Decision: Muriel Craig (Full Hearing)

GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing

9, 10, 15, 22 and 23 March 2022

TeacherMuriel (Patricia) Craig
Registration Number912209
Registration CategorySecondary – Home Economics
PanelAlison Reid (Convener), Helen James and Joanne Sharp
Legal AssessorAmanda Pringle
Servicing OfficerKirsty McIntosh
Presenting OfficerSarah Donnachie, Anderson Strathern
Teacher’s representativeDarren Wapplington, NASUWT (not present)

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.

Preliminary Issues

Declaration

The Presenting Officer at the outset of the hearing confirmed that one of the Panel Members was known to her in the capacity of that Panel Member having recently attended a hearing as a witness for GTC Scotland. The Teacher and her Representative were given the opportunity to make comment on this matter. The Teacher and her Representative confirmed that they trusted in the integrity of the Panel and accordingly raised no issue.

Application for Postponement

At the outset of the hearing, the Presenting Officer advised that she would be making an application for the Full Hearing to be postponed due to the unavailability of one of the GTC Scotland witnesses, Witness 1, due to ill-health. The Panel, upon request by the Presenting Officer, and with no objection by the Teacher’s Representative, granted that this application be heard in private due to the nature of the application relating to the health of a witness.

The Presenting Officer made an application under Rule 1.7.11 to postpone the Full Hearing and for new dates to be fixed. She adopted her written submissions and confirmed her application for a short postponement was on the grounds that two material witnesses were not available to attend the hearing. One of the witnesses, Witness 1, was unable to attend due to health reasons. The other witness, Witness 2, had not responded to the notice summoning her to the hearing. The Presenting Officer submitted that it was in the public interest for the application to be granted to ensure the witnesses’ attendance.

The Teacher’s Representative opposed the application for postponement on a number of grounds: the extended procedural history of the case in terms of scheduling a hearing; the length of time which has elapsed since the conduct in question; the impact upon the Teacher herself of any further delay; and the lack of substantive grounds to justify the absence of the Witnesses 1 and 2. The Teacher’s Representative invited the Panel to refuse the application to postpone the hearing.

The Panel had careful regard to the GTC Scotland Practice Statement on Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence and to Rules 1.3.7 and 1.3.8. The Panel carefully considered both parties’ submissions, the need to preserve the integrity of proceedings, and the requirement to be fair to both parties. The Panel noted the steps which had been taken by the Presenting Officer in seeking to secure the attendance of the Witnesses 1 and 2. The Panel considered that whilst there was good reason for the absence of Witness 1, there was no confirmation provided as to the likely duration of her ill-health and hence there could be no certainty as to her future ability to attend thereby causing potential for further delay. The Panel noted that the Presenting Officer had been unable to present any explanation for the non-attendance of Witness 2. The Panel considered that there was potential for the further deterioration of evidence due to the passage of time since the events alleged in the allegations had taken place. The Panel also considered the impact upon the Teacher in terms of her preparations for attendance at the hearing, and the potential repercussions for her were the hearing to be postponed. The Panel determined that in order to deal with the case fairly and justly, and in particular to avoid delay, that the case should not be postponed. The Panel was satisfied that no injustice would be caused. Accordingly, the Panel refused to grant the Presenting Officer’s application for postponement.

Hearsay Evidence

The Presenting Officer requested that witness statements of the witnesses she had intended to call as part of her case be admitted into evidence as hearsay evidence. She explained that Witness 1 was unavailable due to ill-health and she provided medical documentation from the witness’ GP. The Presenting Officer explained that Witness 2 was also unavailable but that there was no information with regard to the reason for her non-attendance. She submitted both were material witnesses to events alleged in the allegations and that they were involved in the local authority’s investigation. She referred the Panel to the cases of El Karout v NMC [2019] EWHC 28 (Admin) and that of Thorneycroft v NMC [2014] EWHC 1565 (Admin) in support of her application and invited the Panel to grant the applications.

The Presenting Officer also requested that the witness statement she had obtained from Witness 4 be admitted as hearsay evidence due to her advanced years. She advised that this had been canvassed with the Teacher’s Representative. The Teacher’s Representative confirmed that she too had an application for the witness statement she had obtained from Witness 4 to be admitted as hearsay evidence. The Presenting Officer and Teacher’s Representative had no objections to the other’s application.

The Teacher’s Representative opposed the applications with regard to Witnesses 1 and 2, stating that the question for consideration by the Panel was whether it was fair to admit the hearsay evidence, and whether it was equitable to deny the Teacher the opportunity to cross-examine both witnesses. The Teacher’s Representative submitted that no cogent reason had been given for the non-attendance of the Witness 2. The Teacher’s Representative submitted that the ‘fit note’ for the Witness 1 was not sufficient when considered with regard to the guidance contained in the GTC Scotland Health Matters and Medical Evidence Practice Statement. She submitted that it would be unfair for the Teacher to be denied an opportunity to cross-examine both witnesses, and in particular with regard to Witness 1 given she was the sole witness to allegation 2. She also referred the Panel to the case of El Karout and to that of Ogbonna v NMC [2010]EWHC 272 (Admin) in support for her opposition to the application on the grounds of the over-arching requirement of fairness would not be met were the Teacher not to be afforded the opportunity to cross-examine, and thereby test, the witnesses’ evidence. The Teacher’s Representative invited the Panel to refuse to grant these applications.

In considering the applications, the Panel was reminded that hearsay evidence is admissible in fitness to teach proceedings, subject to the principles of relevance and fairness. The Panel considered the general objective set out in the Rules, which emphasises the need to seek informality and flexibility in the proceedings, and had careful regard to the GTC Scotland Witnesses and Hearsay Evidence Practice Statement. The Panel noted the steps taken by the Presenting Officer and GTC Scotland to try to secure the attendance of both witnesses. The Panel felt that there was a good reason for Witness 1’s non-attendance, but less so for Witness 2. The Panel did however consider the quality and provenance of the statements, which were proper signed statements taken by an Investigating Officer for GTC Scotland. The Panel also considered that these statements were fairly consistent on the whole with each other’s accounts and with accounts they had provided on previous occasions. The Panel were conscious that not having the witnesses in attendance might lessen the weight to be attached to the evidence, but not their admissibility. The Panel accepted that the Teacher’s Representative would not be able to cross-examine the witnesses but did not see this as a deciding factor in whether they should be admitted. Having heard from the parties and having regard to the advice of the Legal Assessor and Servicing Officer when required, the Panel determined to grant the applications. Accordingly, the Panel granted the application for statements of Witnesses 1, 2 and 4 to be admitted as hearsay evidence.

Late Papers

The Presenting Officer and the Teacher’s Representative both made applications to submit late papers, namely a supplementary witness statement from Witness 4 and two character references from Testimonials 1 and 2 respectively. Both the Presenting Officer and the Teacher’s Representative confirmed they had no objections to the other’s application.

The Panel considered Rule 1.7.22 and the Fact-Finding in Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases Practice Statement. The Panel took into consideration the reasons for the lateness of the submissions, and that the applications to lodge late papers were unopposed. The Panel determined the late papers were relevant and there was no unfairness in admitting them. Accordingly, the Panel admitted these documents as late papers.

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

Allegation(s)

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

Whilst you were a registered teacher employed by Highland Council at Drummond School, Inverness:

  1. On Tuesday 23rd January 2018 at Broomhill Riding Centre you compromised the safety of Pupil A by knowingly driving a minibus before Pupil A had his seatbelt secured;
  2. On Friday 26th January 2018 in the Home Economics class you used inappropriate language to Pupil B by swearing at him; and
  3. On Friday 26th January 2018 in Classroom 13, you used inappropriate physical force on Pupil B in preventing him leaving the class.

And in light of the above it is alleged that your fitness to teach is impaired and you are unfit to teach, as a result of breaching Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012.

Teacher’s Admissions

The Teacher’s Representative indicated that the Teacher admitted allegation 1 in full. The Teacher denied allegations 2 and 3.

Throughout the hearing, the Teacher denied that her fitness to teach was impaired.

Hearing Papers

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

Presenting Officer’s hearing papers

  1. 1 GTC Scotland Final Investigation Report, dated 8 May 2019, with appendices thereto:
    • 1.1 Statement of Witness 1, dated 4 December 2018
    • 1.2 Statement of Witness 2, dated 3 December 2018
    • 1.3 Statement of Witness 3, dated 4 December 2018 – attended
    • 1.4 The Highland Council Fact-Finding Investigation Report, with appendices thereto:
      • Statement of Witness 1, dated 9 February 2018
      • Statement of Witness 2, dated 9 February 2018
      • Statement of Witness 3, dated 9 February 2018
      • Statement of the Teacher, dated 14 March 2018
      • Risk Assessment
      • Handwritten Pastoral Notes from the Teacher
      • Email from Depute Head Teacher, dated 26 March 2018
      • Child Welfare Forms
    • 1.5 Suspension Letter from the Highland Council, dated 31 January 2018
    • 1.6 Attachment to email from Witness 4 re: Negative Affect
    • 1.7 Emergency Contact Sheet
    • 1.8 Medication in Schools for Pupils
  2. Statement of Witness 4 (late document)

Teacher’s hearing papers

  1. Response to Interim Report, dated 21 March 2019, with appendices thereto
    • Submissions on behalf of the Teacher
    • External Candidate Personal Information Form, dated 15 June 2016 detailing employment history
    • Email exchange between Ms Craig and Witness 4, dated 1 February 2018
    • Letter from the Highland Council to the Teacher, dated 11 May 2018
  2. Response to Final Report, dated 17 June 2019
  3. Witness Statement of Witness 4, dated 10 November 2019
  4. Signed Confirmation of Negative Affect, dated 10 November 2019
  5. Signed Statement of the Teacher, dated 11 November 2019
  6. Notice of Panel Consideration, dated 21 May 2019
  7. Testimonial from Testimonial 1, dated 1 May 2020
  8. Testimonial from Testimonial 2, dated 5 January 2020
  9. Testimonial from Testimonial 3, dated 6 January 2020
  10. Testimonial from Testimonial 4, dated 16 January 2020
  11. Testimonial from Testimonial 5, dated 15 July 2021
  12. Updated testimonial from Testimonial 4, dated 28 April 2021
  13. Updated testimonial from Testimonial 3, dated 21 May 2021
  14. Email from Testimonial 1, dated 7 March 2022 (late document)
  15. Updated testimonial from Testimonial 2, dated 8 March 2022 (late document)

Servicing Officer’s hearing papers

  1. Notice of Full Hearing, dated 8 February 2022, with cover email and delivery/read receipts
  2. Panel Meeting Decision re: Virtual Hearing, dated 17 March 2021
  3. Teacher’s completed hearing response form, dated 10 February 2022

Summary of Evidence

Witness 3

Witness 3 confirmed he had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 4 December 2018 and that what was written there was true. At the outset of his evidence, he read aloud his witness statement. He confirmed that he had been employed as a Pupil Support Assistant (‘PSA’) at the school. He spoke to the events within the minibus at allegation 1 which had occurred at the end of the school trip to the riding school. He answered questions clearly and indicated when he could not remember facts. He was well placed to talk about the incident in the minibus. He spoke to his concerns for the risk to his own safety, that of his colleagues and of all the pupils present, including Pupil A, due to the Teacher’s behaviour in driving off whilst Pupil A was not wearing a seatbelt. He described Pupil A’s typical behaviours and volatility and the potential dangers which these posed when the Teacher had driven with Pupil A not wearing a seatbelt. He spoke to his involvement in completion of the Child Care Welfare Forms along with his PSA colleagues, Witnesses 1 and 2. He recalled that there had been some tension between the Teacher and his PSA colleagues but that he was unaware of the extent thereof.

The Teacher

The Teacher confirmed she had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 11 November 2019 and that what was written there was true. At the outset of her evidence, the Teacher read aloud her witness statement. The Teacher outlined her teaching career and confirmed that she remained a teacher at Drummond School. She confirmed her suspension from the school on 1 February 2018 and that she was issued with a final written warning following the Local Authority disciplinary hearing on 4 May 2018. She had returned to teaching on 17 May 2018, and to the school itself on 20 August 2018, working alongside Witness 1 currently.  She spoke to events at the riding school in allegation 1 which led up to her acknowledged decision to drive off whilst Pupil A was not wearing a seatbelt. She spoke to having reflected upon the event and that, in hindsight, she ought to have called the Headteacher for advice. She confirmed her recognition that there could have been serious consequences. She spoke to having agreed, as part of the Local Authority disciplinary process, to relinquish her minibus driving licence and that she had no intention of ever holding one again. The Teacher confirmed she had been surprised to learn of the PSAs’, Witnesses 1 and 2, view of her unapproachability as she had considered there to be a good working relationship amongst them. However, the Teacher confirmed that there could be tensions at times due to the hierarchical nature of their roles, with her, as the class teacher, having ultimate control and responsibility.

The Teacher had no recollection of the events within allegation 2 concerning Pupil B. She confirmed her attendance at Witness 4’s training session within the school on the ‘negative affect’ technique on 19 December 2017. She confirmed that she had initiated email contact with Witness 4 on 1 February 2018 following her suspension and that Witness 4 had been fully supportive in her responses. The Teacher initially denied having done so, but ultimately agreed when questioned by the Panel that she had used the technique on two occasions prior to the events in allegation 2. However, she was firm in her position that she would not have sworn back at a pupil, and that she may have substituted the words ‘hell’ or ‘crap’ for any swear word used by a pupil. She confirmed it was entirely possible that the incident had occurred given the prior two occasions when she had used the technique. She confirmed her full acceptance of the Local Authority’s guidance dated 11 May 2018 of a prohibition on the use of the ‘negative affect’ technique within its schools.

The Teacher had no recollection of the incident with Pupil B at the classroom 13 door, as alleged at allegation 3. She told the Panel that Pupil B was known to run out of classrooms on a frequent basis. She detailed a number of prior incidents of Pupil B having done this at great risk to himself, and confirmed her involvement during a number of these occasions. The Teacher demonstrated how she would have positioned herself at the classroom 13 door were a pupil, including Pupil B, to seek to exit the classroom without permission. She told the Panel that other members of staff in the classroom would have had a limited or blocked view of any events at the classroom door depending on both her own position and that of the pupil. She stated that she would never have gone for a child’s mouth or throat and explained in detail the techniques she would routinely use with pupils including CALM (a form of safe physical intervention which is used in many local authorities in Scotland). The Teacher confirmed that following her suspension, she no longer held CALM accreditation and that in any future incidents of a similar nature, she would not take an active part, seeking assistance from other colleagues.

Submissions

The Presenting Officer submitted that the burden lay upon her to establish the facts disputed were proved on the balance of probabilities. She referred to the GTC Scotland Fact-Finding in Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases Practice Statement. She submitted that Witness 3 had been a credible and reliable witness with no animosity demonstrated towards the Teacher. She submitted that weight should be placed upon the hearsay evidence of the other two PSAs, Witnesses 1 and 2, who, in all key and material parts of their evidence, had been clear and consistent with each other. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to find all of the allegations proved.

The Teacher’s Representative provided the Panel with written submissions upon which she expanded orally to the Panel. She submitted that the Panel should bear in mind the unique nature of the school and its pupils, with the actions of the Teacher having been, at all times, motivated by the aim of reducing anxiety and preventing escalation in behaviours for Pupils A and B. She submitted that the hearsay evidence of Witnesses 1 and 2 contained several inconsistencies, in particular with regard to the Child Care Welfare Forms. She reminded the Panel that there had been no opportunity for these witnesses to be cross-examined and that there had been ‘no good reason’ for their failure to attend. The Teacher’s Representative invited the Panel to find allegations 2 and 3 not proved. 

Findings of Fact

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and submissions made by the parties 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 Panel firstly considered the credibility and reliability of the witnesses who had given oral evidence at the Full Hearing.

The Panel considered Witness 3 to have been open and honest and that he gave his evidence in a clear and straightforward manner. He did not appear to display any personal interest in the outcome of the hearing, nor was his recollection coloured as he remained objective throughout. His evidence seemed probable and consistent with what he had said previously and with other facts. The Panel considered he was telling the truth. The Panel accepted his evidence in full.

The Panel considered the evidence given by the Teacher was clear in relation to allegation 1. However, the Panel considered that the Teacher’s evidence became somewhat evasive with regard to allegation 2 and, at times, was also limited with regard to allegation 3. The Panel considered the Teacher was telling the truth for some but not all of the time during her evidence. In particular, the Panel noted that her lack of recall with regard to allegations 2 and 3 did not sit comfortably with her evident knowledge of and commitment to not only teaching but to the particular requirements of pupils at the school. The Panel noted that the Teacher was occasionally vague in her evidence and would not provide specific answers even when questioned in detail. The Panel considered her recollection in relation to allegations 2 and 3 to be surprisingly poor in regard to such significant alleged events which had occurred in such close proximity in time to allegation 1, which she recalled in detail. Where her evidence was in conflict with other evidence, the Panel felt it could place less weight upon her evidence.

The Panel then considered the witness statements of Witnesses 1, 2 and 4 which had been admitted as hearsay evidence. The Panel had regard to the GTC Scotland Witness and Hearsay Evidence Practice Statement regarding the weight which could be placed upon their evidence given that it had not heard from them in person.

The Panel considered that Witnesses 1 and 2 were objective and consistent in their evidence which related to the allegations in which they were concerned. The Panel acknowledged some minor inconsistencies in their evidence which were highlighted by the Teacher’s Representative, however the Panel considered these to be semantic rather than material. The Panel noted that there appeared to be some tension between the witnesses and the Teacher but it did not consider this to have coloured their evidence. The Panel considered they were telling the truth.

The Panel noted that the evidence provided by Witness 4 related, in the main, to her expertise in the field with people with severe autism and her provision of training in relation to autism at the school, hence the Panel considered her evidence was limited in relevancy to the facts alleged. The Panel did not deem Witness 4 to be particularly objective, as she had immediately and unquestioningly supported the Teacher when contacted by her. However the Panel found her to be knowledgeable about autism and the Negative Affect technique, which assisted the Panel in their overall understanding of the Teacher’s position.

The Panel were mindful that Witnesses 1, 2 and 4 had not attended the hearing in person and therefore were unable to be questioned, which led the Panel to place less weight on the evidence of these witnesses than those they had heard from directly.

The Panel then went on to consider each allegation separately in order to determine whether or not it had been proved by the Presenting Officer on the balance of probabilities.

Allegation 1

The Teacher admitted allegation 1 in full. Having regard to that admission, the Panel found allegation 1 proved.

Allegation 2

The Panel noted that the Teacher had no specific recollection of this event. The Panel noted the clear and consistent recollection of the Witness 1. The Panel also noted that although the Teacher could not recall the incident she did accept that she had used the ‘negative affect’ technique on two occasions beforehand, substituting any swear word used for ‘hell’ or ‘crap’. The Panel considered the Teacher to have been contradictory in her evidence in that her email to Witness 4 sent immediately following her suspension cited justification of her use of the technique but thereafter the Teacher asserted an absence of recollection of any use thereof. The Panel had regard to the hearsay evidence of the Witness 1 which the Panel found more compelling than that of the Teacher who could not recall the incident and who accepted having utilised the technique twice before. On the basis of the evidence before it, the Panel was satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, the Teacher had used inappropriate language to Pupil B by swearing at him.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 2 to be proved.

Allegation 3

The Panel noted that the Teacher had no specific recollection of allegation 3. Whilst the Panel were convinced that an incident of some description had taken place whereby Pupil B sought to exit the classroom, the Panel noted that there were other possible explanations of how the events unfolded. The Panel considered that it would have been helpful to have heard evidence in person from either or both of the PSAs, Witnesses 1 and 2 with regard to the event, to gather a better understanding of what they had witnessed. The Panel considered that there was insufficient evidence of a clear and compelling nature to determine whether the Teacher had used inappropriate physical force on Pupil B in preventing him from leaving the class. The Panel, on the basis of the evidence before it, was therefore not satisfied that the allegation had been proved on the balance of probabilities.

Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 3 not proved.

Findings on Fitness to Teach

Given that the Panel found two of the allegations proved, the Panel invited the parties to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

No additional evidence was presented by the parties and the Panel continued to hear their submissions.

The Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher had failed to be mindful of her privileged position as a teacher and that her multiple breaches of COPAC were sufficient for the Panel to find that her behaviour constituted misconduct. The Presenting Officer referred the Panel to authorities with regard to the definition of misconduct. She submitted that the Teacher’s conduct reflected in the allegations found proved clearly breached Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of COPAC. She submitted that in terms of the seriousness of the allegations of multiple breaches of COPAC and the behaviour found proved, the Teacher’s actions fell short of what was expected of a registered teacher. She submitted that the Teacher’s insight was limited with no steps evidenced by her of remediation therefore there remained a risk of repetition. The Presenting Officer submitted there was a significant degree of public interest with regard to maintaining the integrity of the teaching profession and that of public confidence. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to find that the Teacher’s fitness to teach was impaired.

The Teacher’s Representative submitted that the Teacher had accepted that her conduct with regard to allegation 1 fell short and therefore constitutes misconduct. In addition, the Teacher, albeit unable to recollect the events in allegation 2, accepted the Panel’s findings. The Teacher’s Representative submitted that whilst the Teacher’s conduct did constitute misconduct, it was not fundamentally incompatible with being a teacher nor were there any aggravating factors for the Panel to take into account. She submitted that with an intervening 4-year period during which the Teacher has continued to work as a teacher, there has been no repetition of events of any kind. She submitted that the Panel could be satisfied not only as to the Teacher’s full remediation but also the depth and impact of her reflection and insight with regard to her conduct.  She drew the Panel’s attention to the positive character references which included the Teacher’s current Headteacher. She submitted that any reoccurrence was highly unlikely and that there was no over-riding public interest present on any ground. The Teacher’s Representative invited the Panel to find the Teacher’s fitness to teach was not currently impaired and that she was fit to teach.

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented, the authorities referred to and submissions made by the parties in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Panel also had regard to the legal advice, including the need to consider remediation and the public interest when determining current Fitness to Teach. The Panel addressed the relevant considerations in relation to fitness to teach, as outlined in the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach in Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance, (‘IOG’).

In making their decision, the Panel considered the following questions:

  • Did the Teacher’s conduct at the time of the incident(s) 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 held that in driving a mini-bus with a pupil who was not wearing a seat-belt, the Teacher had breached parts 1.2 and 1.3 of COPAC by failing to maintain the unique position of trust held by a teacher and failing to avoid a situation which could have breached the criminal law and had called into question her fitness to teach. The Panel considered that the Teacher had breached part 1.4 in her compromising decision to drive off whilst a pupil was not wearing a seat-belt and also in her use of swear words at allegation 2. In addition to this, the Panel considered that she had displayed a degree of evasiveness with regard to allegation 2 and lack of full honesty in her dealings with GTC Scotland. The Panel considered the Teacher’s behaviour overall was a breach of part 1.6 because of her failure to present herself as a positive role model. The Panel considered that the multiple breaches of COPAC were aggravated by the vulnerability of the pupils involved.

Accordingly, the Panel determined that the Teacher’s actions amounted to misconduct and that, at that time, she fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.

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

Having established 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 it had been remedied, and whether there was a likelihood of reoccurrence. The Panel’s view of the Teacher’s conduct at allegation 1 was that it had been serious due to the potential risk of harm to Pupil A together with the other pupils and colleagues present within the mini-bus. The Panel considered allegation 1 to be the more serious of the two allegations found proved, given both this potential risk of harm and also the fact that the Teacher’s actions seemed to be deliberate in nature. The Panel found allegation 2 to be less serious because it was more of a lapse in judgement. The Panel considered, however, that the Teacher’s behaviour was remediable. The Panel noted that the Teacher had agreed to relinquish her mini-bus licence and no longer held such a licence. The Teacher had demonstrated insight in relation to allegation 1, and acknowledged the potential risks she had put her pupils and colleagues at. In relation to allegation 2, the Panel noted that the Teacher had complied in full with the Local Authority’s instruction not to use the ‘negative affect’ technique going forward. The Panel considered the shortfalls identified in the Teacher’s behaviour had been remedied as far as was possible. The Panel was mindful that approximately 4 years had passed since the dates of the allegations and during that time there had been no repetition of the same or similar behaviour. The Panel considered that the Teacher’s conduct, whilst serious, was isolated to a particular period in time and was not representative of a wider pattern of behaviour. The Panel was mindful that for a significant period of the 4 years which had passed since the date of the allegations found proved, the Teacher has been working at the school effectively and without incident. 

Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that the conduct was remediable, had been remedied and that there was a low likelihood of reoccurrence.

  • Is a finding of impairment required in the public interest?

Given that the Panel had found that the conduct was remediable, had been remedied and that there was a low risk of reoccurrence, the Panel went on to consider whether a finding of impairment was required in the public interest.

The Panel considered that the public perception of the seriousness of the allegations would be high, in particular in relation to allegation 1, and that the public would consider the actions of the Teacher as misconduct. The Panel noted that in relation to allegation 1, this was a one-off incident which had not resulted in actual harm. The Panel noted that there had been no further incidents in the intervening 4 years. The Panel noted the Teacher’s relinquishment of the mini-bus driving licence and acceptance of the Local Authority prohibition on the use of the ‘negative affect’ technique. The Panel noted that the matter had been brought before GTC Scotland and adjudicated upon and that the Teacher had admitted allegation 1 in full, and provided insight and expressed remorse for her actions. The Panel determined that the public interest did not require a finding of impairment against the Teacher. The Panel noted the objective in regulatory proceedings to be to look forward in order to protect, rather than looking back in order to punish. The Panel considered that a fair and just regulator was required to act in a proportionate manner and that a finding of breaches of COPAC would act as a sufficient deterrent to the wider profession. 

Accordingly, for the reasons set out above, the Panel determined that the Teacher’s conduct does not currently fall short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that she is therefore fit to teach.

As the Panel had determined that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is not currently impaired, there was no need to proceed with the remaining stage of the hearing and this determination marked the end of proceedings.

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