligible for registration and that any failure to comply with such an order may permit a Panel to direct that his/her name be removed from the Register; or
  • Rule 3.8.1 (d): – the Teacher’s name be removed from part or parts of the Register.

Background

This case was originally scheduled for a hearing on 25 June 2019. At that hearing, a Panel made a decision to adjourn at the start of the proceedings. The Panel noted that the Teacher had made a number of references to health matters in his response to the Case Overview Report; however, provided no medical evidence to support this.  Therefore, the Panel ordered, in line with Rule 3.6.4, that the Teacher should be given a further opportunity to lodge all the relevant medical evidence he wished to be considered.

Preliminary Issues

The Panel raised with the Teacher and his Representative that one of the Local Authority witnesses, Witness 1, was known to them as he was also a GTC Scotland Panel Member. The Teacher and his Representative confirmed that they trusted in the integrity of the Panel and accordingly raised no issue.

Evidence and submissions

The written evidence submitted for consideration by the Panel was:-

  1. Case Overview Report, dated 19 November 2019, and evidence submitted by the Local Authority in support of the recommendation
  2. Signed challenge form from Alastair Sim, dated 21 January 2019
  3. Response to Case Overview Report, dated 1 April 2019
  4. Panel Meeting Outcome, dated 22 May 2019
  5. Dismissal Letter, dated 22 October 2018
  6. [redacted] Reports
  7. Email from Darren Wapplington, dated 30 July 2019 with Health Information from GP
  8. Health information from GP
  9. Procedural Decision annex regarding Virtual Hearing, dated 20 January 2021
  10. Notice of Professional Competence Full Hearing, dated 26 April 2021 with email delivery receipt.

The Teacher provided an opening and closing statement and answered questions put to him by the Panel. The Panel also asked questions of the Local Authority witnesses, Witness 1 and Witness 2, and the Teacher’s witnesses, Witness 3 and Witness 4.

Although not raised as a preliminary issue, in the course of questions in relation to his opening statement, the Teacher’s Representative indicated that in light of alleged breaches of section 15 of the Equality Act 2010 by the Local Authority, the Teacher was seeking to cancel the case. However, no application had been made in terms of the Case Cancellation Practice Statement by the Teacher’s Representative. Ultimately, the Teacher’s position was that he was not seeking cancellation, but rather inviting the Panel to have regard to the 2010 Act in relation to how it impacted on him at the time and whether the Local Authority took all reasonable steps to comply with the 2010 Act, and that it was a significant factor in the case for the Panel to consider.

The Local Authority witnesses stated that they did not consider that the Teacher fell within the 2010 Act. The Local Authority understood that the Teacher [redacted]. The Teacher did not advise of [redacted]. The Teacher was [redacted] and the Local Authority followed its guidance. Although there were concerns about his competency, the Teacher had been dismissed due to lack of capability due to his extended absences.

The Local Authority offered support to the Teacher, including observations and mediation, which the Teacher was not willing to take up. The Teacher felt he had been unsupported by the Local Authority.

When asked what concerns he had in relation to lack of support, the Teacher stated that observers from outwith the school were known to the Principal Teacher with whom he did not have a good relationship. He also felt he had been given difficult classes.

Witness 1 stated that the lessons to be observed were planned and agreed. The observers had been brought in from the other side of the city to help ensure impartiality and the Principal Teacher had not had any say in who was selected.

The Teacher stated that there was ‘an atmosphere’ at the meetings. He never felt supported and felt they were trying to get rid of him. Witness 4 stated that no reasonable teacher would be expected to manage one particular class. Witness 4 stated that he [Witness 4], was not allowed to speak during meetings. He was told to be quiet.

Witness 1 accepted that one of the classes could be challenging, but other observations in other classes also had poor feedback.

When asked about his allegation that equipment would go missing, the Teacher stated that he would set up the equipment in the morning and it would be removed before his classes. Witness 1

 stated that he was unaware of this. Witness 3 stated that equipment was removed from the place where the observation took place. Asked if it was being suggested that he was being sabotaged, the Teacher stated that it was set up to make it difficult for him. He referred to an occasion where a pupil swore and was sent to the Principal Teacher’s office but was then sent back to the class under observation.

Witness 1 denied that there was any sabotage. Although he had not been at the school from the beginning, he maintained that when he was there, full support was offered to the Teacher.

Witness 4 stated that the Teacher was given the poorest classes and that he was ‘marginalised’ for a number of years.

Witness 1 stated that the Teacher was offered the opportunity to raise grievance procedures against the Principal Teacher in relation to how the Teacher was supported but that he had declined to take this up.

When asked about the detailed concerns recorded from the observers, the Teacher stated he accepted some of them but felt some were exaggerated and ‘petty’. When asked what he did accept, he stated there were areas for improvement. He stated that he did not hear any inappropriate language referred to in observer feedback.  He acknowledged it was a difficult class, but he stated that he had not lost control of it.

The Teacher stated that the observations were done 3 years ago. He maintained that he could cope now. He stated he is more reflective; he is in a better state of mind and has a plan. When asked about particular strategies, he stated he would make more use in terms of differentiation as a strategy. He felt that the materials he had submitted in relation to this case provided evidence of differentiation.

When asked what he had done in relation to standard 3.4.1, the Teacher stated he had been reading books, watched teachers TV, and will be looking at courses. He maintained he had not been able to do any courses so far due to Covid.

When pressed by the Panel about coping strategies he might use should his time in a school become challenging in the future, the Teacher stated that he did not think he would have the same kinds of problems he had been experiencing in a different school. He told the Panel he would use a ‘nip it in a bud’ strategy. He would speak to colleagues and his Principal Teacher to address issues.

The Panel then questioned the Teacher in relation to the SFR areas raised by the Local Authority as having not been maintained. In relation to those he disputed, the Teacher stated:

3.1.3 – Employ a range of teaching strategies and resources to meet the needs and abilities of learners.

The Teacher stated that he had used specific strategies: drums in class, singing in class and lessons outside, all catered to different levels of skill. He used PowerPoint, YouTube clips, ICT and new equipment.

3.1.4 – Have high expectations of all learners.

The Teacher stated that he had always had high expectations of learners. He had regard to records of needs and looked at every single pupil that was there. He used different resource materials and differentiation. He gave an example of providing large print copies of sheets for a pupil with poor eyesight.

3.3.1 Use assessment, recording and reporting as an integral part of the teaching process to support and enhance learning.

The Teacher stated that he recorded student pieces and assessed them within or after class. He used CDs to record the level of his pupils.  He stated that the advantage of teaching music is the opportunity for one-to-one teaching. The Teacher stated that all pupils had clear targets at the start of every lesson for what needed to be completed.

3.4.1 – Read and critically engage with professional literature, educational research and policy.

The Teacher told the Panel that he looked at books and teachers TV. There were CPD opportunities and resources in school that he took an interest in. He would greet pupils at the door and used common sense to build relationships with them.

When asked for comments on behalf of the Local Authority, Witness 1 stated that, despite every opportunity being given, feedback and advice, there was no discernible improvement. Teaching was teacher-led with little pupil input or collaboration.

In relation to the SFR areas he accepted had not been maintained, the Teacher stated:

3.1.1 – Plan coherent, progressive and stimulating teaching programmes which match learners’ needs and abilities.

The Teacher told the Panel that he had let himself down. He had been ill but was now in good health and ‘raring to go’. He had been reading books and watching YouTube. The Teacher, however, provided no specific examples to the Panel.

3.1.2 – Communicate effectively and interact productively with learners, individually and collectively.

The Teacher told the Panel that his failings had principally been in relation to the observed lessons. He felt he generally did well and was well-liked by pupils. Asked how he had addressed the failure, he stated that it was hard to provide examples because he had not been teaching. Asked what books he had been reading, he stated he could not quote from ‘the top of [his] head’ but gave one example – ‘When Adults Change’.

3.1.5 – Work effectively in partnership in order to promote learning and wellbeing.

The Teacher told the Panel that there had been a lack of partnership and he had been in a constant battle with the Principal Teacher of Music.

Witness 1 told the Panel he considered it to be a very reflective and cooperative department.

3.2.1 – Create a safe, caring and purposeful learning environment.

The Teacher told the Panel that the issue was with observed lessons and that, generally speaking, his lessons were safe, caring and purposeful. As a result of his studies, he was now more aware of his presentation and the need to gain respect and talk to pupils.

3.2.2 – Develop positive relationships and positive behaviour strategies.

The Teacher told the Panel that the problem was only with the observed lessons. Asked to give examples of what he had read about positive behaviour strategies, the Teacher stated that he would meet pupils at the door to build relationships. His reading had made him more aware; however, he had provided the Panel with only one example of a text he had read.

3.4.2 – Engage in reflective practice to develop and advance career-long professional learning and expertise.

The Teacher told the Panel that he had not maintained this standard only in relation to the observed lessons as he generally would be self-critical and reflective at the end of each lesson. He would make use of learning intentions and success criteria. The Teacher considered that he would satisfy this standard now and just wanted to get back to teaching.

The Panel asked the Teacher what was meant by the term ‘differentiation’. He stated that it meant different levels for different pupils; different levels of music to work on. Asked how he would create differentiation in an imaginary second-year class, he stated he would check what levels the pupils have reached; he would check this on the tracking sheet and would then communicate with pupils. He stated that he would know pupils from the year before and would know if they were making progress. He would do assessments and audio recordings. He would keep daily records of where the pupils were.

The Local Authority was asked why it recommended removal. Witness 1 stated there was clear evidence the Teacher did not maintain the SFR. He referred to the Teacher being unable to properly define ‘differentiation’ for the Panel and there was a lack of examples of how he had maintained the SFR.

The Teacher enquired what options were available to the Panel at the hearing. His Representative stated that the Teacher was seeking a conditional registration order.

Findings in Fact

The Panel had in mind that the standard of proof required is that used in civil proceedings, namely the balance of probabilities, and that it must base its decision on the evidence before it.  Accordingly, the Panel carefully considered all the oral and written evidence presented at the hearing, along with the submissions made by the Teacher during the hearing, in making its findings in fact below. 

The Panel first considered the credibility and reliability of the witnesses it had heard from.

The Panel formed the view that the Teacher, though sincere in his belief as to what had occurred, was not a reliable witness. His position in relation to the SFR was inconsistent, between his written response and during the course of his evidence. The Panel did not accept that his failings related only to observed lessons. His evidence was vague, limited and provided very little specificity. He was unable to evidence how he had or would maintain the SFR in the future. He did not appear to have the language to explain and elaborate on his position. He came across as unprepared to respond to Panel’s questions.

The Panel was assisted by Witness 1’s evidence, which he gave in a clear, straightforward, consistent and professional manner.  He readily acknowledged where there were gaps in his knowledge. His only motive appeared to be the best interests of the pupils in his care. The Panel considered that he was a credible and reliable witness.

Witness 2 gave his evidence in a clear, matter of fact, manner. His evidence was consistent with his limited role. The Panel considered that he was a credible and reliable witness.

Witness 3 had a lot of sympathy and empathy for the Teacher. His language, however, was felt by the Panel to be somewhat emotive and exaggerated. He had little or no first-hand knowledge of the Teacher’s teaching ability. He appeared to lack objectivity. The Panel did not consider it could place much weight on his evidence.

Witness 4 appeared to be an overly partisan witness who seemed, at times, to be dismissive of the Local Authority witnesses. He appeared to lack objectivity. The Panel considered it could place little weight on his evidence.

The Panel was not satisfied that sufficient reliable evidence had been provided to demonstrate that the Teacher came within the definition of disabled in terms of the Equality Act 2010.

Notwithstanding his assertions that he was not provided with any support, the Panel had no significant concern regarding the support provided to the Teacher.

Key Areas of Dispute  

The Teacher accepted that he had not maintained the following areas of the SFR: 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.5,3.2.1,3.2.2 and 3.4.2. Therefore, in line with Rule 1.7.21, the Panel accepted the recommendation in relation to those specific standards.

In addition to those SFR areas which the Teacher accepted he had not maintained, the Panel was also required to consider whether the Teacher had maintained the following standards in dispute:

3.1.3 Employ a range of teaching strategies and resources to meet the needs and abilities of learners.

The Panel considered that there was a range of evidence from the Local Authority that this standard had not been maintained. The Teacher in contrast was unable to provide specific examples of having maintained the standard. At times, he spoke in terms more consistent with a layperson. Therefore, the Panel was of the view that the Teacher has not demonstrated that he has maintained this standard.

3.1.4 Have high expectations of all learners.

The Panel considered that the Teacher was unable to demonstrate his drive to help children to excel. He talked about books and YouTube clips, but provided only one specific example of a book that he had read. Despite knowing he would have to address the Panel, he was remarkably short on details. Therefore, the Panel was of the view that the Teacher has not demonstrated that he has maintained this standard.

3.3.1 Use assessment, recording and reporting as an integral part of the teaching process to support and enhance learning.

The Panel was not satisfied that the Teacher understood what formative assessments were. He used the language of a layperson. He did not give the Panel evidence of what actions a fully registered teacher would take in order to demonstrate that they understand what this standard means. Therefore, the Panel was of the view that the Teacher has not demonstrated that he has maintained this standard.

3.4.1 Read and critically engage with professional literature, educational research and policy.

The Panel considered that the Teacher had not evidenced that he had maintained this standard. He said very little about the literature informing his teaching. The Panel had expected a bibliography and learning points, but none were provided beyond very limited reference to just one book. Therefore, the Panel was of the view that the Teacher has not demonstrated that he has maintained this standard.

Accordingly, the Panel determined that the Teacher had not maintained the SFR in relation to section 3 – Professional Skills and Abilities.

Fitness to Teach

Having determined that the Teacher’s professional competence fell below the standards expected of a fully registered teacher, the Panel went on to determine whether his fitness to teach is impaired or he is unfit to teach. The Panel reminded itself that this was a matter for its professional judgement and was not something that had to be proved. The Panel had regard to the GTC Scotland Professional Competence Cases Practice Statement. It bore in mind its duty to apply fitness to teach tests to the Teacher currently.

The Panel first considered whether the shortfalls in performance identified at stage 1 are remediable, whether they have been remediated and whether there is a likelihood of recurrence.

The Panel carefully considered whether the identified shortfalls are remediable. Bearing in mind the considerable impact of his [redacted] problems, the Panel was prepared to consider the possibility that the shortfalls were at least theoretically remediable, albeit there was a very significant gap. The Panel had serious concerns over the quality of the Teacher’s thinking. He was unable to articulate his understanding of the standards. He was lacking in insight. Only very weak evidence was produced to convince the Panel that he had the capacity to remedy his failings. Ultimately, the Panel determined that the shortfalls were so significant, and the Teacher’s expectations of returning to teach so unrealistic, that it determined they were not remediable in this particular case. The Panel considered further that the shortfalls had not been currently remedied by the Teacher. The Panel noted that the Teacher has not maintained 10 out of 23 standards. The Panel considered that the Teacher felt that as his [redacted] had improved, he would be able to succeed. However, the Panel considered that the Teacher was overly optimistic as to the difficulties he would face. His evidence about his preparation to return to teaching was superficial and lacked the detail required to convince the Panel that the shortfalls had or would be remedied. His reflection did not demonstrate any awareness of the strategies that could be implemented to address any future stresses. Therefore, the Panel considered that there was a high likelihood of re-occurrence.

Having determined that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired, the Panel then went on to make a judgement as to the extent to which the Teacher has fallen short of the standards expected. In this instance, the Panel judged that the Teacher has fallen significantly short of the standards expected, meaning he is unfit to teach given the significant shortfalls identified above. The Panel also determined that the public interest requires a finding that the Teacher is unfit to teach.

Decision

Where a determination is made by a Panel that an individual is unfit to teach, the Order 2011 dictates that he/she must be removed from the Register. As the Panel determined that the Teacher was unfit to teach, it ordered that the Teacher’s name be removed from the Register.

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. The Panel directed that the Teacher should be prohibited from making an application for re-registration for a period of 2 years from the date of removal.  The Panel felt that such were his deficiencies that the Teacher would require substantial time to address these.

Right of Appeal

In accordance with Article 24 of the Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011, the Teacher also has the right to appeal to the Court of Session against the decision within 28 days of the date of service of the written 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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