Decision: Andrew Gibson (Panel Meeting)

GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Panel Meeting

24 February 2021

TeacherAndrew Gibson (not present)
Registration Number139238
Registration CategorySecondary – Business Education
PanelJoanne Sharp, Jacqueline Blair, and Pauline McClellan
Legal AssessorJames Mulgrew
Servicing OfficerHannah Oakley
Presenting OfficerGary Burton (not present)
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; and
  • the ‘Rules’ (and any related expression) means the GTCS Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them.

Background

The Panel Meeting was arranged to consider the following:

  • An application made by the Presenting Officer for a virtual Full Hearing.

By default, GTCS conducts all its fitness to teach hearings in person in its dedicated Hearings Suite at its office in Edinburgh. However, a Fitness to Teach Panel may order that all or any part of a hearing may be conducted by the use of electronic communications provided the method adopted allows the parties, the Panel and any witnesses to attend remotely, and, where the hearing is in public, allows the public to view proceedings.

Electronic communications are commonly used for witnesses to give evidence by participating from a remote location. In addition, an entire hearing may be conducted via electronic communication. Such a hearing is described as a ‘virtual hearing’.

At present, due to Scottish Government restrictions and guidelines on public interaction and concerns about public safety as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, hearings in person cannot currently take place at the GTCS office. 

An application for use of electronic communications in relation to a participant taking part in a hearing from a remote location or for a virtual hearing is made by the party who wants to use electronic communication. The relevant procedure and criteria for determining such applications are set out in the Use of Electronic Communications in Hearings Practice Statement.

Evidence

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 meeting:

  1. Presenting Officer application for a Virtual Hearing, dated 14 January 2021
  2. Appendix to Presenting Officer application, dated 14 January 2021
  3. Email from Teacher’s Representative Chris Dunn with Teacher’s position on application, dated 29 January 2021.

Preliminary Matters

The Panel did not deal with any preliminary matters.

Application

An application dated 14 January 2021 for a virtual hearing was made by the Presenting Officer. The Panel considered the application and submissions made in response which addressed, in particular, the following factors:

  • Is the Teacher represented?

The Teacher is being represented by a solicitor in relation to the fitness to teach proceedings although neither he nor his Representative will attend the Full Hearing.

  • Does the Teacher have any particular needs or vulnerabilities?

The Teacher is not understood to have any particular needs or vulnerabilities.

  • How will the Teacher and Representative, if any, communicate during the hearing?

Not applicable, given that neither the Teacher nor his Representative will attend the Full Hearing.

  • The nature of the proceedings and issues to be determined at the hearing?

The proceedings will be a Fitness to Teach Full Hearing to determine allegations relating to the Teacher’s alleged conduct which may bear upon his fitness to teach. The Panel were advised that the Teacher broadly denied the allegations. All stages of the fitness to teach process will be determined.

  • The estimated length of the hearing?

The hearing is expected to last 10 days.

  • The extent and complexity of the issues in dispute?

The Panel were advised that the Presenting Officer does not consider the allegations to be complex in nature or require extensive evidence to be led. The Panel were advised that the evidence in relation to the allegations was not complex.

  • Will the hearing take place in public or (partly) in private?

The hearing will take place in public.

  • The volume of documentation to be referred to during the hearing and how documentation will be provided to witnesses for reference, if required?

The documentation to be considered by the Panel will include papers for the Presenting Officer and the Teacher. The papers consist of 273 pages.

  • The nature of witnesses to give evidence at the hearing?

The Presenting Officer intends to call 16 witnesses. Five of the witnesses are teachers and the remaining 11 witnesses are pupils.

  • How long is each witness estimated to give evidence for?

No witness is expected to give evidence for longer than 1 hour.

  • Do any of the witnesses have particular needs or vulnerabilities?

The Panel were not made aware of any particular needs or vulnerabilities of any witnesses.

  • What confidence is there that each witness will be able to follow questions easily and any documents being referred to?

There is great confidence that the witnesses will be able to follow questions easily and any documents referred to.

  • How will witnesses be provided with hearing documentation?

An individual witness bundle will be emailed to each witness shortly before they are due to give evidence.

  • Will all participants at the hearing have access to a suitable electronic device?

It is anticipated that each witness to be called has access to a suitable electronic device. It is envisaged that GTC Scotland and participants will perform checks in advance of any virtual hearing to ensure that such a hearing is at that time viable.

  • Will all participants have a suitable internet connection capable of coping with the requirements of a virtual hearing?

It is anticipated that each witness to be called has access to a suitable internet connection.

  • Will all participants have an appropriate location from where they can participate alone and undisturbed?

It is anticipated that each witness to be called has access to an appropriate location to participate from.

Decision

The Panel appreciated that it should balance all of the relevant factors outlined above, the interests of the parties and the public interest in deciding whether or not to grant the application.

The Panel carefully considered the application and submissions made in response to it. The Panel had regard to the Rules and to the Use of Electronic Communications in Hearings Practice Statement as well as the advice, as required, of the Legal Assessor and Servicing Officer.

The Panel decided that the balance of the various factors and interests to be assessed in determining the application weighed in favour of granting the application made.

The Panel did not consider that there were any personal, evidential, practical, or technical reasons to refuse the application. The Panel noted that the hearing is expected to last 10 days, but following detailed discussion, did not consider that this should be a barrier to the hearing proceeding virtually. In addition, the Panel observed that the Teacher consented to the application. Further, given the ongoing issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there would be a considerable delay in the progress of the present proceedings if the application were to be refused.

Accordingly, the Panel decided to grant the application for the hearing to take place virtually.

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