Decision: Melissa Tweedie (Full Hearing)

GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing

7, 9, 10, 11 and 14 February 2022

TeacherMelissa Tweedie (not present/not represented)
Registration Number163273
Registration CategorySecondary – PE
PanelArthur Stewart (Convener), Catriona McDonald and Joanne Sharp
Legal AssessorAmanda Pringle
Servicing OfficerKirsty McIntosh
Presenting OfficerGary Burton (Anderson Strathern LLP)
Teacher’s representativeN/A

Any reference in this decision to:

  • ‘GTC Scotland’ means the General Teaching Council for Scotland;
  • the ‘Panel’ means the Fitness to Teach Panel considering the case;
  • the ‘Rules’ (and any related expression) means the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them; and
  • the ‘Register’ means the GTC Scotland register of teachers.

Preliminary Issues

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

Late Paper Application

The Presenting Officer made an application to submit a late paper, namely email correspondence dating from 9 December 2021 from the Teacher and response emails from the Servicing Officer. The Presenting Officer submitted that the correspondence bore directly upon the Panel‘s consideration of whether to proceed in the absence of the Teacher but had been omitted from the original bundle of documents. The Presenting Officer submitted that it was relevant to the Panel’s considerations. The Panel allowed the late papers to be admitted, pursuant to Rules 1.7.17 and 1.7.22.

Proceeding in the Absence

The Teacher did not attend the virtual hearing. Accordingly, at the outset of the hearing the Presenting Officer made an application to the Panel to proceed in the absence of the Teacher, pursuant to Rule 1.7.8. He submitted that the Panel required firstly to be satisfied that the Notice of Hearing had been properly served, and secondly that it was fair to proceed in the Teacher’s absence. He referred to Rule 1.6.1 on service of the notice and submitted that the Notice of Full Hearing had been properly served. He referred to the Notice of Full Hearing emailed to the Teacher on 9 December 2021 and a delivery receipt, both of which were produced. The Panel was satisfied that notice had been served and received.

The Presenting Officer referred to the GTC Scotland Practice Statement on Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence, Part B. In particular he referred to page 3, point 5 which states that if the 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. He 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 or whether the Teacher has engaged with the process. He submitted that this was a voluntary absence by the Teacher. He submitted the email dated 9 December 2021 from the Teacher was a clear statement that the Teacher did not intend to attend or to 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 herself 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 considered the reasons for the Presenting Officer’s application to proceed in the Teacher’s absence. In her response to the notice by email dated 9 December 2021, the Teacher stated she would not be engaging with the hearing process nor would she be represented at the hearing. The Panel concluded, on the basis of the Teacher’s responses, that it was clear the Teacher had voluntarily chosen not to attend.

The Teacher indicated she 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 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 nine 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 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.

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

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

Amendment to Allegations

The Presenting Officer submitted an application to amend a section of the allegations so that the wording of the allegation reflected the Teacher’s gender. It was submitted that the allegations be amended so that it reads as follows (proposed amendment underlined):

‘And in light of the above it is alleged that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired and she is unfit to teach….’

On the basis that no evidence had been heard, the Panel considered that it was a matter for the Presenting Officer to make the amendment. The Panel was, however, content to allow the amendment in particular due to its minor corrective nature and considered this would cause no injustice to the Teacher. Accordingly, the allegations were amended in the term sought.

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

Allegation(s)

The following allegation(s) were considered at the hearing:

  1. Between 7 June 2017 and 8 June 2017, whilst employed by Renfrewshire Council as a PE Teacher at Gleniffer High School, at the senior prom and immediately thereafter, you:
    1. Danced inappropriately with pupils during the prom, including making inappropriate physical contact whilst dancing with them at SWG3, Glasgow;
    2. Kissed Pupil A at the hotel in which pupils were staying for the night, the Premier Inn Hotel;
    3. Engaged in sexual intercourse with Pupil A after the prom, at the Premier Inn;
    4. Drank a shot (or shots) at the bar of SWG3;
    5. Behaved in an inappropriate manner in a hotel room at the Premier Inn by:
      1. Drinking alcohol in the presence of pupils;
      2. Stating words to the effect of ‘Can we for a minute act like I’m not a teacher’ to a pupil(s); and
      3. Were alone on a bed with Pupil A and, when Pupil E entered the room, stated to Pupil E words to the effect of ‘Technically I haven’t touched him yet’.
    6. Were under the influence of alcohol to the point of being inebriated in the presence of pupils in the Premier Inn.
    7. Had awareness that an ex pupil was in possession of drugs and did not report this to the appropriate authorities.
    8. Advised your Headteacher at that time, Headteacher A, that you were at your home when you were in fact at the Premier Inn.
  2. And in respect of allegation 1(h) you were dishonest.

And in light of the above it is alleged that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired and she is unfit to teach as a result of breaching Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Teacher’s Admissions

The Teacher had made no formal admissions in respect of the GTC Scotland investigation. Therefore, all of the allegations required to be proved. 

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

P1 Final Investigation Report, dated 17 September 2018, with appendices including:

  • Local Authority Investigation Report, including witness statements of:
    • Pupil A (in attendance)
    • Pupil B (in attendance)
    • Pupil D (in attendance)
    • Pupil E
    • Colleague C (in attendance)
    • Colleague E
    • Colleague A (in attendance)
    • Colleague D (in attendance)
    • Headteacher A (in attendance)
    • Melissa Tweedie (the Teacher)
    • Headteacher A (second interview)
  • Signed statement of Headteacher A, Headteacher, dated 22 November 2017 (in attendance)
  • Signed statement of Colleague A, Teacher, dated 11 January 2018 (in attendance)
  • Signed statement of Colleague B, Teacher, dated 17 January 2018 (in attendance)
  • Signed statement of Colleague C, Teacher, dated 26 February 2018 (in attendance)
  • Signed statement of Investigating Officer A, Investigating Officer, dated 27 April 2018 (in attendance)
  • Signed statement of Colleague D, Teacher, dated 10 January 2018 (in attendance)
  • Teacher’s response, dated 2 July 2017

P2 Teacher’s response to Final Report, dated 4 June 2019

P3 Notice of Investigation, dated 26 June 2017

P4 Notice of Panel Consideration, dated 27 May 2019

P5 Signed statement of Pupil D, dated 25 November 2020 (in attendance)

P6 Signed statement of Pupil A, dated 9 April 2021 (in attendance)

P7 Signed statement of Pupil B, dated 28 July 2021 (in attendance)

Teacher’s hearing papers

The Teacher did not submit anything further for the purposes of the hearing, but her responses from earlier stages in the process were included as part of the Presenting Officer’s documents.

Servicing Officer’s hearing papers

S2 Email from Teacher advising not attending hearing, dated 9 December 2021.

Summary of Evidence

Witness 1 – Pupil A

Pupil A confirmed he had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 9 April 2021 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. Pupil A confirmed that he had been a pupil at Glennifer High School. However, he stated that as he had signed a school leaver certificate prior to the prom, he did not consider himself to be a pupil at the time of the events. Pupil A confirmed he was 18 years old at the time of the events. Pupil A spoke to attending the school prom at SWG3, Glasgow, and that he had consumed a lot of alcohol. He spoke to the intervention of the Teacher’s colleagues who removed her from his company as he walked to the hotel at the end of the night. He spoke to seeing the Teacher again in a hotel room in the Premier Inn with other pupils present. He confirmed that the other pupils left and then he and the Teacher had shared a ‘mutual’ kiss in that hotel room. He spoke to leaving that room later with the Teacher and that they had gone to his hotel room on the third floor. When asked whether he and the Teacher had had sex, Pupil A responded ‘if that’s what I said in my statement then it must be true’. He confirmed the Teacher stayed overnight in the hotel room with him and that she left around 8.30 am the following morning. When asked by the Panel what he meant by his ‘having sex’ with the Teacher, Pupil A responded ‘just what I said, what I said was what happened’. Pupil A was asked about his understanding of sex at the time of the events, to which he replied ‘when I was 18 I knew what sex was and knew what it meant’. When asked what that understanding was, he replied ‘sexual intercourse’. Pupil A was firm in his view that the personal interactions between himself and the Teacher had been mutual and that they did not relate to the school setting. Pupil A answered questions clearly and indicated when he could not remember facts.

Witness 2 – Colleague D

Colleague D confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 10 January 2018 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 a Depute Head Teacher at Glennifer High School and that she knew the Teacher as a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) in the PE Department of the school. She spoke to having concerns about the Teacher from the start of the prom due to the inappropriateness of the Teacher’s outfit and that she saw the Teacher dancing with pupils which caused her further concern. Colleague D described her efforts to warn the Teacher about the inappropriateness of her dancing with pupils and the negative impact the Teacher’s behaviour was having during a school event. She confirmed the attempts by colleagues to remove the Teacher from dancing with pupils and of being informed of the Teacher and Pupil A taking ‘shots’ at the bar. She spoke to seeking to assist with the Teacher’s journey home at the end of the night, in particular organising a lift with a colleague for her, and also of advising the Teacher to be careful with regard to her interaction with pupils and that the Teacher appeared to recognise this. She confirmed that the Teacher had been drinking but was not out of control and was able to walk without assistance. Colleague D confirmed that the Teacher refused to accept the offer of a lift or of a taxi on the basis that her flatmate was coming to collect her. Colleague D stated that in her opinion the Teacher had resisted attempts to furnish her with a lift or a taxi home as she had planned to go to the hotel or to meet some of the pupils. She confirmed that she and the Colleague C had abandoned their attempts to walk the Teacher back to the venue in light of the Teacher’s position. Colleague D confirmed she had received a call from Headteacher A around 1.45 am in which he advised her of reports received by him from pupils that the Teacher was in the Premier Inn hotel. At his request, she drove to the hotel but she and Headteacher A were unable to pass beyond reception. She confirmed that pupils present in the reception area told her and Headteacher A that the Teacher had been seen in the foyer at the hotel’s ATM and also in a hotel room drinking alcohol with pupils. She confirmed that after several attempts to call her, Headteacher A had spoken with the Teacher on the telephone who confirmed to him that she was home in her flat. Colleague D described leaving the hotel and returning home at around 3.50 am.

Witness 3  – Pupil D

Pupil D confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 10 January 2018 and that what was written was accurate. At the outset of her evidence, she read aloud her witness statement. Pupil D was then asked questions by the Presenting Officer and the Panel.  She spoke to entering the hotel room where the Teacher and Pupil A were sitting together on a bed and that Pupil A had his arm around the base of the Teacher’s back. She confirmed that the Teacher had said to her ‘Just for 1 minute can we pretend I’m not your teacher?’ which caused Pupil D to leave the room as she felt the situation was ‘weird’. She confirmed that she had drank one or two glasses of champagne throughout the course of the evening and that she was able to judge the Teacher’s condition as competent. She confirmed that upon leaving the room she returned to the foyer where a number of pupils were present along with Headteacher A whom she described as looking ‘quite startled’. Pupil D answered questions clearly and indicated when she could not remember facts.

Witness 4 – Headteacher A

Headteacher A confirmed he had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 22 November 2017 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. Headteacher A confirmed he had retired as Headteacher of Gleniffer High School in August 2017 and that he had known the Teacher as an NQT who had come to the school in August 2016. He had talked directly with the Teacher towards the latter stage of the prom around 11.30 pm and that she seemed to him to be fine. He confirmed that the Teacher had been seated during dinner at a table comprising staff and pupils and that during the course of the evening staff had discussed an incident involving a teacher at a local school who had found himself in ‘a lot of trouble’ by staying overnight with pupils at a hotel. He spoke to first becoming aware of something being wrong at the end of the prom when he was advised by colleagues that the Teacher  had been seen taking a shot at the bar with a male pupil. He spoke to being made aware of colleagues seeking to assist the Teacher by organising a lift home for her which had been refused on the grounds that the Teacher’s flatmate was scheduled to collect her. He confirmed that his drive home was interrupted by a call from a distressed pupil around 1.45 am reporting the presence of the Teacher in one of the hotel rooms at the Premier Inn and demanding that he come to the hotel. Upon his arrival at the hotel, he confirmed he had met with a number of pupils in the foyer and that Colleague D had attended also following his earlier call to her with regard to the matter. He confirmed that neither he nor his colleague had been allowed to move beyond the hotel foyer and that hotel staff, whilst helpful, had been unable to locate the Teacher within the hotel. He described the group of pupils in the foyer being ‘agitated’ with one pupil adamant that he had seen the Teacher in one of the hotel rooms. He confirmed he had attempted to call Pupil A, leaving several messages. He confirmed several attempts were also made to telephone the Teacher. At 2.45 am he succeeded in speaking with the Teacher via telephone. When queried, she had confirmed she was at home in her flat. He spoke to requesting that the Teacher take a screenshot of her location on her phone in order to confirm her whereabouts but that she failed to do so. He described attending work early the next morning and that he discussed events with the local authority’s Head of Service. He confirmed that he met with Pupil A and the Teacher separately that morning. He spoke with the Teacher and gave her a letter from the local authority advising she had been suspended, following which she left the school premises. He had then spoken with Pupil A who admitted, when asked directly by Headteacher A, to having had sexual intercourse with the Teacher. He confirmed that at no time had he been made aware of any requests by the Teacher for assistance from her line manager or other colleagues during her time at the school nor of her having any difficulties arising from the age difference between her and senior pupils. 

Witness 5 – Colleague A

Colleague A confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 11 January 2018 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 a Depute Head Teacher at Gleniffer High School and that she knew the Teacher as an NQT at the school. She spoke to having concerns with regard to the Teacher from the start of the prom due to the inappropriate nature of the Teacher’s outfit. She spoke to the Teacher making some odd comments at the event, in particular that the event was ‘like my own prom’ and referring to a group of male pupils as ‘her football boys’. Following the dinner, she confirmed that the Teacher was never without a drink but that whilst the Teacher was ‘a little bit staggery’ she was ‘not out of order’. She spoke to the Teacher dancing on stage with a number of male pupils and that the Teacher had danced directly with Pupil A, had been ‘shimmying up and down’ him and hugging him. She was an eyewitness to the Teacher and Pupil A drinking a shot at the bar together and had intervened along with Colleague D when Pupil A and the Teacher were seen to be heading towards the bar again. She spoke to colleagues’ unsuccessful attempts to remove the Teacher from dancing with pupils but that the Teacher had seemed determined to continue doing so. She described that Pupil A had his hands around her waist at one point. She spoke to a number of attempts by colleagues to intervene with the Teacher by ‘dancing her away’ from the pupils but that the Teacher gravitated back to the pupils, seemingly unwilling to be swayed from her chosen course of action. Finally, the witness was asked about when pupils cease being pupils and what the leaver process is. She accepted that it was a fair point to query the school’s jurisdiction at the prom with regard to pupils who had completed their school leaver’s certificate prior to the event, albeit the school term did not end until 27 or 28 June 2017.

Witness 6 – Colleague B

Colleague B confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 17 January 2018 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 Acting Principal Teacher of the PE Department at Gleniffer High School and that she knew the Teacher as an NQT in addition to being the Teacher’s mentor and Principal Teacher. Colleague B spoke to being at the same table for dinner at the prom as the Teacher and that she had observed the Teacher’s consumption of wine with pupils at the table. She confirmed that she did not view this as appropriate as it was a school event, albeit other staff were also consuming alcohol. Colleague B confirmed that there had been discussion during dinner of a case in the news where a teacher had ended up in a lot of trouble for staying and partying with pupils in a hotel, and she recalled it being acknowledged during this discussion that the situation was outrageous. She confirmed leaving the prom shortly after the dinner. She spoke to having been awoken from her sleep around 2.00 am by a colleague who reported concerns that the Teacher was at the Premier Inn hotel. In her role as the Teacher’s Principal Teacher, she rang the Teacher and left a voicemail message. Upon receipt of a text from the Teacher at 3.00 am, she confirmed she rang and spoke with the Teacher who stated she was in her flat. She stated that the Teacher’s speech was a little slurred but that she was able to comprehend their discussion. The Teacher had explained that she had accompanied pupils in a taxi to the hotel given the pupils’ lack of funds and to ensure the pupils’ safe arrival. Colleague B confirmed the Teacher had also briefly mentioned an issue concerning the presence of drugs which the Teacher had wanted to ‘check’. She spoke to a text message from the Teacher the next day in which the Teacher made mention of ‘trying to do something good’ which had gone wrong. She confirmed that she did not respond to the Teacher’s text. She described the Teacher as not appearing during the course of their telephone call or in texts as being concerned at events nor of her being appreciative of the apparent seriousness with which they were being treated by colleagues. She confirmed events had caused her upset personally and within the PE Department due to pressure on colleagues from pupils’ questions regarding the Teacher’s whereabouts following the events at the prom.  

Witness 7 – Colleague C

Colleague C confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 26 December 2018 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 a Biology Teacher at Gleniffer High School and that she knew the Teacher as an NQT at the school. She gave a description of members of Senior Management seeking to have staff members assist in removing the Teacher from dancing with pupils. She confirmed that this was effected but that shortly thereafter the Teacher returned to dancing with pupils. She spoke to arrangements that were made to ensure that the Teacher had a lift home at the end of the prom. Colleague C described her involvement which began around 12.30 am when she went into the street to look for the Teacher who could not be located within the venue. She described being directed by other pupils to where the Teacher was walking away from the venue in the company of Pupil A. She spoke to putting her arm around the Teacher and swinging her around to walk back to the venue, and that Pupil A had continued to walk away. She confirmed that Colleague D arrived and was present when the Teacher confirmed her pre-organised lift from her flat-mate and that the Teacher continued to refuse any offer of assistance. She confirmed that with no concerns for the Teacher’s condition, namely that she was coherent and in control of her faculties, she and Colleague D returned to the venue without the Teacher. She advised that the Teacher tried to call her the following evening as she had provided the Teacher with her mobile number in order to text when she arrived home safely, but stated that she did not answer. Colleague C confirmed that she had taught Pupil A for a number of years and found him to be, in the main, a polite and hard-working pupil. She described that she found out subsequent to the evening that the Teacher had gone to the hotel where pupils were staying after the prom. She confirmed her view that it was wrong of the Teacher to go to the hotel as it opened up the opportunity for subsequent events to occur. 

Witness 8 – Investigating Officer A

Investigating Officer A confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 27 April 2018 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 Education Manager for Renfrewshire Council and that she did not know the Teacher other than in her capacity as Investigation Officer for the local authority. She described the process of being appointed to carry out the investigation by the Head of Service during the course of which she had taken statements from the staff members involved, including the Teacher. She also took pupil statements from Pupils A, B, C and D. She confirmed that staff statements had been consistent with each other and that prior to the night in question there had been no concerns raised with regard to the Teacher. Investigating Officer A spoke to the pupils confirming they had not been taught by the Teacher nor that they were aware of any contact or relationship between Pupil A and her prior to the night of the prom. She confirmed that none of the pupil witnesses mentioned drugs. 

Investigating Officer A reported that all of the witnesses whom she had interviewed had expressed surprise and concern about the Teacher’s behaviour and that they seemed sincere in their concerns. She confirmed her opinion that staff had been impacted by the events on the night of the prom, in particular Headteacher A who was scheduled to retire shortly thereafter. She confirmed her belief that the pupils involved would also have been impacted by the behaviour of the Teacher which was not in keeping with a professional figure of trust and authority. She spoke to the lasting impact on Pupil A due to the deeply personal nature of the situation. 

She spoke to the interview she undertook with the Teacher as part of the investigatory process in which the Teacher advised that she had never taught Pupil A nor was there any relationship between them. She confirmed the Teacher had admitted to sitting at the same table as Pupil A for the prom dinner and that they had a ‘shot’ and another drink at the bar together. She confirmed the Teacher’s denial of dancing with any pupils other than Pupil F, a female pupil known to the Teacher through a dance club, and that the Teacher had accepted a member of staff had sought to drag her away from dancing with pupils which she had found ‘quite insulting’. She spoke to the Teacher reporting that it was whilst walking to meet her flatmate for a lift home that she became aware of Pupil C’s possession of ‘what appeared to be a bag of cocaine’. The Teacher had stated to her that in hindsight she should have contacted the police instead of which she had accompanied Pupil C to the hotel in a taxi ‘for his own safety’, alighting at the hotel to withdraw cash from an ATM in the foyer. She spoke to the Teacher stating she had been coaxed by pupilsto go upstairs to a room for a drink. The Teacher had stated to her that she had been poured a glass of wine by a pupil in the hotel room and that Pupil A had arrived shortly afterwards. The Teacher had reported that following a noise complaint her memory was hazy. The Teacher reported that she did recall two unknown people walking into the hotel room asking her what she was doing there at which point she had woken up and jolted up from the bed and said ‘What are you doing here?’ She stated that the Teacher’s description of the events which followed were incomplete due to the Teacher’s position that her drink had been spiked, albeit the Teacher had accepted this could not be proved. She spoke to the Teacher’s denial of having had sexual intercourse with Pupil A, pointing out that despite her stated memory loss she would not have engaged in sexual activity due to having her period at the time. She spoke to the Teacher reporting she had no recollection of how she had ended up in the hotel room with Pupil A but that she accepted she had spent the night in the room as she had woken up there in the morning. The Teacher had no recollection of any telephone conversation with Headteacher A. Investigating Officer A spoke to the Teacher’s expressions of regret overall at the turn of events, in particular her failure to inform a fellow staff member of going to the hotel and her failure to contact the police in relation to drugs. Investigating Officer A confirmed the Teacher had adamantly denied having sexual intercourse with Pupil A. However, Investigating Officer A confirmed that the Teacher had expressed her view that her behaviour at the prom had been appropriate. Investigating Officer A confirmed that with no local authority policy in place it was a matter for the school whether staff could drink alcohol at the prom but that any member of staff would understand that the GTC Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct (‘COPAC’) would apply.

Witness 9 – Pupil B

Pupil B confirmed he had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 28 July 2021 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 his first recollection of events involving the Teacher and Pupil A together was at the hotel. He confirmed that he had seen the Teacher in a hotel room with pupils and that she was sitting on the end of a bed and that she did not appear to be drunk. He described going down to the foyer and as he was returning upstairs, he met Pupil A in the lift. He confirmed that Pupil A then went into the hotel room where he had seen the Teacher earlier. He confirmed that due to pupils’ concerns regarding the situation with the Teacher, they had tried to contact Headteacher A to report matters to him. Pupil B confirmed that Pupil C had stated that the Teacher shared a taxi back to the hotel with his group as she had no money for a taxi home and that it was her stated intention to withdraw money from the ATM in the hotel foyer then leave. He confirmed in answer to the Panel’s questioning that during the prom and his walk to the hotel, he had seen no evidence of drugs. Pupil B answered questions clearly and indicated when he could not remember facts.

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

Submissions

At the conclusion of the evidence, the Panel heard submissions from the Presenting Officer.

The Presenting Officer submitted that, where the facts alleged against the Teacher are not admitted, the burden of proof rested upon him to prove the allegations to the standard required, namely the standard used in civil proceedings which is the balance of probabilities. He referred the Panel to the GTC Scotland Fact Finding in Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases Practice Statement. He submitted that the witnesses who had given evidence had done so honestly, clearly and consistently and that none had displayed any animosity towards the Teacher. He submitted that whilst the Panel had not had the benefit of hearing from the Teacher directly, the Panel had sight of the documentary record of the Teacher’s interview undertaken as part of the local authority’s investigation.  The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to accept the witnesses’ evidence in full and to find all of the allegations proved.  

Findings of Fact

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented, submissions made by the Presenting Officer and the Teacher’s limited responses in making its findings of fact on the allegations. The Teacher was absent and, in the circumstances, the Panel took account of the GTC Scotland 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 as fairly and in as balanced a way as circumstances permit.

The Panel had in mind that the burden of proof rested on the Presenting Officer and that the standard of proof required is that used in civil proceedings, namely the balance of probabilities.

The Panel first considered the credibility and reliability 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 that they gave their evidence in a clear and straightforward manner and that, in the main, they did not appear to have a personal interest or motive in the outcome of the hearing. The Panel noted the witnesses were objective and their evidence was consistent with the facts which were known. The Panel considered their evidence inherently probable. The Panel concluded that the professional 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 Pupils B and D were objective and that their evidence had a ring of truth about it. The Panel considered that Pupil A displayed a selectivity of memory with regard to elements of his evidence together with a level of subjectivity due to a youthful misunderstanding of the professional boundaries which the Teacher had crossed. However, the Panel concluded that on the balance of probabilities all of the pupil witnesses were credible and reliable and, with the exception of Pupil A’s evidence regarding sexual intercourse, accepted their evidence in full. The Panel concluded they were credible and reliable and that overall the Panel found their evidence to be probable.

The Panel then considered the witness statements of Pupils C and E which had been admitted as hearsay evidence. The Panel had regard to the GTC Scotland Witness and Hearsay Evidence Practice Statement 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 that they were objective in their evidence which related to the allegations in which they were concerned. Overall the Panel found their evidence to be probable. However, the Panel were mindful of the fact that neither witness attended the hearing in person and therefore were unable to be questioned, which led the Panel to place less weight on these witnesses than those they heard from directly.

The Panel was not able to hear oral testimony from the Teacher because she was absent. She had not provided a witness statement to GTC Scotland. The Panel noted the Teacher had taken part in an interview as part of the local authority investigation but that Investigating Officer A had been unable to confirm whether the Teacher had signed this statement. The version before the Panel was unsigned. 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 upon the Presenting Officer to prove each allegation to the necessary standard.

The Panel then considered each allegation separately and considered whether or not the allegation was found proved.

1. Between 7 June 2017 and 8 June 2017, whilst employed by Renfrewshire Council as a PE Teacher at Gleniffer  High School, at the senior prom and immediately thereafter, you:

(a) Danced inappropriately with pupils during the prom, including making inappropriate physical contact whilst dancing with them at SWG3, Glasgow.

The Panel considered the evidence of the Colleagues D and A whom they regarded as credible, reliable and objective witnesses with no personal interest in the matter. In particular, the Panel noted Colleague A’s detailed description of the Teacher’s inappropriate physical contact with Pupil A. However, the Panel found no evidence to suggest that the Teacher had had inappropriate physical contact with any pupils other than Pupil A. Accordingly, the Panel determined that, subject to amendment, it was satisfied that the Teacher had danced inappropriately with pupils and had inappropriate physical contact with one pupil (Pupil A).

The Panel amended the allegation as follows:

(a) Danced inappropriately with pupils during the prom, including making inappropriate physical contact with one pupil whilst dancing with him at SWG3 Glasgow.

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

(b) Kissed Pupil A at the hotel in which pupils were staying for the night, the Premier Inn Hotel;

The Panel noted Pupil A’s clear and consistent recollection, both in the documentary evidence and his oral evidence, of a ‘mutual’ kiss with the Teacher. The Teacher stated that she had no memory of a kiss. The Panel also considered the evidence of Pupil E, who walked into the hotel room and found the Teacher and Pupil A lying on the bed together, explaining that the Teacher jumped up from the bed and Pupil A’s face was ‘bright red’. The Panel also had regard to Pupil B’s evidence, who reported that the Teacher and Pupil A were sitting on the bed together and Pupil B had his arm around the Teacher’s back. On the basis of the above, in particular Pupil A’s evidence, the Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Pupil A and the Teacher had kissed in the hotel room. 

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

(c) Engaged in sexual intercourse with Pupil A after the prom, at the Premier Inn;

The Panel noted the position of Pupil A that sexual intercourse had taken place and his views in respect thereof. The Panel also noted the Teacher’s clear denial that sexual intercourse had taken place. The Panel considered that after Pupil A and the Teacher left the original room they were in with others and moved to Pupil A’s room, nobody else witnessed their actions. The Panel considered that the truth of what happened in Pupil A’s room is therefore difficult to establish, with Pupil A stating they had sex and the Teacher refuting this. The Panel were concerned about the direct nature in which Pupil A was asked by Headteacher A, who asked: ‘did you have sex with a member of staff?’ This was a direct and closed question, in response to which Pupil A nodded. On balance, taking into account all of the information and evidence before it, the Panel considered it had insufficient evidence to determine whether sexual intercourse had taken place in Pupil A’s hotel bedroom. The Panel, on the basis of the evidence before it, was therefore not satisfied that this allegation had been proved on the balance of probabilities.  

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

(d) Drank a shot (or shots) at the bar of SWG3;

The Panel noted the evidence of Colleague A who observed the Teacher drinking a shot at the bar of SWG3 in the presence of a pupil. The Panel also had regard to the Teacher’s response to questioning during the local authority investigation in which she confirmed that she had a tequila and a rum and Coke at the bar. The Panel also had regard to the evidence given by Pupil A in the local authority interview, who stated that he had a shot with the Teacher at the bar.

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

(e) Behaved in an inappropriate manner in a hotel room at the Premier Inn by:

(i) Drinking alcohol in the presence of students

The Panel noted the Teacher’s position that a glass of wine was poured for her by a pupil in the hotel room and that thereafter her recollection of events had become ‘hazy’, due to what the Teacher described as having possibly had her drink ‘spiked’. The Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Teacher had been provided with a glass of wine which she had consumed. The Panel noted that the Teacher’s assertions with regard to the tampering of her drink by ‘spiking’ was supportive of its finding that she had consumed the wine which was poured for her.

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

(ii) Stating words to the effect of ‘Can we for a minute act like I’m not a teacher’ to a pupil(s);

The Panel considered the evidence of Witness Pupil D whom it regarded as a credible and reliable witness with no personal interest in the matter. The Panel considered the Teacher’s responses to Investigating Officer A during the local authority investigation. On the balance of probabilities, the Panel were minded to prefer the evidence of Pupil D. In particular, the Panel considered the Teacher’s quibble over the use of the word ‘your’ during her local authority interview, was sophistry on her part in an attempt to escape culpability with regard to the allegation.

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

(iii) Were alone on a bed with Pupil A and, when Pupil E entered the room, stated to Pupil E words to the effect of ‘Technically I haven’t touched him yet’.

The Panel considered Pupil E’s witness statement taken by Investigating Officer A during the local authority’s investigation. The Panel noted the singularity of the phrasing and that Pupil E’s evidence had a ring of truth to it. The Panel noted that the Teacher had disputed only the terms of her verbal response to Pupil E during the local authority investigation. On the balance of probabilities, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher was alone on a bed with Pupil A and that she had made the comment.

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

(f) Were under the influence of alcohol to the point of being inebriated in the presence of pupils in the Premier Inn.

The Panel considered the evidence from the Colleague B and Headteacher A in their written and oral evidence. Colleague B and Headteacher A both speak to having telephone conversations with the Teacher whilst she was allegedly at the Premier Inn. Colleague B speaks to the Teacher’s speech being ‘slurred’ and that she knew the Teacher had been drinking. When questioned by the Panel she advised that the Teacher sounded as though she was in a different state from when Colleague B had last seen her and was ‘definitely under the influence of alcohol’. Headteacher A described the Teacher sounding ‘drowsy’. The Panel considered both witnesses were credible and reliable with no personal interest in the matter. The Panel was satisfied that on the balance of probabilities the Teacher was under the influence of alcohol to the point of being inebriated in the presence of pupils in the Premier Inn. 

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

(g) Had awareness that an ex pupil was in possession of drugs and did not report this to the appropriate authorities

In relation to this allegation the Panel considered the evidence of Headteacher A and Investigating officer A, who they had noted as being credible and reliable witnesses with no personal interest in the matter. The Panel noted that the only observation of drugs was by the Teacher and that she had not reported it to anyone until she advised Investigating Officer A during the subsequent local authority investigation. On the basis of the evidence before it, the Panel did not believe that the Teacher was telling the truth, i.e. the Panel did not believe that the Teacher had seen evidence of drugs. Given that the Panel were not satisfied regarding the presence of drugs, this meant there was nothing for the Teacher to have been required to report, and therefore this allegation could not be proved on the balance of probabilities.  

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

(h) Advised your Headteacher at that time, Headteacher A, that you were at your home when you were in fact at the Premier Inn.

The Panel considered the evidence from Headteacher A and Colleague B and that they were credible and reliable witnesses with no personal interest in the matter. The Panel noted that both Pupil A and the Teacher confirmed having stayed overnight in Pupil A’s hotel room and that the Teacher had left at approximately 8.30 am. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the Teacher had claimed to be at home in her flat when she had in fact been in the Premier Inn.

According, the Panel found allegation 1(h) to be proved.

2. And in respect of allegation 1(h) you were dishonest.

The Panel considered the test of dishonesty as defined in Ivey v Genting Casinos [2017] UKSC 67. The Panel considered the Teacher had made a conscious decision to lie when she had stated to Headteacher A that she was at home in her flat when this was not the truth and she was in fact in the Premier Inn. The Panel also considered that from the perspective of an ordinary, reasonable person the Teacher’s conduct was dishonest. The Panel viewed the conduct as dishonest. 

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 2 to be proved.

Accordingly, by reason of the Panel’s consideration of evidence in relation to the allegations, the Panel found allegations 1(a), 1(b), 1(d), 1(e)(i), 1(e)(ii), 1(e)(iii), 1(f), 1(h) and 2 were proved.

Proceeding in the Absence (Stage 2)

Given that the Panel found that the majority of the allegations were 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 and should proceed. He adopted his submissions made at the outset of the hearing, submitting that notice of the hearing had been served and received, and that there was a voluntary absence by the Teacher. He 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. He referred 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 of the allegations 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 the Teacher had indicated she 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 to participate in the process. The Panel considered that it was unlikely that the Teacher would re-engage with the process were 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 the Panel decided to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Teacher.

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 he referred the Panel to the case of Roylance v GMC [2000] 1 AC 311. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher’s conduct reflected in the allegations found proved clearly constitutes serious misconduct and he drew the Panel’s attention to Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of COPAC which he submitted the Teacher had clearly breached. He submitted that regardless of pupils’ views on the matter, the prom and subsequent incidents at the hotel constituted a school event. The Presenting Officer submitted that the seriousness of the allegations found proved had been increased by the number of opportunities which had been afforded to the Teacher by colleagues to go home at the close of the SWG3 function. He submitted the Teacher had appeared determined to attend the hotel despite all efforts to divert her. He submitted that the Teacher’s dishonesty regarding her continued presence in the hotel called into question not only her judgement but also her integrity.

The Presenting Officer submitted there was limited evidence of remorse and no evidence of insight or remediation. The Presenting Officer submitted that on that basis, there was a likelihood of reoccurrence. He submitted that in terms of the seriousness of the allegations of breaches of COPAC and the behaviour found proved the Teacher’s actions fell significantly short of what was expected and that she 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 GTC Scotland Indicative Outcomes Guidance (‘IOG’).

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

(a) 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. The Panel determined the Teacher’s conduct breached parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of COPAC. The Panel concluded that she fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that her actions amounted to misconduct.

The Teacher’s behaviour at SWG3 and her attendance at the hotel breached part 1.2 of COPAC due to her failure to maintain appropriate boundaries with pupils throughout the evening. Whilst there had been no breach of the criminal law, the Teacher’s attendance at the hotel breached part 1.3 of COPAC because it called into question her fitness to teach, in particular the potential dangers of being alone with pupils. Part 1.4 of COPAC was breached because the Teacher acted dishonestly in lying to Headteacher A with regard to her whereabouts following the prom. Part 1.6 of COPAC was breached because of the Teacher’s failure to act as a role model at a school event, both at the prom and at the hotel.

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

Having found that the proven allegations amounted to misconduct, the Panel then went on to consider, with reference to the IOG, whether the conduct was remediable, whether the conduct had been remedied, and whether there was a likelihood of reoccurrence. The Panel viewed the conduct as very serious due to the Teacher’s failure to adhere to professional boundaries, lack of respect for colleagues and pupils, and dishonesty. The Panel recognised that acting dishonestly is often an indicator of an attitudinal issue that is difficult to remediate. The Panel considered the Teacher’s conduct was not remediable. The Teacher had not demonstrated any reflection, insight or remorse in relation to her actions. The Panel considered that there were aggravating factors but no mitigating factors. Aggravating factors noted by the Panel were: the number of chances the Teacher was given to change her behaviour; the advice she was given by senior colleagues which she ignored, considering that she knew best; and her complete lack of respect for professional boundaries. The Teacher had chosen not to engage in the GTC Scotland process, and whilst the Panel drew no adverse inference from her non-attendance, 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 her level of insight in order to remediate the conduct and mitigate against the risk of it happening again. The Panel noted that the seriousness of the Teacher’s behaviour displayed a disregard for professional boundaries in addition to the potential risk of harm to pupils. 

There was a lack of evidence before the Panel to demonstrate that the Teacher had taken any appropriate steps to address her behaviour. The Panel had no evidence from any current employer and there was no independent evidence of the Teacher’s current circumstances. The Panel noted the public interest in safeguarding pupils. The Panel considered that in all the circumstances there was a high likelihood of reoccurrence if the Teacher were to continue to teach.

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

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

The Panel considered that the public perception of the seriousness of the allegations would be high and that the public would consider the actions of the Teacher as misconduct. The Panel also determined 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 she 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 be removed from the Register.

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

The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to consider the guidance within the IOG. He submitted 

that the seriousness of the allegations found proved married with the lack of evidence of insight, remorse and remediation by the Teacher, entitled the Panel to determine a period of 2 years was appropriate in the circumstances of the case.

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

Once the Teacher’s name has been removed from the Register, her name remains so removed unless and until an application for re-registration is made by her 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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