Decision: Melissa Tweedie (Panel Meeting)
GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome
20 August 2021
|Teacher||Melissa Tweedie (not present)|
|Registration Category||Secondary – PE|
|Panel||Kathleen McCormick, Pauline McClellan and Joanne Sharp|
|Legal Assessor||Amanda Pringle|
|Servicing Officer||Isobel Allan|
|Presenting Officer||Gary Burton (Anderson Strathern LLP) (not present)|
Any reference in this decision to:
Any reference in this decision to:
- ‘GTC Scotland’ means the General Teaching Council for Scotland;
- the ‘Panel’ means the Fitness to Teach Panel considering the case; and
- the ‘Rules’ (and any related expression) means the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them.
The Panel Meeting was arranged to consider the following:
- An application made by the Presenting Officer for a virtual Full Hearing.
By default, GTC Scotland conducts all its fitness to teach hearings in person in its dedicated Hearings Suite at its office in Edinburgh. However, a Fitness to Teach Panel may order that all or any part of a hearing may be conducted by the use of electronic communications provided the method adopted allows the parties, the Panel and any witnesses to attend remotely, and, where the hearing is in public, allows the public to view proceedings.
Electronic communications are commonly used for witnesses to give evidence by participating from a remote location. In addition, an entire hearing may be conducted via electronic communication. Such a hearing is described as a ‘virtual hearing’.
At present, due to Scottish Government restrictions and guidelines on public interaction and concerns about public safety as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, hearings in person cannot currently take place at the GTC Scotland office.
An application for use of electronic communications in relation to a participant taking part in a hearing from a remote location or for a virtual hearing is made by the party who wants to use electronic communication. The relevant procedure and criteria for determining such applications are set out in the Use of Electronic Communications in Hearings Practice Statement.
In accordance with Rule 1.7.17, the Panel admitted all of the documents and statements listed below as evidence for the purposes of the meeting:
- Presenting Officer’s Virtual Hearing application, dated 28 July 2021 with appendices including:
- Appendix B
2 File Note, dated 6 and 21 July 2021
The Panel did not deal with any preliminary matters.
An application dated 28 July 2021 for a virtual hearing was made by the Presenting Officer. The Panel considered the application and submissions made in response which addressed, in particular, the following factors:
- Is the Teacher represented?
The Teacher is not represented.
- Does the Teacher have any particular needs or vulnerabilities?
The Panel were not made aware of any particular needs or vulnerabilities of the Teacher.
- How will the Teacher and Representative, if any, communicate during the hearing?
This is not applicable given the Teacher is not represented.
- The nature of the proceedings and issues to be determined at the hearing?
The proceedings will be a Fitness to Teach Full Hearing concerning allegations that relate to the Teacher’s conduct and which may bear upon her fitness to teach. All stages of the fitness to teach process will require to be determined.
- The estimated length of the hearing?
The anticipated duration of the hearing is 4-5 days.
- The extent and complexity of the issues in dispute?
The hearing will determine the Teacher’s fitness to teach and, depending on the progress of the hearing, sanction may require to be considered. The allegations are not considered to be complex in nature and the evidence to be given relatively straightforward.
- Will the hearing take place in public or (partly) in private?
The hearing will take place in public.
- The volume of documentation to be referred to during the hearing and how documentation will be provided to witnesses for reference, if required?
The bundle of hearing papers consists of 125 pages.
- The nature of witnesses to give evidence at the hearing?
There are nine witnesses, six are professional and three are former pupils.
- How long is each witness estimated to give evidence for?
It was estimated that it would take 1-2 hours for the nine witnesses.
- Do any of the witnesses have particular needs or vulnerabilities?
The Panel were not made aware of any particular needs or vulnerabilities of the witnesses.
- What confidence is there that each witness will be able to follow questions easily and any documents being referred to?
Based on the manner in which virtual hearings have thus far been conducted, there is great confidence that the Teacher and other witnesses will be able to follow questions easily and any documents referred to.
- How will witnesses be provided with hearing documentation?
The Teacher will have access to the hearing bundle in advance of any hearing. The proposed individual witness bundle will be emailed to each witness shortly before they are due to give evidence.
- Will all participants at the hearing have access to a suitable electronic device?
It is anticipated that each participant has access to a suitable electronic device. It is envisaged that GTC Scotland and participants will perform checks in advance of any virtual hearing to ensure there are no issues.
- Will all participants have a suitable internet connection capable of coping with the requirements of a virtual hearing?
Yes, as narrated above, it is envisaged that GTC Scotland and participants will perform checks in advance of any virtual hearing to ensure that there are no issues with connection.
- Will all participants have an appropriate location from where they can participate alone and undisturbed?
It is envisaged this will be the case.
The Teacher had dismissed her legal representative prior to the virtual hearing application. The Panel noted the subsequent attempts made by GTC Scotland to engage with the Teacher. The Panel noted the Teacher did not oppose the application.
The Panel appreciated that it should balance all of the relevant factors outlined above, the interests of the parties and the public interest in deciding whether or not to grant the application.
The Panel carefully considered the application and submissions made in response to it. The Panel had regard to the Rules and to the Use of Electronic Communications in Hearings Practice Statement as well as the advice, as required, of the Legal Assessor and Servicing Officer.
The Panel decided that the balance of the various factors and interests to be assessed in determining the application weighed in favour of granting the application made.
The Panel did not consider that there were any personal, evidential, practical or technical reasons to refuse the application. In addition, the Panel noted the efforts made by GTC Scotland to engage with the Teacher and that she did not oppose the virtual hearing application. Further, given the ongoing issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there would be a considerable delay in the progress of the present proceedings if the application were refused.
Accordingly, the Panel granted the application for the hearing to take place virtually.