Decision: Nicola Nejman

GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Procedural Application

20 August 2021

TeacherNicola Nejman
Registration Number074614
Registration CategoryPrimary
PanelPauline McClellan, Joanne Sharp and Kathleen McCormick
Legal AssessorAmanda Pringle
Servicing OfficerHannah Oakley
Presenting OfficerDuncan Mawby, Brodies LLP
Teacher’s representativeClaire Raffery, Clyde & Co

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 and Appeals Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them.

Background

The Procedural Meeting was arranged to consider the following:

  • An application by the Teacher that the referral to hearing be cancelled
  • An application that, if the Panel conclude that there is an impairment to fitness to teach, that the Teacher be issued with a reprimand consent order in accordance with Rule 2.7.1.

The Teacher’s case had previously been referred for a Full Fitness to Teach Hearing. The allegations concerned the Teacher dishonestly securing compassionate leave from her employment. The Panel noted that prior to the case having been referred for a Full Fitness to Teach Hearing, the Teacher admitted two of the four allegations. The Teacher subsequently altered her position and admitted all the allegations.

Evidence

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

  1. Application for a reprimand dated 23 April 2021, with appendices including:
    • Statement from XXXXXXXX, dated 15 March 2021
    • Report from XXXXXXXX, dated 14 April 2021
    • Reflections
    • CPD
    • Testimonials
    • GTCS Investigating Report, dated 24 June 2020
  2. The Presenting Officer’s response to application, dated 7 May 2021, with appendices including:
    • The Presenting Officer’s case form, dated 30 November 2020
    • Statement of XXXXXXXX, dated 28 October 2019
    • Statement of XXXXXXXX, dated 28 October 2019
    • Statement of XXXXXXXX, dated 6 November 2019
    • Email from Nicola Nejman, dated 17 January 2019
    • Minutes of Meeting, dated 16 January 2019 prepared by XXXXXXXX
    • XXXXXXXX note of meeting and telephone call, dated 17 January 2019
    • Minutes of Meeting, dated 23 January 2019, prepared by XXXXXXXX
    • XXXXXXXX note of meeting and telephone call, dated 17 January 2019
    • Minutes of Meeting, dated 23 January 2019, prepared by XXXXXXXX
    • Email addressed to the Regulations Team from Sonia Kerr at EIS, dated 17 July 2019
    • Investigation Response Form, dated 17 July 2019
    • Email sent by the Teacher to XXXXXXXX, dated 6 January 2019
    • The Teacher’s response to the Interim Report, dated 12 June 2020 with appendices
    • Email from the Teacher’s Representative, dated 10 July 2020
  3. Email correspondence between the Servicing Officer, Aga Adamczyk, and Teacher’s Representative, Claire Raffery, dated 28 July 2021 regarding the XXXXXXX from XXXXXXXX.

Preliminary Matters

The Panel noted, in accordance with the Case Cancellation Practice Statement, that the case should not return to be reconsidered by a Panel at Panel Consideration and the applications before them were to be treated as a procedural matter. The Panel noted, therefore, that should they make the decision to refuse the applications, the case should continue to a Full Fitness to Teach Hearing.

Applications

Teacher’s Submissions

Given the material change in the Teacher’s position since the case had been referred to a Full Hearing, her Representative submitted that it was no longer necessary for the case to proceed to a full hearing on the basis that the allegations cannot be said to amount to current impairment. The Teacher’s Representative further submitted that, in the event the Panel found that there was impairment of the Teacher’s fitness to teach and refused to dismiss the case on these grounds, the case should be disposed of by way of a consent order for a reprimand.

The Teacher admitted the allegations. At the time, she had been employed as a part-time classroom teacher at St Leonard’s School, St Andrews. On 7 January 2019, she requested compassionate leave due to the death of her grandfather, which was granted. The Teacher knew that her elderly neighbour had died, thereby misrepresenting the death to be that of her grandfather. She returned to school on 16 January 2019. In a meeting that day with the Headteacher of the Junior School, she stated that both her grandfather and a neighbour had died over New Year. The Teacher knew that her neighbour had died, not her grandfather. At a further meeting on 17 January 2019, the Teacher stated that she was unclear as to whether she would attend her grandfather’s funeral.

The Teacher was dismissed from her post on 20 March 2019 following disciplinary proceedings. She accepted the seriousness of the allegations. She submitted that the conduct was isolated and out of character during her otherwise unblemished 12 year teaching career. She expressed insight into the conduct and had shown remorse for it. The Teacher produced favourable references from professional and social sources.

The Teacher’s Representative submitted that the Teacher had remediated the conduct and there is no risk of repetition, and as such a finding of impairment is unnecessary in the public interest.

Presenting Officer’s Submissions

The Presenting Officer provided a response to the Teacher’s applications, indicating that their position was essentially neutral and that they did not seek to actively resist the cancelling of the referral of the case to a Full Hearing nor the issuing of a consent order. However, the Presenting Officer highlighted to the Panel a number of observations on the evidence submitted by the Teacher in support of her application. The Presenting Officer also directed the Panel to relevant case law, namely Roylance v General Medical Council (No.2) [2001] 1 A.C. 311; Nandi v General Medical Council, 2004 WL 2213201; and R. (on the application of Remedy UK Ltd) v General Medical Council, 2010 WL.

Decision

With the facts having been agreed, the Panel carefully considered all the available information and had regard to the Case Cancellation Practice Statement and to Part A of the Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance in considering whether the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired and whether the case should be cancelled.

The Panel determined the conduct in the allegations was very serious. It consisted of dishonest conduct in requesting from her employer and taking compassionate leave based on false pretences. The conduct breached Parts 1.3, 1.4 and 1.5 of COPAC. At the time of the allegations, the Teacher’s conduct fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.

Given that the Panel had found the Teacher guilty of misconduct it then required to consider whether the shortfalls identified by the conduct were remediable. The Panel concluded they were remediable. The Panel also concluded the Teacher had gone a long way to remediate the conduct. In the submissions made to the Panel, the Teacher demonstrated insight into the misconduct albeit latterly, and also remorse. The Panel reflected upon the character references provided, noting professional and social sources.

For the reasons set out above, the Panel concluded there was little to no risk of repetition.

However, the Panel also had to consider the public interest. The Panel concluded the public would be anxious about the nature of the allegations given they related to dishonesty. The Panel had in mind the importance of the maintenance of the public’s confidence in teachers and in the integrity of the teaching profession. Further, the Panel reflected upon the maintenance of the public’s confidence in GTCS as a professional regulator. The Panel concluded that the overriding public interest, with particular reference to the elements above, would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made. The Panel also noted that the Teacher had not admitted the allegations immediately, but had done so at a later stage in the process.

For these reasons, the Panel concluded that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired and therefore refused the Teacher’s application for the case to be cancelled on the basis of no impairment.

As the Panel concluded that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired, it moved to consider whether a reprimand would be the most appropriate disposal of the case. In considering this matter, the Panel had regard to Part B of the GTCS Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance Practice Statement. The Panel noted that not all indicating factors required to be present for a disposal option to be considered appropriate.

The Panel recalled the various points it had considered at the fitness to teach stage. The conduct constituted behaviour of a dishonest nature. However, direct harm had not been caused to any pupil. The Teacher had admitted the misconduct. Further, the Teacher had reflected on the matter, had shown genuine remorse and had taken significant steps to remediate. In particular, she had established a support system and sought medical assistance. The issue represented an isolated incident and there had been no repetition since nor did the Panel consider that there was a risk of reoccurrence. The Panel also reflected upon the positive references provided in relation to the Teacher.

Having regard to the circumstances of the case and the factors referred to above, the Panel considered that the appropriate and proportionate way of dealing with the Teacher’s case was to issue the Teacher with a reprimand, and therefore granted the Teacher’s application. The disposal indicates to the profession and the public the gravity of the matter at issue. The disposal maintains the public’s confidence in teachers, the teaching profession and in GTCS as a professional regulator. As part of their decision making, the Panel also considered that the most severe disposal, removal from the Register, was not proportionate and that there are no conditions that could reasonably be imposed as part of a conditional registration order.

Having regard to the whole circumstances, the Panel determined that the appropriate time period for the reprimand should be 1 year.

Having identified the appropriate disposal, the Panel decided to grant the Teacher’s application and issue her with a reprimand consent order in accordance with Rule 2.7. The terms of the consent order are set out in the separate ‘Consent Order’ document. Should the Teacher fail to provide her consent to the order, the case should continue to hearing proceedings.

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