Decision: Andrew Gibson (Full Hearing)

GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing

22, 23, 24, 25, 28 February and 4 March 2022

TeacherAndrew Gibson (not present)
Registration Number139238
Registration CategorySecondary – Business Education
PanelArthur Stewart (Convener), Helen James and Michele Knight
Legal AssessorAmanda Pringle
Servicing OfficerKirsty McIntosh
Presenting OfficerSarah Donnachie (Anderson Strathern LLP)
Teacher’s representativeChris Dunn (Clyde & Co.) (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

Declaration of Interest

The Panel, of its own volition, raised at the outset that one of the witnesses who was attending, Headteacher A, Headteacher, was known to them as she was also a GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Member. The Panel considered the GTC Scotland Conduct at Hearings Practice Statement which sets out the following: ‘if a Panel Member knows a witness, that Panel Member must consider whether he/she has a conflict of interest (which would preclude him/her from participating in the case) or whether he/she will require to make a declaration of interest on the day of the hearing’. The practice statement goes on to set out that conflict of interest is an objective test, and sets out a range of factors the Panel should consider. The Presenting Officer had no comment to make on the matter. The Teacher’s Representative was not present, but had been notified of the matter in advance of the hearing via an email from the Servicing Officer and had similarly not submitted any comment. None of the Panel Members knew Headteacher A in a personal capacity, and none had worked with her extensively. The Panel considered that they were able to rely upon their professionalism to treat Headteacher A in a professional and objective manner. The Panel also noted, with advance notice of the matter, the absence of submissions by both parties. The Panel determined there was no conflict of interest and that a declaration of interest would suffice in the circumstances. The Panel made declarations of interest with regard to Headteacher A.

Proceeding in the Absence

The Teacher did not attend the Full Hearing and he was not represented at it. Accordingly, at the outset of the hearing, the Presenting Officer made an application to the Panel to proceed in the absence of the Teacher, in line with to Rule 1.7.8. She submitted that the Panel required firstly to be satisfied 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 and submitted that Notice of Full Hearing had been properly served. She referred to the Notice of Full Hearing emailed to the Teacher on 15 December 2021 and a delivery receipt, both of which were before the Panel. The Panel was satisfied that the Notice had been served and received.

The Presenting Officer referred to the GTC Scotland Practice Statement on 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 the 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 an intention to attend and whether the Teacher has engaged with the process. She submitted this was a voluntary absence by the Teacher. She referred the Panel to the Notice of Teacher’s Case form dated 26 August 2020 in which the Teacher’s Representative had stated that the Teacher did not intend to attend or be represented at the Full Hearing. 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 having regard to the circumstances surrounding the application and the advice, when required, of the Legal Assessor and the 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 the Teacher’s response to the Notice of Investigation dated 29 April 2019, the Teacher stated that he would not be engaging with the hearing process nor would he be represented at the hearing. The Panel noted his position was reconfirmed in his Notice of Teacher’s Case Form dated 26 August 2020. The Panel concluded on the basis of the Teacher and his Representative’s responses, that it was clear 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 eight witnesses had made themselves available for the hearing and the consequences of granting or refusing the application on those involved with the hearing. The Panel also had regard to the general objective set out in Part 1 of the Rules: the need to deal with cases fairly and justly and in ways which are proportionate, informal, 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 of Full Hearing 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 not at any point draw any adverse inference from the fact that the Teacher chose not to attend.

Hearsay Evidence

During the course of the Full Hearing, the Presenting Officer made an application for a number of witness statements to be admitted as hearsay evidence. She submitted that the admissibility of hearsay evidence is subject to considerations of relevance and fairness.  She submitted that three of the witnesses had provided good reasons for their non-attendance. Some of the pupil witnesses had either not responded to their notice, or had responded to advise that they would not attend as they could not remember details of the events due to the passage of time. The Presenting Officer submitted that none of the witnesses statements were the sole or decisive evidence and that there were other witnesses to speak to events. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to admit all of the witness statements into evidence.

In considering the application, the Panel was reminded that hearsay evidence is admissible in fitness to teach proceedings, subject to relevance and fairness. The Panel carefully considered the GTC Scotland Practice Statement on Witness and Hearsay Evidence. Additionally, the Panel considered the general objective of the rules, which emphasises, the need to seek informality and flexibility in the proceedings.  The Panel noted the reasons for non-attendance and the period of time which had passed with regard to events in the allegations. The Panel determined that it was appropriate for the statements of the witnesses Teacher 2, Pupil D, Pupil, E, Pupil G and Pupil H to be admitted into evidence. The Panel were also asked to admit the signed statement of Pupil K. However, three paragraphs of this statement, paragraphs 6-9, appeared to be missing and, as such, the statement, although signed by the witness, was incomplete. The Presenting Officer was unable to confirm whether the Teacher had had sight of the full signed statement of this witness. The Panel determined that it would be unfair to admit this piece of evidence due to its incomplete nature and the fact that the Teacher had potentially not had sight of the missing paragraphs. Accordingly, the statement of Pupil K was not admitted into evidence.

Vulnerable Witness Application  

The Presenting Officer made an application for the pupil witness she intended to call as part of her case, Pupil I, to be treated as a vulnerable witness in terms of Rule 1.7.29 and 1.7.30 and that a supporter be allowed to be present whilst the pupil gave her evidence. The Panel noted the pupil’s age and had careful regard to the GTC Scotland Practice Statement on Witnesses and Hearsay Evidence. The Panel agreed that allowing the witness’s Guidance Teacher to sit alongside the pupil as a supporter was likely to facilitate her in giving her best evidence to the Panel. The Panel granted the application and allowed the supporter‘s attendance as requested but indicated that the supporter must not in any way influence the pupil’s answers or answer on her behalf.

Privacy Application

During the course of the hearing, it became apparent to the Panel that matters concerning the Teacher’s health would arise, and it required to consider whether it was necessary in the circumstances of the case for all or part of the hearing to be heard in private. The Presenting Officer made an application for matters concerning the Teacher’s health to be heard in private in terms of Rule 1.7.3. The Panel had careful regard to the Presenting Officer’s submissions and it also took account of the provisions within the Rules and the GTC Scotland practice statements, in particular the Privacy and Anonymity Practice Statement.

The Privacy and Anonymity Statement states:

‘The default position set out in the Fitness to Teach Rules (‘the Rules’) is that fitness to teach hearings are held in public. However, Panels have discretion to make orders with a view to preventing or restricting the public disclosure of any aspect of proceedings where certain criteria are met….’

The practice statement sets out that the default position is influenced by the Human Rights Act 1988 and Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely the right to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time. Further, by reference to Article 8, namely an individual‘s right to respect for private and family life, the practice statement identifies what may amount to circumstances that justify exceptions to the general rule. One potential reason narrated is ‘where the protection of the private life of the parties so require’. Later, the practice statement states that an example of when a private hearing may be appropriate is where intimate or sensitive details of the physical or mental health of a teacher or witness are to be raised. The practice statement continues ‘Panels must be satisfied that there is a compelling reason for granting privacy in order to protect an individual’s private life’. Rule 1.7.3 indicates that a Panel may, at any stage of proceedings on its own volition, or on application to it, make an order with a view to preventing or restricting the public disclosure of any aspect of the proceedings. A variety of orders are suggested in the Rules. One order is that a hearing may be conducted (in whole or in part) in private.

Having considered the submissions and relevant guidance in the Rules and practice statements referred to, the Panel concluded that it was in the interests of justice for those parts of the hearing which concerned evidence in respect of the Teacher‘s health to be heard in private in order to protect his right to a private life. The Panel concluded there were compelling reasons in the particular circumstances of the case to justify that any parts of the Full Hearing when evidence of the Teacher’s health would be led should be held in private.

No other preliminary matters were raised for the Panel to consider.

Allegation(s)

The following allegation(s) were considered at the Full Hearing:

Between February and December 2017, while you were employed by Aberdeenshire Council as a teacher of Business Studies at Westhill Academy, you:

  1. Acted inappropriately towards pupils by:
    1. Calling pupil, Pupil A, ‘dear’ despite requests by her not to do so;
    2. Stating that you would not teach Pupil A because she had removed her jumper in class;
    3. Refusing to allow Pupil A to sit with other pupils during class without good reason, causing her to feel isolated and picked on;
    4. Repeatedly failing to call pupils by their preferred name, despite requests by pupils to use their preferred names;
    5. Telling your class not to applaud Pupil B class presentation when the class had been allowed to applaud the presentations of others, having said Pupil B’s presentation was not good enough to deserve applause;
    6. Describing work carried out by Pupil C as ‘horribly wrong’ in front of the National 5 Business Studies class;
    7. Making Pupil C repeatedly carry out the same piece of work on white paper:
      1. despite Pupil C being subject to Additional Assessment Arrangements which prescribed the use of pink paper and
      2. then discarding his completed work into a bin in front of him;
    8. Informing Pupil C that he would have to prove to you that his Additional Assessments Arrangements were still required, when such a request was not the correct procedure to follow;
    9. Telling Pupil D that if she did not do well enough in an assessment, she would be removed from the National 5 Business Studies course when this was not the case, causing distress to Pupil D;
    10. Refusing to assist pupils when they were asking you for help;
    11. Mocking Pupil E by pretending to flick your hair as an impression of her behaviour;
    12. Holding a bottle of liquid against your lap and saying to pupils ‘do you know what this looks like’ or words to that effect;
    13. Calling pupils ‘fat’;
    14. Inappropriately shouting at pupils in such a manner as to cause them to feel intimidated;
    15. Boasting to pupils that you had stolen chocolate bars from a school you had previously been employed at;
    16. Swearing in the presence of pupils, including using the word ‘bollocks’;
    17. Refusing to give Pupil F a new homework booklet after he advised you he had lost his homework booklet, meaning the pupil could not complete any homework tasks; and
    18. Inappropriately lying on the school corridor floor during a lesson with pupils.
  2. Failed to behave professionally towards colleagues by:
    1. Describing Teacher 1’s behaviour towards you as ‘bullying’ and ‘victimising’ when you had no reasonable grounds to do so;
    2. During a meeting with Teacher 1, cowering in a corner of the room and stating ‘What would it look like if someone passed your office and I am in the corner, like the Depute Head Teacher was hitting me’ or words to that effect; and
    3. Making derogatory remarks in front of the pupils in your class about lessons taught by Teacher 2 to your National 5 class which had taken place when you were absent from 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 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 2.3, 2.5, 2.7, 3.1, 3.2, 4.2, 4.3 of the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Teacher’s Admissions

Through his representative, the Teacher indicated his position in his written responses as follows;

The Teacher admitted allegations 1(a), 1(b), 1(d), 1(g) (i) and (ii), 1(h), 1(p) and 1(q), however most admissions were made ‘under explanation’.

The Teacher denied allegations 1(c), 1(e),1(f), 1(i), 1(j), 1(k), 1(n), 1(o), 1(r), 2(a), 2(b) and 2(c).   

Allegations 1(l) and 1(m) were denied by the Teacher, however these allegations were only spoken to by Pupil K, whose statement the Panel did not admit into evidence. Accordingly, the Presenting Officer had no evidence on which to rely for these allegations and asked the Panel to disregard them.

The Teacher denied that his fitness to teach was 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

1. Final Investigation Report, dated 20 April 2020, with appendices thereto:

1.1 GTC Scotland referral

1.2 Teacher’s response to Notice of Investigation

1.3 Aberdeen Council Investigation Report, with appendices thereto

  • Disciplinary Investigation Findings
  • Teacher 4’s notes from parents evening, dated 9 November 2017
  • Informal Stage Grievance – response to Teacher re: Teacher 3, dated 31 October 2017
  • Minutes of Action Plan Meetings, dated, 1 November 2017 and 3 November 2017
  • Email from Teacher 1 to Headteacher A, dated 4 October 2017
  • Notes from discussion between Teacher 1 and Teacher regarding incident with Pupil A
  • Report taken from Pupil L
  • Report taken from Pupil M
  • Report taken from Pupil C
  • Report taken from Pupil A
  • Teacher 1 email collating parental complaints, dated 23 November 2017
  • Email from HR Advisor to Teacher 1, dated 1 November 2017
  • Minutes from Action Plan Meeting
  • Email chain regarding parents evening, dated 3 November 2017
  • Email from Teacher 1 to EIS Representative, dated 6 November 2017
  • Email from colleague regarding parents evening, dated 8 November 2017
  • Teachers reflections on supervised lesson
  • Email from the Teacher to Teacher 1 regarding performance plan, dated 17 November 2018
  • Email from Teacher 2 to Teacher 1, dated 21 November 2017
  • Notes from meeting between the Teacher and Teacher 1, dated 22 November 2017
  • Email from the Teacher regarding lessons, dated 23 November 2017
  • Email from Teacher 2 to Teacher 1, dated 27 November 2017
  • Email from the Teacher to Teacher 1, dated 27 November 2017
  • Email from Headteacher A to Teacher 1, dated 27 November 2017
  • Text of emails from Headteacher A regarding complaints
  • Discipline Referral regarding Pupil A, including statement by Pupil A

1.4 GTC Scotland statement of Teacher 1 (in attendance)

1.5 GTC Scotland statement of Pupil C (in attendance)

1.6 GTC Scotland statement of Pupil J (in attendance)

1.7 GTC Scotland statement of Teacher 4 (in attendance)

1.8 GTC Scotland statement of Teacher 2

1.9 GTC Scotland statement of Headteacher A (in attendance)

1.10 GTC Scotland statement of Teacher 3 (in attendance)

1.11 GTC Scotland statement of Pupil E

1.12 GTC Scotland statement of Pupil I (in attendance)

1.13 GTC Scotland statement of Pupil A (in attendance)

1.14 GTC Scotland statement of Pupil G

1.15 GTC Scotland statement of Pupil H

1.16 GTC Scotland statement of Pupil D

2. Teacher’s response to Interim Report, dated 30 January 2020

3. Photograph provided by the Teacher

4. Report by Medical Professional A, dated 15 March 2017

5. Response from Teacher’s Representative, dated 3 June 2020 with photograph appended thereto

6. Notice of Investigation, dated 16 April 2019

7. Notice of Panel Consideration, dated 30 April 2020

Teacher’s hearing papers

  1. Statement of the Teacher, unsigned and undated
  2. Email from EIS Representative with Teacher’s response, dated 30 January 2020
  3. Email from EIS Representative with Teacher’s response, dated 3 June 2020
  4. Class Observation Sheet, dated 22 September 2017
  5. Photograph, dated 8 May 2017
  6. Email from colleague to Teacher 1, dated 8 November 2017
  7. Handwritten letter, unsigned and undated
  8. Letter, dated 20 November 2013
  9. Letter, dated 20 November 2013
  10. Handwritten letter, dated 18 December 2013
  11. Handwritten letter, dated 1 May 2013
  12. Signed leaving card, undated
  13. Signed leaving card, undated
  14. Signed leaving card, undated
  15. Signed leaving card, undated
  16. Notice of Teacher Case Form, setting out position and confirming Teacher not attending Full Hearing, dated 26 August 2020

Servicing Officer’s hearing papers

  1. Notice of Full Hearing, dated 15 December 2021, with cover email and delivery receipts

Summary of Evidence

Witness 1 – Headteacher A

Headteacher A confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 12 December 2019 and that what was written was accurate. At the outset of her evidence, she read aloud her statement. She was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer and the Panel. She confirmed she was the Headteacher of Westhill Academy and that the Teacher had joined the school in February 2017. She spoke to being the line manager for Teacher 1 who line managed Teacher 4 who, in turn, provided line management to the Teacher. She spoke to the extensive level of support provided by the local authority for the Teacher in addition to the school’s own support provisions. She confirmed the school had no uniform policy in 2017 but that there had been a dress code in place. She confirmed that the procedure for dealing with any perceived contraventions of the dress code entailed raising the matter not directly with the pupil but with the pupil’s guidance teacher. She spoke to first having serious concerns with regard to the Teacher’s behaviour in the classroom in September 2017 and that she tasked her colleague Teacher 1 with keeping her informed of matters regarding the Teacher. She spoke to the receipt of several complaints about the Teacher which were investigated by Teacher 1 and processed through the local authority’s complaints handling service known as the Feedback Team. She spoke to having further concerns about the Teacher’s tendency to misrepresent what had been said in meetings and that he was erratic in his behaviours at times, particularly physically. She spoke to the Teacher’s agreement to work on moderating the loudness of his voice. She confirmed that Teacher 1 reported to her of the events within her room where the Teacher had been ‘cowering’. Headteacher A said she had instructed Teacher 1 not be alone with the Teacher following this incident. She confirmed that she had concerns about the impact of the Teacher‘s behaviours upon the school and, in particular, that despite the apparent ‘low level’ nature of the incidents, their sheer volume was concerning and had a significant knock-on effect on the running of the school. She confirmed that despite having made every feasible adjustment within the school in order to assist the Teacher, as time went on it became apparent that there were significant concerns with his learning and teaching along with his professional relationship with his colleagues. She confirmed that in her lengthy teaching career, she had never before seen such a depth of support both from the local authority and within the school. She described the various measures which were put in place as a direct result of requests from the Teacher. She confirmed that she had never before seen a teacher so disengaged with the support provided for them than the Teacher. She spoke to the Teacher never accepting any responsibility with regard to his own behaviours, being unable to meet his professional responsibilities and that he was selective in his disengagement at times, all to his own benefit. She confirmed that she had respected the Teacher’s stated desire to limit knowledge of his health issues within the school and that a communication plan was put in place to assist with his health issues. She stated that the Teacher had resisted any suggestions that a wider sharing of his health issues with colleagues would be of benefit to him.

Witness 2 – Teacher 1

Teacher 1 confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 14 August 2019 and that what was written was accurate. At the outset of her evidence, she read aloud her witness statement. She was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer and the Panel. She confirmed she was the Depute Head Teacher at Westhill Academy and that she knew the Teacher from his arrival at the school in February 2017. She described the extensive support measures which had been put in place for the Teacher in consultation with senior local authority officials and the Teacher’s trade union, in respect of which no concerns had been raised. Sheconfirmed she had been made aware of the Teacher’s health issues upon his arrival at the school and that upon receipt of medical evidence, a communication plan had been formulated to fully cover the Teacher’s needs. She confirmed that her responsibility was to ensure the Teacher had the best chance to imbed himself within the school and that she balanced this with her obligation to challenge appropriately any incorrect attitudes on his part. She described in detail the events at the end of a routine review meeting when the Teacher had blocked the exit, ‘cowered’ in a corner and then made remarks about her ‘hitting’ him. She confirmed that the incident had alarmed her personally and professionally and that she had reported matters immediately to the Headteacher in addition to recording events contemporaneously. She confirmed that she had received a number of complaints from pupils and parents with regard to the Teacher. She took written statements from all pupils involved and engaged with the local authority’s Feedback Team. She described the nature of the complaints received including the Teacher’s inappropriate communication with pupils, his unpredictability from lesson to lesson, his claim to have stolen as a means of stock control, his removal of arrangements for pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN), intentionally calling pupils by the wrong names, his threat of removal from a course for a pupil if she failed to attain a specific pass and of the Teacher upsetting a pupil by mimicking her flicking her hair. She confirmed that as per a prior agreement, any concerns from pupils or parents were raised at the Teacher’s support meetings but that he reacted badly and became upset whenever these were raised with him. She described the Teacher as ‘misrepresenting the truth’ on many occasions and that he had ‘blatantly lied’ about situations. She spoke to the example of the Teacher having been seen by a senior pupil and the Faculty Head of Mathematics lying sprawled out on the floor in the school corridor whilst his class was unattended. She stated that the Teacher had denied this and had explained he had been trying to bend down to a pupil’s level to console him. She stated that the Teacher was unwilling to work in a collegiate manner, that he failed to recognise any need for improvement on his behalf and that he had at no time demonstrated any empathy towards the pupils. She stated that pupils had reported to her being scared to ask the Teacher for help for fear of his ridicule of them and the overall lack of support provided by him. She described the support measures put in place for the Teacher to accommodate his health issues. She stated that it became apparent that the Teacher was using up a disproportionate amount of her time, and that in the latter stages of his time at the school she estimated he was taking up around 95% of her time. She confirmed the dress code in place at the school and accepted procedures for dealing with any infringement and also that removal of any additional support arrangements, whilst rare, would be a matter for a Faculty Head and not a classroom teacher. She confirmed that in her opinion the Teacher’s failure to comply with instructions issued to him by her were due to his refusal to do so and not due to any inability on his part. She stated her opinion was based on the Teacher’s ability to comply with instructions when it suited him to do so.

Witness 3 – Teacher 3

Teacher 3 confirmed he had provided a witness statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 20 August 2019 and that what was written was accurate. At the outset of his evidence he read aloud his witness statement. He was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer and the Panel. He confirmed he was a Depute Head Teacher at the school and that he was aware of the Teacher’s presence in the school albeit the Teacher was not in one of his linked departments. He confirmed that he had heard the Teacher’s voice on occasion whilst the Teacher was meeting with Teacher 1. He stated that the Teacher’s voice was so loud that he was able to ascertain the Teacher‘s unhappiness with the feedback he was being given. He confirmed the school had a dress code which specified that any concern required to be raised with the guidance team and not directly with a pupil. He spoke to being in the school’s guidance base for a meeting when pupil Pupil A attended seeking assistance. He stated that it was common for pupils to attend guidance with queries and that it was his role to seek to resolve any such situations calmly. He confirmed the pupil stated that due to the heat within the classroom she had removed her jumper and that the Teacher had refused to teach her unless she put it back on. He described accompanying the pupil to the classroom and that he advised the Teacher that removal of a jumper was not a reason to refuse to teach a pupil. He confirmed the Teacher had expressed concerns about being ‘left open’ to that ‘level of risk’ in the ‘current climate’. He stated that whilst he had negotiated the pupil’s return to the classroom, he did not understand the Teacher’s position as the pupil was not inappropriately attired nor was her clothing demonstrably different to other female pupils within the class. He stated that what appeared to be a low-level issue had become a much larger issue due to the Teacher’s defensive and reluctant approach, in particular the Teacher’s large presence and his swaying back and forth. He confirmed his concerns with regard to the Teacher‘s ‘very strange’ comments and behaviour, and that he had reported the matter to Teacher 1 given the Teacher had no reason to refuse to teach the pupil. 

Witness 4 – Teacher 4

Teacher 4 confirmed he had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 13 August 2019 and that what was written was accurate. At the outset of his evidence, he read aloud his witness statement. He was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer and the Panel. He confirmed that whilst now retired, at the time of the events had been Principal Teacher for Business Studies, and that in that role he was the Teacher’s line manager. He confirmed that he had been made aware that the Teacher had some health issues but was not given any details thereof. He confirmed the Teacher had raised concerns with him regarding female pupils’ attire and that he had advised the Teacher to speak to the Principal Teacher of Guidance as it was not school policy to speak directly to pupils on the matter. He spoke to the Parents Evening at which, due to the Teacher’s absence, he had undertaken the Teacher’s appointments. He confirmed that concerns were raised by a number of parents regarding a number of issues including homework concern slips, pupils being picked on and pupils being called an incorrect name intentionally. He stated that he had involved the Headteacher directly regarding the concerns of Pupil A’s mother. He confirmed that these issues were investigated by Teacher 1 and that when he had directly raised them with the Teacher, he was met with a lack of acknowledgment by the Teacher. He stated that it was as if the Teacher had no self-awareness of taking responsibility for matters and that the Teacher viewed himself as being picked on. He confirmed that as the Teacher’s line manager he had spoken with him with regard to the incident regarding the class being told not to applaud a pupil‘s presentation subsequent to which the Teacher had been seen lying on the floor in the school corridor. He stated that the Teacher’s explanation was he had been trying to get down to the pupil’s level in an effort to console him. He confirmed that following the incident the Teacher had failed to contact the Principal Teacher of Guidance which would have been the correct course of action. He confirmed that the Teacher had made derogatory remarks about his colleague Teacher 2 who had covered some of the Teacher’s classes. Teacher 4 described the Teacher as awkward, very reluctant to accept any requirement on his part to improve his work and deliberate in his misnaming of pupils. He further described the Teacher as having struggled to establish a professional relationship with pupils who disliked him due to the Teacher’s treatment of them. He stated that despite the allowances which had been made for the Teacher from the start of his time at the school, the Teacher had been able to teach only one subject and had failed to assist with any developmental work or with covering other classes.  

Witness 5 – Pupil A

Pupil A confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 16 July 2019 and that what was written was accurate. At the outset of her evidence, she read aloud her witness statement. She was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer and the Panel. She confirmed that she was now in further education and that at the time of events she had been a pupil at the school, taught by the Teacher for three periods weekly. She described in detail the events which had occurred when she removed her jumper in the Teacher’s class due to the heat. She confirmed that the Teacher had refused to teach her as he was ‘uncomfortable’ and that he had directed her to go to the guidance hub. She stated that she had done so and that Teacher 3 had returned with her to the class. She described the Teacher as swaying against the wall outside the classroom, refusing to look at her and maintaining his refusal to teach her. She confirmed that she had agreed to Teacher 3’s request to put her jumper back on again due to her good relationship with him and in order to return to the class. She confirmed she had been unable to understand the Teacher’s refusal to teach her given her attire was not dissimilar to other female pupils within the class nor was it inappropriate. She also confirmed that the Teacher’s behaviour during the incident had ‘grossed (her) out’ as a 14-year-old girl. She confirmed that she had been quite argumentative at that stage in her life and that this had caused clashes for her with the Teacher as he had a similar nature. However, she stated that she was uncomfortable with the Teacher almost immediately he began teaching her which was unlike her relationship with the other teachers in the school. She described in detail how the Teacher had made her feel isolated in the classroom by directing where she was allowed to sit, namely on her own, and away from the support of friends. She confirmed this had impacted negatively on her motivation to learn. She confirmed that she felt as if she was being ‘attacked’ by the Teacher as he was rude in his reprimands to her, which she felt he did as if to ‘hurt’ her. She stated that she felt belittled when he repeatedly called her ‘dear’ despite her requests for him to desist. She confirmed that the Teacher was known amongst pupils for calling them by what he knew was an incorrect name, for example using [redacted] for a fellow pupil instead of the correct name of [redacted]. She confirmed that when Teacher 2 took over teaching the class from the Teacher, class management had improved in addition to the teaching and learning.

Witness 6 – Pupil C

Pupil C confirmed he had provided a statement to GTC Scotland signed and dated 15 August 2019 and that what was written was accurate. At the outset of his evidence, he read aloud his witness statement. He was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer and the Panel. He confirmed that he was now in further education and at the time of events he had been taught by the Teacher in S4 for the National 5 Business Studies course whilst a pupil at Westhill Academy. He spoke to the Teacher informing him that he did not believe the established Additional Assessment Arrangements which were in place for the him were necessary. He confirmed this had been ‘sprung’ upon him and that he raised the issue with his Registration Teacher and his mother due to the distress caused to him. His confirmed his mother had emailed Teacher 1 with her concerns. He described the Teacher’s behaviour in class as sarcastic, boastful, and aggressive with shouting in every class which, on occasion, turned into ‘screaming’. He confirmed the Teacher had told the class about stealing ‘hundreds’ of chocolate bars whilst teaching at a former school. When asked by the Panel whether the story could have been fabricated by the Teacher as an example, he confirmed that the level of detail given by the Teacher had confirmed the authenticity of the story for him. He described how the Teacher would improvise with other pupils’ names on purpose, citing the example him calling a pupil [redacted] instead of her correct name, [redacted] and that this intentional misnaming occurred in every class despite pupils’ frequent corrections. Pupil C described an occasion when the Teacher had forced him to use white paper, instead of the prescribed pink paper due to his Additional Support Needs, and that upon completion of his work, the Teacher put it in the bin. He confirmed another occasion when the Teacher had described his work as ‘horribly wrong’ when he had placed headings on the wrong axis of a graph. He described the negative impact upon him of the Teacher’s comments which he believed were made by the Teacher to highlight his mistake to the class and hence to upset him. He stated his belief that this was part of a pattern whereby the Teacher would pick on certain pupils, including himself and Pupil A. He confirmed two incidents when the Teacher had singled out Pupil A with regard to her outfit despite other female pupils in the class sporting similar attire. He confirmed the intervention of Teacher 3 had resolved matters following the Teacher’s refusal to teach Pupil A due to her jumper removal.  He confirmed his belief that he had been on track to fail the course due to Mr Gibson’s teaching which had worsened progressively over time and which he described as ‘shambolic’ in nature. He confirmed Teacher 2 had covered a few of the Teacher’s classes and that the class had been taught well by Teacher 2 who was helpful to pupils. He confirmed that upon the Teacher’s return to class, he had taken 20 minutes of the lesson to ‘shame’ Teacher 2 and that the Teacher exhibited anger and rage, accusing pupils of having ‘gone behind (his) back’ to complain about his teaching. He confirmed that there had been a gradual escalation of events as time went on due to the Teacher’s belief that he was ‘getting away with it’. 

Witness 7 – Pupil I

Pupil I confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland signed and dated 14 July 2019 and that what was written was accurate. At the outset of her evidence, she read aloud her witness statement. She was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer and the Panel. Pupil I confirmed she was a S1 pupil in the Teacher‘s Business Management class and was currently still a pupil at Westhill Academy. She described events when her fellow pupil, Pupil B had inserted a ‘GIF’ into a PowerPoint presentation, in common with other pupils in the class. She confirmed the Teacher had shouted at the class not to applaud Pupil B’s presentation and that he had been sent out of the class by the Teacher, despite his visible upset. She confirmed that the Teacher had been harsh on Pupil B as everyone else’s presentation had been similar and all had been applauded. She stated that the Teacher had singled out only Pupil B, for no apparent reason.  She confirmed that the Teacher did shout in class at other pupils but not specifically at her. She confirmed that the Teacher had never provided any feedback to her regarding her work.

Witness 8 – Pupil J

Pupil J confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland signed and dated 16 August 2019 and that what was written was accurate. At the outset of her evidence, she read aloud her witness statement. She was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer and the Panel.  She confirmed she was now in further education and that at the time of events she had been an S4 pupil at Westhill Academy. She stated that on a number of occasions she had seen from her maths class the Teacher lying on the floor in the school corridor alone and sprawled out so that if anyone required to walk by, they would need to step over him. She described this as ‘very odd behaviour’ at which she and other pupils were ‘a bit shocked’, and that they found it funny. She stated that she found the Teacher very intimidating from the start, that he was quite intense, that he was very loud and shouted a lot, that he was not particularly friendly towards pupils and definitely not approachable for help. She confirmed her relief when Teacher 2 took over classes from the Teacher, in particular as the Teacher had failed to cover the course in full and the class needed ‘proper teaching’ due to upcoming exams. She confirmed having seen the Teacher lying on the floor in the school corridor on a number of occasions which had caused the class to laugh.  

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 on the facts from the Presenting Officer. In reaching a decision, the Panel had careful regard to the submissions which can be summarised as follows.

The Presenting Officer submitted 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, namely the standard used in civil proceedings, which is on the balance of probabilities. She referred the Panel to Rule 1.7.15 and the GTC Scotland Fact Finding in Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases Practice Statement. She submitted that the witnesses who had given evidence had done so honestly, clearly, consistently and that none had displayed any animosity towards the Teacher. She submitted that whilst the Panel had not had the benefit of hearing from the Teacher directly, the Panel had sight of the Teacher’s interview, signed and dated 19 February 2018, undertaken as part of the Local Authority’s investigation, in addition to the documentary evidence provided by the Teacher’s Representative. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to accept the witness’ evidence in full and to find all of the allegations proved.

Findings of Fact

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the oral and documentary evidence presented, submissions made by the Presenting Officer and the Teacher’s written responses in making its findings of fact on the allegations. The Teacher was absent, and, in the circumstances, the Panel took account of the GTC Scotland Practice Statement on Fact-Finding in Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases in relation to absent teachers and its obligations to ensure that the hearing is conducted as fairly and in 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 first considered what admissions had been made by the Teacher. The Panel noted the allegations which were admitted by the Teacher ’under explanation’. The Panel had regard to the advice of the Legal Assessor and the Servicing Officer with regard to the terms of the explanatory admissions and whether these indicated a true acceptance of the allegations or, whether they were in effect, denials. The Panel carefully considered the terms of each of the Teacher’s admissions under explanation in turn. The Panel determined that it accepted the Teacher’s admission of allegations 1(b), 1(d), 1(g) (i) and (ii), 1(h) and 1(q) as being true admissions on the basis that the Teacher’s explanations went towards mitigating circumstances. However, the Panel determined that for allegations 1(a), 1(i) and 1(q), the explanations provided by the Teacher were not of a mitigatory nature and meant that the Panel could not consider them to be truly admitted and therefore proved. The Panel directed that allegations 1(a), 1(i) and 1(q) were to be considered denied by the Teacher and would therefore have to be proved on the balance of probabilities at fact-finding stage.

During the course of the hearing, the Presenting Officer submitted that she was no longer pursuing allegations 1(l) and 1(m). This was because these allegations were only spoken to in the written evidence of Pupil K, and this witness statement had not been accepted into evidence by the Panel.

According, the Panel found allegations 1(b), 1(d), 1(g) (i) and (ii), 1(h) and 1(q) proved, by way of admission. The Panel then went on to hear evidence to determine whether allegations 1(a), 1(c), 1(e), 1(f), 1(i), 1(j), 1(k), 1(n), 1(o), 1(p), 1(r), 2(a), 2(b) and 2(c) were proved on the balance of probabilities. 

The Panel then considered the reliability and credibility of the witnesses who had given oral evidence at the Full Hearing. The Panel considered each witness in turn, in the order that they attended the hearing.

In respect of the professional witnesses who had given oral evidence at the Full Hearing, the Panel noted they gave their evidence in a clear and straightforward manner and that they did not appear to have any personal interest or motive in the outcome of the hearing, nor did they display any personal animosity towards the Teacher. The Panel noted the witnesses were objective and their evidence was consistent with the facts which were known and other evidence before it. The Panel considered their evidence was inherently probable. The Panel concluded that the witnesses were credible and reliable and accepted their evidence in full, attaching substantial weight to it.

In respect of the pupils who had given oral evidence at the Full Hearing, the Panel considered that they gave their evidence in an open manner and that they answered questions clearly, indicating when they could not remember facts. The Panel considered that the pupils had given their evidence in a straightforward manner and that they did not appear to have any personal interest in the outcome of the hearing. The Panel considered their evidence inherently probable. The Panel concluded that all of the pupils were credible and reliable witnesses and accepted their evidence in full.

The Panel then considered the witness statements of the professional witness, Teacher 2 and that of the pupil witnesses, Pupils D, E, G and H which had been admitted as hearsay evidence. The Panel carefully considered the approach to be taken to hearsay evidence as outlined in the GTC Scotland Witness and Hearsay Evidence Practice Statement, in particular with regard to the weight which could be placed upon their evidence given the Panel had not heard from them in person. The Panel considered the professional witness’ evidence consisted, in the main, of matters which had been reported to him rather than events he had seen himself. Therefore, the Panel was unable to determine whether it was probable or improbable. Accordingly, the Panel was not able to reach a conclusion in relation to the reliability and credibility of this witness. The Panel considered that the pupils were objective in their evidence which related to the allegations in which they were concerned and that their evidence had a ring of truth about it. Overall, the Panel found their evidence to be probable. However, the Panel was mindful of the fact that none of these witnesses had attended the hearing in person and therefore were unable to be questioned, which led the Panel to place less weight upon the evidence of these witnesses than those they heard from directly.

The Panel was not able to hear oral testimony from the Teacher because he was absent. He had not provided a witness statement to GTC Scotland. 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 went on to consider in turn each allegation which was not admitted in full in order to establish whether or not the allegation was proved.

Between February 2017 and December 2017, while you were employed by Aberdeenshire Council as a teacher of Business Studies at Westhill Academy you:

1 Acted inappropriately towards pupils by:

  • Calling pupil, Pupil A ‘dear’ despite requests by her not to do so;

The Panel considered the evidence of Pupil A and Teacher 1, whom they regarded as credible and reliable witnesses. In particular, the Panel noted Pupil A’s clear and consistent recollection of the Teacher calling her ‘dear’ and of her wholly appropriate level of outrage at his repeated behaviour. The Panel noted that the Teacher’s position was that he lacked recollection and had not intentionally meant to cause any harm. The Panel determined that it was satisfied that the Teacher had called Pupil A ‘dear‘ despite her requests not to do so.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(a) to be proved. 

(c) Refusing to allow Pupil A to sit with other pupils during class without good reason causing her to feel isolated and picked on;

The Panel noted Pupil A’s clear and consistent recollection of being told by the Teacher to sit alone and away from other pupils and that this had occurred repeatedly. The Panel noted that no explanation had been provided to Pupil A from the Teacher with regard to his refusal to allow her to sit with other pupils, and the Panel noted the negative impact this had upon her. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had refused to allow Pupil A to sit with other pupils in class without any reason which had caused her distress.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(c) to be proved.

(e) Telling your class not to applaud pupil Pupil B’s class presentation when the class had been allowed to applaud the presentations of others, having said Pupil B’s presentation was not good enough to deserve applause;

The Panel considered the written and oral evidence of Pupil I whom it regarded as a credible and reliable witness with no personal interest in the matter. The Panel also considered the hearsay evidence of Pupil H which had a ring of truth about it and which corroborated the account of Pupil I. The Panel noted the Teacher’s position that he could not recall the matter. The Panel was satisfied on the basis of the evidence before it that the Teacher had told the class not to applaud the pupil Pupil B’s presentation on the basis that it was not good enough.  

Accordingly, the Panel found the allegation 1(e) to be proved.

(f) Describing work carried out by Pupil C as ‘horribly wrong’ in front of the National 5 Business Studies Class;

The Panel considered the evidence from Pupil C in his written and oral evidence. The Panel considered him to be a reliable and credible witness. The Panel noted his detailed recollection of the event and of the negative impact upon him. The Panel noted the hearsay evidence of Pupil H and that it had a ring of truth to it. The Panel noted the Teacher’s position that he could not recall the event. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had described Pupil C’s work as ‘horribly wrong’ in front of the National 5 Business Studies Class.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(f) to be proved.

(i) Telling Pupil D that if she did not do well enough in an assessment, she would be removed from the National 5 Business Studies course when this was not the case, causing distress to Pupil D;

The Panel considered the evidence of Pupil D and Teacher 4 whom they regarded as credible and reliable. The Panel noted that the Teacher had disputed only that he had made the remark solely to Pupil D; he accepted telling the National 5 Business Studies class as a whole. The Panel determined that subject to amendment, it was satisfied the Teacher had stated to pupils that if they did not do well enough in an assessment that they would be removed from the National 5 Business Studies course.

The Panel amended the allegation as follows: ‘(i) Telling pupils in a National 5 Business Studies class that if they did not do well enough in an assessment, they would be removed from the National 5 Business Studies course when this was not the case causing distress to Pupil D’.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(i) to be proved, subject to that amendment.

(j) Refusing to assist pupils when they were asking you for help;

The Panel considered the evidence of the Pupils A and J whom the Panel found to be credible and reliable. The Panel also considered the hearsay evidence of the pupil witnesses, Pupils D and E and that of the professional witness Teacher 2. The Panel noted the Teacher’s denial of the allegation and also noted the documentary evidence of a Classroom Observation Sheet and of a Faculty Review: Pupil Evaluation Reponses. The Panel considered that due to a lack of context, it did not find the documentary evidence to be persuasive and that therefore the documents were of limited assistance to the Panel. On the basis of the witness evidence, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had refused to assist pupils when they were asking for his help.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1 (j) to be proved.

(k) Mocking Pupil E by pretending to flick your hair as an impression of her behaviour;

The Panel considered the hearsay evidence of Pupil E. The Panel also noted the evidence of Teacher 1 with regard to the matter being reported to her. The Panel noted the Teacher’s denial and his explanation of a fly infestation in the classroom causing him to make ‘swatting’ movements. The Panel noted that none of the witnesses had made any mention of a fly infestation within the classroom. The Panel was satisfied that on the balance of probabilities the Teacher had mocked Pupil E by pretending to flick his hair as an impression of her. The Panel did not believe the Teacher’s explanation, finding it to be preposterous.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(k) to be proved.

(n) Inappropriately shouting at pupils in such a manner as to cause them to feel intimidated;

The Panel considered the evidence from Pupils A, C and J in their written and oral witness evidence. The Panel considered them all to be credible and reliable witnesses with no personal axe to grind. The Panel also considered the hearsay evidence of the Pupils G and H. The Panel noted the Teacher’s position that he has a tendency to project his voice causing him to speak in a louder manner. The Panel considered the consistency across the pupils’ evidence of the ‘aggressive’ nature of the Teacher’s shouting and of its frequency on a nigh daily basis. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had inappropriately shouted at pupils in such a manner as to cause them to feel intimidated. The Panel considered that any requirement for projection by the Teacher would not have necessitated the inclusion of an angry tone.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(n) to be proved.

(o) Boasting to pupils that you had stolen chocolate bars from a school you had previously been employed at;

The Panel considered the evidence from Pupil C in his written and oral evidence. The Panel considered him to be a reliable and credible witness. In particular, the Panel noted Pupil C’s detailed description of the Teacher’s ‘boasting’ of the events which had occurred. The Panel noted the Teacher’s denial under explanation that it was a fictional tale used by him as a teaching aide. The Panel preferred the evidence of Pupil C that it was a true story. The Panel preferred this evidence due to the level of detail provided by Pupil C and the fact that the Teacher did not draw any specific teaching points from his story. Pupil C said that the level of detail provided by the Teacher gave it an authenticity, and the Panel agreed with this. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had boasted that he had stolen chocolate bars from a school where he had previously been employed. 

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(o) to be proved.

(p) Swearing in the presence of pupils, including using the word ’bollocks’;

The Panel noted this allegation had been admitted by the Teacher under explanation but that the Panel had not accepted he fully admitted the allegation due to this explanation of it. The Panel considered what information they had before it speaking to this allegation. The Panel noted that the only evidence before it was the Teacher saying he had said ‘rollocks’, which the Panel did not consider to be a swear word. On balance, the Panel considered it had insufficient evidence to determine whether or not the Teacher had sworn in front of the pupils. The Panel, on the basis of the evidence before it, was not satisfied that this allegation had been proved on the balance of probabilities.  

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(p) not proved. 

(r) Inappropriately lying on the school corridor floor during a lesson with pupils;

The Panel noted the Teacher’s position that he had not been lying down at any point. The Panel noted the evidence of Pupil J who observed the Teacher lying on the floor in the school corridor on a number of occasions. The Panel noted the detail of her observations and that her evidence had a ring of truth to it given the level of detail provided. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had inappropriately lain on the school corridor floor during a lesson with pupils.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(r) to be proved.

2 Failed to behave professionally towards colleagues by:

(a) Describing Teacher 1’s behaviour towards you as ‘bullying’ and ‘victimising’ when you had no reasonable grounds to do so;

The Panel considered the evidence of Teacher 1 whom it regarded as a credible and reliable witness. The Panel noted that Teacher 1 had displayed an ongoing commitment to assisting the Teacher to succeed, married with a consistent level of professionalism in her behaviour towards him. The Panel noted the Teacher’s denial under explanation that he may have used the words when he complained to the Teacher 4. The Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Teacher had described Teacher 1’s behaviour towards him as ‘bullying’ and ‘victimising‘ and that he had had no reasonable grounds to do so. In particular, the Panel considered Teacher 1 to have maintained a high degree of professionalism throughout her dealings with the Teacher. 

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 2(a) to be proved.

(b) During a meeting with Teacher 1, cowering in a corner of the room and stating ‘What would it look like if someone passed your office and I am in the corner, like the Depute Head Teacher was hitting me’;

The Panel considered the oral and written evidence of Teachers 1 and 4 which was consistent and that the incident had been reported to Headteacher A. The Panel also noted the contemporaneous recording of the incident by Teacher 1. The Panel noted the Teacher had provided no comments with regard to this incident beyond his denial. On the basis of the evidence of Teachers 1 and 4, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had cowered in the corner of a room and that he had made the remarks.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 2(b) to be proved.

(c) Making derogatory remarks in front of the pupils in your class about lessons taught by Teacher 2 to your National 5 Class which had taken place when you were absent from work;

The Panel considered the evidence of Pupil C, whom it regarded as a credible and reliable witness with no personal interest in the matter. The Panel also considered the hearsay evidence of the pupil witnesses, Pupils E and G who had heard the derogatory remarks directly, as well as the hearsay evidence of Teacher 2 to whom the derogatory remarks had been reported. The Panel noted the Teacher‘s position that he had felt frustrated but that he had denied making derogatory remarks. On the basis of the above, in particular the evidence of the pupils, the Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Teacher had made derogatory remarks.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 2(c) to be proved.

Accordingly, in addition to the allegations admitted by the Teacher, the Panel found allegations 1(a), 1(c), 1(e), 1(f), 1(i), 1(j), 1(k), 1(n), 1(o), 1(r), 2(a), 2(b) and 2(c) were proved on the balance of probabilities.

Proceeding in the Absence (Stage 2)

Given that the Panel found the majority of the allegations were proved, the Panel considered whether to proceed in 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 this was a voluntary absence by the Teacher. The Presenting Officer set out 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 should 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 of the allegations found to be proved and whether there had been a statement by the Teacher of whether he wished to attend or to 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 the Teacher would re-engage with the process were the Panel 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 to bring it to a conclusion.

Findings on Fitness to Teach

Given that the Panel found the majority 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 that the Teacher was unfit to teach due to misconduct and she referred the Panel to the Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance Practice Statement (IOG). She referred the Panel to the cases of Mallon v GMC [2007] SC 426 and Roylance v GMC [2000] 1 AC 311 with regard to the definition of misconduct. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher’s conduct reflected in the allegations found proved clearly constitutes serious misconduct and she drew the Panel’s attention to Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 2.3, 2.5, 2.7, 3.1, 3.2, 4.2 and 4.3 of COPAC which she submitted the Teacher had breached.  She submitted that in terms of the seriousness, when viewed collectively, the allegations found proved were very serious. The Presenting Officer submitted that despite the Teacher having admitted some of the allegations, there was no evidence of remorse and no evidence of insight or remediation. She submitted that there was an attitudinal issue for the Teacher given that he had not reflected upon his own behaviour and had dismissed the seriousness of the allegations against him. She submitted that on that basis, there was a likelihood of reoccurrence. She submitted that in terms of the breaches of COPAC and the behaviour found proved, the Teacher’s actions fell significantly short of what was expected and that he had acted in a way which was 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 legal advice provided by the Legal Assessor, 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 IOG.

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

  • Did the Teacher’s conduct or competence at the time of the incidents fall short of the expected professional standards?

The Panel assessed the Teacher’s conduct by reference to COPAC. Having regard to COPAC, and the narrative which runs alongside each part of it, the Panel took the view that the allegations found proved meant that the Teacher’s conduct breached parts 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 2.3, 2.5, 2.7, 3.1, 3.2, 4.2 and 4.3 of COPAC. The Panel did not find the Teacher to have fallen short of part 1.2 of COPAC because the Panel considered this part of COPAC to relate to a breach of boundaries with pupils in an improper manner, of which there was no evidence. 

In light of the COPAC breaches identified, the Panel concluded that the Teacher’s conduct fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that his actions amounted to misconduct.

The Teacher’s conduct displayed not only a lack of respect for professional conduct but also a failure to recognise its importance in his communications and interactions with pupils and professional colleagues. The Panel noted the extensive nature of the Teacher’s breaches, spanning four sections of COPAC.

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

Having found that the proved 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 viewed the Teacher’s conduct as very serious due to the Teacher’s failure to act in a professional manner, lack of respect towards pupils and colleagues, and his failure to validate the trust placed in him as a teacher by pupils’ parents. The Panel noted that most of the allegations, if viewed individually, were generally not of a high level of seriousness, but when viewed together, they demonstrated a pattern of behaviour and a wider attitudinal issue. When taken on its own, the Panel considered the Teacher’s behaviour towards Teacher 1 to be extremely threatening and of an exceptionally serious nature.  

The Panel noted the Teacher’s health conditions but it considered that the Teacher was highly selective in his deployment of these to his own advantage. Whilst the Panel had no reason to doubt that the Teacher’s health conditions were real, they did not consider these would render him incapable of doing his job in a professional manner. The Panel did not feel that the Teacher had sufficiently demonstrated any clear causation between his health conditions and the conduct found proved. There was also no contemporaneous medical evidence provided to support the Teacher’s position. The school had put supports in place for the Teacher to assist with his health issues and the Teacher appeared to have been passive in expecting these adjustments, but not proactive in engaging with them.

The Panel considered that objectively the conduct was remediable, and that the school had put in place a comprehensive plan to assist the Teacher. However, the Panel considered the shortfalls were not remediable in this particular case given the Teacher’s attitudinal issues, in particular his failure to take advantage of the school’s extensive support measures. The Panel considered the Teacher’s conduct was not remediable.

The Teacher had not demonstrated any reflection, insight or remorse in relation to his actions. The Panel noted that the Teacher had admitted some of the allegations. However, the Panel considered that the Teacher had failed to evidence his acceptance of having acted inappropriately and instead had evidenced a belief in himself as the ultimate and sole arbiter of his behaviours. The Teacher had chosen to engage in the GTC Scotland process to a limited extent, and whilst the Panel drew no adverse inference from his non-attendance at the Full Hearing, this meant that there was no evidence before it of mitigating circumstances or remediation. As the Teacher had not given evidence, it was not possible for the Panel to ascertain more clearly his level of insight in order to remediate the conduct and mitigate against the risk of it happening again. The Panel noted the seriousness of the Teacher’s behaviour displayed a disregard for professional conduct and standards.

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 there was limited evidence of the Teacher’s current circumstances. The Panel noted the public interest in upholding the proper standards of conduct and behaviour in the teaching profession. 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 the Panel considered as a result that there was a high likelihood of reoccurrence.

  • 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 given the number and range of allegations, and that the public would consider the actions of the Teacher as misconduct. The Panel also determined 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.

The Panel considered that such a finding was appropriate having regard to the public interest considerations set out in the IOG.

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 must be removed from the Register.

Given its finding, 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 submitted it was a matter for the Panel’s judgement. She invited the Panel to determine that 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 impact of his behaviour on colleagues and pupils. The Panel noted the lack of any evidence in regard to remediation on the part of the Teacher and the lack of any credible 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 the period due to the seriousness of the conduct and as a deterrent to the wider profession. The Panel also considered the period would afford the Teacher an opportunity to fully reflect upon the seriousness of the allegations found proved and effect a sea-change in his attitude and thinking.

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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