Decision: Anna Irfan (Full Hearing)

GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing

23 & 24 May 2022

TeacherAnna Irfan (not present/not represented)
Registration Number169344
Registration CategorySecondary – Mathematics
PanelArthur Stewart (Convener), Joanne Sharp and Pauline McClellan
Legal AssessorAmanda Pringle
Servicing OfficerIsobel Allan
Presenting OfficerJennifer McPhee, Anderson Strathern

Definitions

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.
  • ‘COPAC’ means the GTC Scotland Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012

Preliminary Issues

Proceeding in the Absence

The Teacher did not attend the virtual hearing. Accordingly, at the outset of the hearing the Presenting Officer referred to Rule 1.7.8 on proceeding in the absence and submitted that the Panel required to be satisfied that the Notice of Full Hearing (the ‘Notice’) had been properly served and that it was fair to proceed in the Teacher’s absence. She referred to Rule 1.6.1 on service of the Notice. She submitted that the Notice had been properly served. She highlighted that the Notice had been emailed to the Teacher on 21 April 2022, with a delivery receipt received, and posted to her via Special Delivery on 25 April 2022, both of which were produced. The Panel was satisfied that the Notice had been served and received.

The Panel, of its own volition, considered whether it would be of assistance, particularly in light of the Teacher’s non-attendance, to have before it, as a late paper, the Fitness to Teach Panel Notice of Teacher’s Response dated 15 September 2019. This document contained information regarding the Teacher’s position with respect to the allegations. The Presenting Officer confirmed she had no difficulty with the late paper being submitted. Having taken into account the reasons for the lateness of the submission, namely the Teacher’s non-attendance, and given that this was unopposed, the Panel determined that it would allow the submission of the late paper, pursuant to Rules 1.7.17 and 1.3.5.

The Presenting Officer referred to the GTC Scotland Practice Statement: Postponements, Adjournments and Proceedings in the Absence, Part B. She submitted that if a hearing is to proceed in the absence of a teacher, the Panel must ensure that the hearing is conducted as fairly and in as balanced a way as the circumstances permit. She referred to Part D of the Practice Statement, in particular, to the factors to be considered by the Panel, namely whether the Teacher had indicated an intention to attend or whether the Teacher has engaged with the process. She submitted that this was a voluntary absence by the Teacher. She referred the Panel to the last written response received from the Teacher dated 15 September 2019, in which the Teacher clearly stated she would not attend the hearing, albeit giving no substantive reason for this. The Presenting Officer submitted that the crux of the matter was whether the absence was voluntary or involuntary and that if the Teacher had chosen not to attend, the assumption was that the hearing will proceed. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Panel could be satisfied that the Teacher had voluntarily absented herself from the Full Hearing and, that with Notice correctly served, the Panel should avoid any further delay in the proceedings.

The Panel considered the Practice Statement and had regard to the circumstances surrounding the application and the advice, when required, of the Legal Assessor and Servicing Officer. The Panel noted and considered the reasons for the Presenting Officer’s application. In her written responses to GTC Scotland dated 29 April 2019 and 3 July 2019, the Teacher stated that she would not be attending the hearing. She stated in her Notice of Teacher’s Case Form dated 15 September 2019 ‘With fully respect to the Panel, I will accept all Panel’s decision (sic)’. The Panel concluded on the basis of the Teacher’s response and lack of any subsequent response to the Notice of Hearing that the Teacher had chosen voluntarily not to attend.

The Teacher indicated that she did not wish to engage in the hearing. The Panel had regard to the nature of the allegation, the public interest, fairness to the Teacher and her 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 three witnesses had made themselves available for the hearing that day and the consequences of granting or refusing the application on those involved with the hearing. The Panel also had regard  to the general 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 and flexible, encourage participation, and avoid delay. The Panel concluded that it was both necessary and proportionate to proceed in the absence of the Teacher.

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

Allegation

The following allegation was considered at the hearing:

On 4 September 2018 whilst employed by Big Bird Nursery you did:

a) shout at Child A

b) grab the said Child A’s arm

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 1.3, 1.4 and 2.4 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Teacher’s Admissions

The Teacher admitted that she had shouted at Child A.

The Teacher stated that she could not remember grabbing Child A’s arm.

The Teacher did not confirm her position with regard to her current fitness to teach.

Hearing Papers

In accordance with Rule 1.7.17, the Panel admitted all of the documents and statements listed below as evidence for the purposes of the hearing:

Presenting Officer’s hearing papers

Final Investigation Report, dated June 2019, with appendices including:

  • Signed statement of Witness 1, dated 23 January 2019
  • Documentation from Big Bird Nursery:
  • Timeline of Events
    • Initial Overview and Investigation Notes
    • Statement of Colleague 1
    • Statement of Witness 2
    • Disciplinary Hearing Notes
    • Diagram of Big Bird Nursery and accompanying email
  • Signed statement of Witness 2, dated 7 March 2019
  • Signed statement of Witness 3, dated 13 March 2019
  • Notice of Investigation Response Form, dated 5 December 2018
  • Teacher Response to Interim Report, dated 29 April 2019
  • Teacher Response to Final Report waiving notice period, dated 3 July 2019

Teacher’s hearing papers

N/A

Servicing Officer’s hearing papers

  • Notice of decision to refer to Full Hearing, dated 9 August 2019 with delivery receipt
  • Screenshot of Teacher’s address
  • Letter to Teacher, dated 26 October 2021 with Royal Mail tracking information, dated 27 October 2021
  • File note dated 3 November 2021
  • Procedural Hearing decision, dated 17 November 2021
  • Notice of Procedural Hearing decision, dated 17 December 2021 with cover email
  • Notice of Full Hearing dated 21 April 2022 with cover email and delivery receipt
  • Notice of Full Hearing dated 25 April 2022 posted by special delivery and track and trace from Royal Mail not collected
  • Telephone note  dated 6 May 2022

Summary of Evidence

Witness 1

Witness 1 had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 23 March 2019 and she confirmed that what was written in the statement was accurate. At the outset of her evidence, she read aloud her witness statement. She outlined her educational qualifications and professional experience of 23 years. She confirmed that whilst no longer employed by Big Bird Nursery, at the time of events she was the Managing Director of the establishment. She confirmed that the Teacher had undergone an induction procedure upon becoming an employee of the company in August 2017, which would have covered all of the company’s policies and procedures including behaviour management. She confirmed that she had a good working relationship with the Teacher and that the Teacher’s command of English was such that interpretative assistance was not required. She told the Panel that whilst not a witness to the events on 4 September 2018, she had become involved the following day, 5 September 2018, when a colleague informed her of the concerns of Child A’s parent. She told the Panel that she had a meeting with the parent of Child A, Witness 3, who detailed the events of 4 September 2018 involving Child A and outlined her concerns and anger. She spoke to the diagram of the establishment where events had taken place. She confirmed the acceptability of children ‘nipping’ into the ICT room which had never raised any concerns. She spoke to meeting with and suspending the Teacher on 5 September 2018. She spoke to the investigatory process undertaken by her prior to the disciplinary meeting with the Teacher held on 6 September 2018.  She spoke to the Teacher’s display of a level of upset and distress during the disciplinary meeting and that the Teacher stated that she remembered Child A going into the ICT room unsupervised, but that she she had no recollection of of touching Child A in any way. She spoke to the Teacher‘s offer of an apology to the parent during the course of the disciplinary meeting which she was sure in her evidence had been relayed subsequently to Witness 3. She spoke to her decision to dismiss the Teacher due to dishonesty which she confirmed in writing to the Teacher by letter dated 6 September 2018. She spoke to being advised by Police Scotland that the matter did not warrant being reported.  When questioned, the witness explained that the Teacher’s dishonesty lay in her failure to recall any touching of Child A married with the Teacher‘s stated position that touching a child to gain their attention was acceptable in Poland, her native country. She confirmed that there was nothing present in the ICT room which would have raised any health and safety concern for the Teacher with regard to Child A nor could she recall the Teacher, at any time, having been told that the ICT room was out of bounds to the children. When challenged, she did accept that there were situations where it could be appropriate for a teacher, for health and safety reasons, to raise their voice and/or touch a child. However, she was firm in her evidence that no such concerns were applicable in the circumstances of the case and therefore that the Teacher’s actions had been unwarranted.

Witness 2

Witness 2 provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 7 March 2019 and she confirmed that what was written was accurate. At the outset of her evidence, she read aloud her witness statement. She confirmed that her granddaughter attended the nursery and that the Teacher was her granddaughter’s key worker. She confirmed her familial relationship to Child A’s mother. She spoke to being present at the time events occurred as she was collecting her granddaughter at the close of the day. She confirmed that she had a clear line of sight of events. She spoke to her attention being drawn to the events by hearing the Teacher loudly shout ‘no’ followed by Child A’s name and that the Teacher had then grabbed Child A’s left arm. She described the manner of shouting as if the Teacher were angry with Child A. She spoke to being shocked at the force with which the Teacher had grabbed Child A. She accepted that the prevention of potential harm would legitimise touching a child. However, she was firm in her evidence that no such risk was present that day as children were not prohibited from entering the ICT room alone. She spoke to Witness 3 also being present in the room at the time of the events. She spoke to being under the impression that children were allowed into that section of the room by themselves to collect their coats. She spoke to her conversation held with Witness 3 immediately following events and of Witnes 3’s shock at the turn of events. She spoke to her only further formal involvement of having provided a statement toWitness 1. She spoke to having discussed the matter with Witness 3 at the time and the following day but in no great detail thereafter. She confirmed to the Panel that, in her opinion, based on 22 years of experience of working in education, no professional should put their hands on a child unless to prevent harm. She spoke to neither herself nor Witness 3 seeking to have the Teacher dismissed from her employment. In particular, she spoke to Witness 3 at the time, simply seeking an explanation and apology from the Teacher. She spoke to her recollection that Witness 3 had been informed by the nursery that the Teacher had refused to apologise. 

Witness 3

Witness 3 provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 13 March 2019 and she confirmed that what was written was accurate. At the outset of her evidence, she read aloud her witness statement. She confirmed she was the mother of Child A, who had attended the nursery since the age of 11 months, and that there had been no prior issues of any kind relating to his attendance at the establishment. She spoke to attending the nursery on 4 September 2019 to collect Child A. She spoke to knowing the Teacher as her son‘s key worker and as a Nursery teacher. She spoke to being engaged in discussions with another employee and only becoming aware of the incident when alerted by her child’s name being screamed in an angry manner followed by the word ’no’. She confirmed that this caused her to turn around and that she then witnessed the Teacher ‘grabbing’ Child A’s left arm, in an aggressive manner similar to seeking to prevent a child from running across a road. She spoke to the subsequent change in the Teacher’s demeanour when she became aware of Witness 3’s presence and that she then began to act as if nothing had occurred, referring to Child A‘s artwork. She spoke to discussing matters contemporaneously with Witness 2 immediately outside of the establishment and that Witness 2 had confirmed her own recollection of events. She spoke to reporting the matter on 5 September 2018, following a deal of reflection, to the nursery supervisor then to the nursery manager, Witness 1. She spoke to her subsequent concern at learning of the Teacher’s dismissal as she did not wish her any ill. She spoke to Child A’s good relationship with the Teacher and that he had been unaffected by the event with no physical or psychological impact. She stated that Child A had happily attended the nursery the following day, 5 September 2019. She spoke to Child A’s fondness for the Teacher with whom she had experienced no issues or difficulties prior to the events beyond occasionally requiring interpretation assistance due to the Teacher’s somewhat limited English. When questioned, Witness 3 acknowledged the Teacher had pulled at Child A as if to protect him but that there had been no danger present hence there had been no justification for the Teacher’s behaviour. She spoke to being told by Witness 1 that the Teacher was adamant in her refusal to apologise as she had done nothing wrong. She confirmed that she was unaware of the ICT room being classed as out of bounds and that this was based upon experience of the children fetching their jackets during the day and at home time.

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

Presenting Officer‘s Submissions

The Presenting Officer submitted that, where the facts alleged against the Teacher are not admitted, the burden of proof rests upon her to prove the allegation to the standard required, namely the standard used in civil proceedings, which is on the balance of probabilities. She referred the Panel to Rule 1.7.5 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 and consistently, and that none had evidenced any animosity towards the Teacher. She submitted that the witnesses from whom the Panel had heard in person were reliable and credible. She submitted that whilst the Panel had not had the benefit of hearing from the Teacher directly, it had sight of the Teacher‘s written response dated 29 April 2018 in which she appeared to admit allegation 1(a). The Presenting Officer submitted this was consistent with the Teacher’s position in her final written correspondence, Notice of Teacher’s Case dated 15 September 2019. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to find allegation 1(a) proved by admission. However, if the Panel was not satisfied that the threshold for admission had been met, she highlighted the written and oral evidence of the two eye-witnesses, Witnesses 2 and 3, along with the documentary evidence of the telephone conversation of 6 September 2018 between Witnesses 1 and 2, which she submitted were sufficient for the Panel to be satisfied that the burden of proof had been met. In relation to allegation 1(b), the Presenting Officer highlighted the evidence of Witnesses 2 and 3, in particular their clear line of view and the level of consistency in their evidence despite the passage of time since the events.

The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to find the allegation found proved on the balance of probabilities.

Findings of Fact

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

The Panel accepted that allegation 1(a) had been admitted by the Teacher. The Panel determined that it accepted the Teacher’s admission of allegation 1(a) as being a true admission.

The Panel carefully considered the credibility and reliability of the witnesses.

The Panel considered the evidence of Witness 1 and found that she gave her evidence in a plausible and straightforward manner. The Panel noted that there were some gaps in her recollection but that she accepted when she could not recall matters. The Panel considered that she was seeking to tell the truth but that she did not witness the events. Instead, she relied in the main upon the evidence gathered by her during the brief investigatory and disciplinary process. The Panel considered that the investigation had not been carried out in any proper or meaningful way and that process, married to the passage of time, meant her recollection was limited to her notes and that she struggled to recall matters beyond these. In particular, the Panel considered there to be a dichotomy between the Teacher’s assertions that she was willing to make an apology to the parent of Child A and the Witness 3’s firm evidence that she had been told only of the Teacher‘s adamant refusal to do so. The Panel considered that a concern for reputational damage to the nursery may have informed Witness 1’s actions at the time. The Panel considered that the witness was truthful and that it could attach a fair weight to her evidence albeit this was compromised to a fair degree by the disputed issue of the Teacher’s refusal to offer an apology to the parent of Child A.

The Panel next considered the evidence of Witness 2. She was able to give her evidence in a clear, confident and straightforward manner. The Panel considered that she was credible and reliable and that her evidence was inherently probable. The Panel found that her objectivity was not marred by her familial relationship with Witness 3 and that whilst the witnesses (Witnesses 2 and 3) may have refreshed their memories regarding the events, there was nothing sinister in this. The Panel considered that the witness was well placed to form an objective view of what happened, in particular due to her extensive career in education. In particular, the Panel considered the witness had displayed only concern for Child A‘s best interests and that she had no axe to grind with the Teacher. The Panel considered her a truthful witness and upon whose evidence it could place a higher reliance than that of Witness 1 due to her presence at the events.  

The Panel found that Witness 3 gave her evidence in a straightforward and even-handed manner. She conveyed her recollection in a clear and detailed manner. Her evidence was consistent with what she had said on other occasions. She displayed no animosity towards the Teacher and the Panel found that she had no ulterior motive apart from wanting what was right for her child by ensuring adherence to best practice within the establishment. The Panel considered that she was a credible and reliable witness who told the truth. The Panel considered it was able to place a similar weight on her evidence to that of Witness 2.

The Panel was not able to hear testimony from the Teacher because she was absent. She had not provided a witness statement. Her position was detailed in her response to the Interim Report dated 29 April 2019, her response to the Final Report dated 3 July 2019 and in her final written engagement with GTC Scotland, the Fitness to Teach Panel Notice of Teacher’s Response dated 15 September 2019. The Panel were not able to attach much weight to this evidence given that the Teacher had not attended the hearing to speak to those documents. The Panel was, however, mindful that the onus of proof rested upon the Presenting Officer to prove the allegation to the necessary standard.

For the same reason, although the Panel carefully considered all documentary evidence provided, it attached less weight to documents that were not spoken to directly by the witnesses who gave oral evidence. It carefully considered the approach to be taken to hearsay evidence as outlined in the GTC Scotland Witness and Hearsay Evidence Practice Statement.

The Panel then considered the allegation separately.

On 4 September 2018 whilst employed by Big Bird Nursery you did:

(a) shout at Child A

The Panel noted the Teacher’s admission of allegation 1(a). The Panel considered the evidence of Witness 1 that she had been placed in charge of the ICT Room that day and the evidence of Witness 3 that the Teacher was Child A’s key worker. The events had occurred as parents were collecting children from the nursery at the close of the day. The Panel considered that despite questioning the two witnesses present, namely Witnesses 2 and 3, it had not been able to discern the exact sequence of events that day, due in part to a somewhat confusing diagram of the premises . However, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had shouted at Child A, and that this had been witnessed by Witnesses 2 and 3. The Panel considered the Teacher’s admission that she had shouted at Child A. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(a) proved.  

 (b) grabbed the said Child A’s arm

The Panel considered the evidence of Witnesses 2 and 3 who both spoke to seeing the Teacher grab Child A’s left arm. The Panel noted the Teacher’s position that she could not recall touching Child A. The Panel noted the Teacher’s explanation to Witness 1 that touching a child in order to gain their attention was accepted practice in her native country of Poland. However, the Panel did not consider this reference by the Teacher to have any bearing upon events. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had grabbed Child A’s arm. Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1(b) proved.

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

Findings on Fitness to Teach

Proceeding in the Absence (Stage 2)

Having found the allegation proved, the Panel considered whether to proceed to the next stage of the case, namely consideration of fitness to teach, in the absence of the Teacher. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Panel could proceed. She submitted that notice of the hearing had been served and received, and that there was a voluntary absence by the Teacher, 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 could proceed. She referred the Panel to the GTC Scotland Practice Statement on Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence.

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

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

For the reasons given above, the Panel decided to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Teacher.

Given that the allegation had been found proved, the Panel invited the Presenting Officer to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

The Presenting Officer referred the Panel to the Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011 and to the GTC Scotland Practice Statement Indicative Outcome Guidance at Part A. She submitted that parts 1.3, 1.4 and 2.4 of COPAC had been breached by the Teacher.

She submitted that the allegations were serious and undoubtedly amounted to misconduct. She submitted that there had been no evidence of insight and that nothing had been presented to the Panel in respect of remediation by the Teacher. She invited the Panel to consider the risk of reoccurrence. She submitted that in terms of the seriousness of the allegations, the multiple breaches of COPAC, the behaviour found proved and in the wider public interest, that the Teacher‘s actions fell significantly short of what was expected and that she had acted in a way incompatible with being a registered teacher. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to find the Teacher unfit to teach.

No additional evidence was presented by the Presenting Officer.

The Panel also had regard to the legal advice provided by the Legal Assessor, including the need to consider remediation and the public interest when determining current Fitness to Teach.

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and submissions made by the Presenting Officer in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Panel addressed the relevant considerations in relation to fitness to teach, as outlined in the GTC Scotland Conduct Cases Indicative Outcomes Guidance Practice Statement at Part A in considering whether the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.

The Panel considered what parts of COPAC had been breached and to what extent.

1.3 you should avoid situations both within and out with the professional context which could be in breach of the criminal law, or may call into question your fitness to teach;

The Panel concluded that the Teacher’s conduct called into question her fitness to teach with regard to allegation 1(b) only. The Panel noted that there was no question of any breach of the criminal law in particular as Police Scotland had confirmed that there was no requirement for the incident to be reported. The Panel noted that the Teacher had shouted at Child A. However, the Panel also took into account that a teacher raising their voice with the sole purpose of protecting a child from the risk of perceived potential harm was a common, if not daily, experience in educational establishments across Scotland. The Panel considered the Teacher’s intent to have been protection of Child A from a reasonably held and perceived risk of potential harm when she had shouted. However, the Panel did not consider it was appropriate for the Teacher to ‘grab’ Child A’s arm as there was no evidence of a perceived potential risk to justify that action by the Teacher. 

1.4 you must uphold standards of personal and professional conduct, honesty and integrity so that the public have confidence in you as a teacher and teaching as a profession;

The Panel noted that there was no issue with regard to the Teacher’s honesty or integrity. The Panel considered that there was a breach of 1.4 with regard to allegation 1(b) only. The Panel reached this conclusion because it considered that the lack of an apology from the Teacher had effected a dent in public confidence. The Panel noted, however, the Teacher’s claim that she had indeed been willing to offer an apology and Witness 1’s confirmation of this. The Panel then contrasted this with the evidence of Witness 3 who said that Witness 1 had told her that the Teacher was adamant that she would not offer an apology. The Panel considered the underlying impact of Witness 1’s failure to properly and transparently facilitate the provision of the Teacher’s apology to Child A’s mother as being of marked importance in this area.

For the reasons noted above, the Panel considered that it was the Teacher’s grabbing of the child which fell to be considered a breach of COPAC.

2.4 you must maintain an up-to-date knowledge and understanding of, implement, and comply with, child and protected adult procedures as they may apply currently in your workplace;

The Panel considered that there was insufficient evidence for it to find that there had been a breach of 2.4. The Panel had not had sight of the relevant policies and procedures in force at the establishment at the time of the events. The Panel were therefore unable to determine that the Teacher had failed to comply with the establishment’s policy for behaviour management. The Panel was not satisfied that it had been provided with sufficient evidence to establish that this standard had been breached.

Accordingly, the Panel determined that the Teacher had breached parts 1.3 and 1.4 of COPAC with regard to allegation 1(b) only.

The Panel considered that the actions of the Teacher did not constitute misconduct despite the breaches of COPAC. The Panel took into account the Teacher’s explanation with regard to her concerns for the safety of Child A, in particular that she had ’reacted entirely out of concern for child’s safety’ (sic). It was the Teacher’s understanding that it was not safe for a child to be in a room alone and, also on that day, she knew that there were scissors left out in the ICT room. The Panel considered that it was an isolated and one-off incident which occurred in a matter of seconds or minutes, that there had been no evidence to suggest any intention of harm or malice on the part of the Teacher and that no actual harm had been caused to Child A. The Panel considered that it was a split-second professional judgement which had been wholly motivated by the Teacher’s concerns for the prevention of harm or injury to a young child. The Panel accepted that the Teacher had faced a concerning situation in which she had to exercise her professional judgment. She had to make a quick decision as to whether it was better to intervene or to let Child A continue in the way he was. The Panel considered that, in the circumstances as they were and as the Teacher genuinely understood them to be, it was necessary for her to intervene. The Teacher did so due to her concerns for Child A’s safety. The Panel noted that it had not been presented with any evidence with regard to malintent by the Teacher towards Child A and that Child A‘s mother had given evidence as to the good relationship enjoyed by Child A with the Teacher. There was no evidence before the Panel to suggest any previous history of misconduct by the Teacher or of any pattern of similar behaviour.  The Panel considered that genuine and honestly perceived concerns held by a teacher for the safety of a child could vindicate the otherwise routinely unacceptable touching of a child. The Panel noted the mother of Child A had confirmed in her evidence before the Panel that he had not come to harm of any kind and further, that she had not sought any consequence for the Teacher beyond the provision of an explanation and an apology from her. The Panel noted the Teacher’s position that she had been willing, and indeed anxious, to provide an apology to the parent of Child A. The Panel noted that the apparent failure to ensure facilitation of an apology from the Teacher to Child A’s parent lay with Witness 1. In the particular circumstances of the case, the Panel considered that the Teacher’s actions had been guided by her genuinely held concern for Child A’s safety. The Panel concluded that it had not been presented with sufficient evidence to establish that the manner in which the Teacher had dealt with Child A was entirely inappropriate nor had there been evidence presented to establish any malice on the part of the Teacher.

For those reasons the Panel determined that the facts of the allegation found proved did not constitute misconduct in the particular facts and circumstances of the case.

Accordingly, the Panel determined that the Teacher’s conduct does not fall short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that her fitness to teach is not therefore impaired.

© The General Teaching Council for Scotland - Registered Scottish Charity No. SC006187
Website designed and built by mtc.