Full Hearing – Donna Gilchrist

TeacherDonna Gilchrist (not present, not represented)
Date9, 10 & 29 May and 14 & 15 August 2023
Registration number054140
Registration CategorySecondary Education – English
PanelPauline McClellan (Convener), Gillian Fagan and Diane Molyneux
Legal AssessorAlice Stobart
Servicing OfficerKirsty McIntosh
Presenting OfficerJennifer McPhee

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

Proceeding in the Absence

The Teacher did not attend the hearing, nor was she represented at it. Accordingly, the Panel first required to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Teacher.

The Panel heard submissions on the matter from the Presenting Officer. The Panel had regard to the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 and in particular Rule 1.7.8, which states that if a party fails to attend, a Panel can proceed in the absence of the party if satisfied that the notice of hearing has been sent to that individual in accordance with the Rules, and where it is just to proceed to hear and dispose of the case in the absence of the party. The Panel also had regard to the GTC Scotland Practice Statement titled Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence. The Panel had particular regard to whether the Teacher had voluntarily or involuntarily absented herself.

The Panel decided to proceed in the absence of the Teacher. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the fact that the Teacher had received the Notice of Hearing on 4 February 2023. On the 24 February the Teacher had been informed of the new dates and on 8 March an email from GTC Scotland was delivered to the Teacher. A handwritten response from the Teacher was received by GTC Scotland on 23 March 2023 and in that response the Teacher indicated that she would not be attending the hearing. The Panel was of the view therefore that the Teacher had had notice of the hearing and had voluntarily absented herself. The Panel considered that there could be a negative impact on the Teacher if she did not attend but it was the Panel’s view that an adjournment of the proceedings would make no difference, as the Teacher had clearly indicated her intention not to attend. The Panel took into account the public interest in having cases heard and decided upon without unnecessary delay. Witnesses were scheduled to give evidence, had made themselves available and should not be unnecessarily inconvenienced.

The Panel weighed up all the factors and decided to proceed in the absence of the Teacher.

Allegation(s)

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

  1. Made comments regarding God which were upsetting to pupils in her class  
  2. Mocked her pupil, Pupil A, as a result of her dyslexia.  
  3. Showed a number of videos to pupils in lessons which:  
    1. Were not materials approved of by the school;  
    2. Were not relevant to the classes being taught;  
    3. Included offensive language; and  
    4. Were not age appropriate. 
  4. Had discussions on the subjects of drugs and alcohol and portrayed these in a positive light.  
  5. Told her class an anecdote about being asked to purchase a pornographic magazine for her husband.  
  6. Used and condoned racist language in the classroom, in that she: 
    1. Used the word ‘n***** in discussions with pupils;  
    2. Allowed pupils to use the word ‘n*****’ without objection.  

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, 1.6, 3.1 and 5.1 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012.

Teacher’s Admissions

The Teacher did not admit any of the allegations in full in her formal response to GTC Scotland regarding the allegations She provided some context in respect of some allegations. However, as none of the allegations were admitted in full, it was for the Presenting Officer to discharge the burden of proof and fact-finding required to take place in respect of every allegation.

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. Final Investigation Report, dated 17 November 2020, with appendices including:
    • Referral from Fife Council, dated 31 August 2018
    • Self-referral dated 27 August 2018
    • Email from Teacher to GTC Scotland, dated 24 August 2018
    • Statement of Witness 2, Depute Rector at Beath High School (in attendance)
    • Statement of Witness 1, PT Guidance at Beath High School (in attendance)
    • Statement of Witness 3, PT English at Beath High School (in attendance)
    • Statement of Witness 4, PT English at Beath High School (in attendance)
    • Statement of Witness 5, Pupil Support Assistant at Beath High School (in attendance)
    • Statement of Pupil A, Pupil at Beath High School
    • Statement of Pupil B, Pupil at Beath High School
    • Statement of Pupil C, Pupil at Beath High School (in attendance)
    • Statement of Mother B, mother of Pupil B
    • Fife Council Disciplinary Investigation Report and appendices:
      • Letter to D Gilchrist – Suspension from work, dated 2 February 2018
      • Letter to D Gilchrist – Update on Disciplinary Investigation, dated 8 February 2018
      • Letter to D Gilchirst – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, dated 9 March 2018
      • Letter to [redacted] – Instruction to Attend a Investigatory Interview, dated 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Witness 4 – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, dated 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Pupil C (Pupil) – Instruction to attend meeting, dated 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Pupil B (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, dated 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Pupil D (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, dated 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Pupil A (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, dated 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Pupil E (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, dated 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Pupil F (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, dated 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Pupil G (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, dated 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Pupil H (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, dated 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Witness 3 – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Pupil I (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Pupil J (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Pupil K (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Witness 5 – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 19 February 2018
      • Letter to [redacted] – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Witness 1 – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 19 February 2018
      • Letter to Witness 2 – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 19 February 2018
      • Letter to [redacted] – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Witness 4 – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Pupil C (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Pupil B (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Pupil D (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Pupil A (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Pupil E (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Pupil F (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Pupil G (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Pupil H (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Witness 3 – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Pupil I (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Pupil J (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Pupil K (Pupil) – Invitation to attend meeting, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Witness 5 – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to [redacted] – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Witness 1 – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 6 March 2018
      • Letter to Witness 2 – Instruction to attend an Investigatory Interview, 6 March 2018
      • Minute of Investigatory Interview held with [redacted], 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Investigatory Interview held with Witness 4, 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Meeting with Pupil C (Pupil), 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Meeting with Pupil B (Pupil), 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Meeting with Pupil D (Pupil), 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Meeting with Pupil A (Pupil), 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Meeting with Pupil E (Pupil), 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Meeting with Pupil F (Pupil), 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Meeting with Pupil G (Pupil), 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Meeting with Pupil H (Pupil), 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Investigatory Interview held with Witness 3, 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Meeting with Pupil I (Pupil), 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Meeting with Pupil J (Pupil), 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Meeting with Pupil K (Pupil), 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Investigatory Interview held with Witness 5, 7 March 2018 
      • Minute of Investigatory Interview held with [redacted], 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Investigatory Interview held with Witness 1, 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Investigatory Interview held with Witness 2, 7 March 2018
      • Minute of Investigatory Interview held with D Gilchrist, 16 March 2018
      • Second Letter to D Gilchrist – Instruction to Attend an Investigatory Interview, 23 March 2018
      • Email from D Gilchrist – No further Investigatory Interview required, 27 March 2018
      • Fife Council’s Discipline Policy and Procedure – Teachers, April 2015
      • GTCS Standard for Full Registration, December 2006
      • Email – Witness 3 to Witness 4, 11 January 2018
      • Minute of meeting between PTC English and D Gilchrist, 12 January 2018
      • Email – Witness 3 to Witness 4/Witness 2 (2K1 – Green Street) 16 January 2018
      • Email – Witness 3 to D Gilchrist (Course Outlines), 30 January 2018
      • Notes taken by Witness 2, 30 January 2018
      • Email – Complaint regarding discrimination, 30 January 2018
      • Email – Witness 1 to Witness 2, 30 January 2018
      • Email – Parental email to Witness 2 regarding daughter, 30 January 2018
      • Email – Witness 1 to [redacted] (Pupil concerns – Pupil E), 1 February 2018
      • Email – Witness 1 to [redacted] (Pupil concerns – Pupil F and Pupil G), 1 Feb 2018
      • Email Witness 3 to [redacted] (S3 pupil concerns), 1 February 2018
      • Email Witness 3 to [redacted] (Additional S3 pupil concerns), 1 February 2018
      • Letter – Parental complaint (redacted), 1 February 2018
      • Scans from pupil jotters, various dates
      • Letter to D Gilchrist – investigation, 24 April 2018
      • Letter to D Gilchrist – investigation, 4 May 2018
      • Letter to D Gilchrist – investigation, 20 June 2018
    • Response to Notice of Referral dated 28 September 2018

Teacher’s Hearing Papers

Letter from Teacher advising not attending Full Hearing, dated 22 March 2023

Servicing Officer’s Hearing Papers

Bundle March 2021 – August 2022

  1. Timeline of Events and Communications, dated 22 June 2022
  2. Initial CMDs cover email, dated 2 March 2021
  3. Initial Letter to Parties with CMDs, dated 2 March 2021
  4. Delivery receipt (PO), dated 2 March 2021
  5. Delivery receipt (Teacher) dated 2 March 2021
  6. WeTransfer receipt confirming Panel Consideration bundle delivered to Teacher, dated 2 March 2022
  7. Email chasing PO for Case Form, dated 19 March 2021
  8. PO Case Form, dated 22 March 2021
  9. Email to Teacher asking for her Case Form, dated 7 April 2021
  10. Letter to Teacher, dated 26 April 2021
  11. File Note detailing attempts made to contact Teacher, dated 26 April 2021
  12. Response from Teacher to Letter, dated 13 May 2021
  13. Response to Teacher resending Initial Letter, dated 14 May 2021
  14. WeTransfer receipt confirming Panel Consideration bundle delivered to Teacher, dated 14 May 2021
  15. Email from Teacher, dated 27 May 2021
  16. Telephone Note, dated 27 May 2021
  17. Email to Teacher in response to query, dated 15 June 2021
  18. Teacher Case Form
  19. Email to parties with next steps, dated 21 June 2021
  20. Email from Teacher confirming wish to make Cancellation Application, dated 26 June 2021
  21. Email to parties with next steps, dated 8 July 2021
  22. Email from Teacher (including chain of emails), dated 10 August 2021
  23. Telephone Note, dated 3 September 2021
  24. Returned bundle of documentation not called for 
  25. Teacher response to PO’s Virtual Hearing Application, dated 16 October 2021
  26. Email to parties re: next steps for procedural matters, dated 5 November 2021
  27. Emails between Teacher and SO re: test call, dated 10 November 2021
  28. Email from Teacher re: test Teams call, dated 8 February 2022
  29. Email from SO to parties re: cancellation application and test call, dated 5 January 2022
  30. Email from Teacher and response from SO re: allegations and test call, dated 7 and 17 January 2022   
  31. Emails between SO and Teacher re: test call, dated 8 February 2022
  32. Email from Teacher confirming available for test call, dated 9 February 2022
  33. Email from SO with link to test call, dated 9 February 2022
  34. Email from SO to Teacher advising waiting in test call, dated 15 February 2022
  35. Further email from SO to Teacher advising leaving test call, dated 15 February 2022
  36. Email from Teacher re: missed test call, dated 20 February 2022
  37. Emails between SO and Teacher re: new test call time, dated 3 March 2022
  38. Email from SO to Teacher with invitation to test call, dated 3 March 2022
  39. Email from Teacher asking to change test call time, dated 7 March 2022
  40. Email to Teacher advising waiting in test call, dated 21 March 2022
  41. Email from Teacher re: test call and not engaging, dated 23 March 2022
  42. Email from Teacher re: cancellation, dated 3 April 2022
  43. Email to parties re: next steps and asking Teacher to confirm whether attending FH, dated 5 April 2022
  44. Response from Teacher, dated 6 April 2022
  45. Further response from Teacher, dated 6 April 2022
  46. SO response to Teacher asking her to confirm whether attending FH, dated 6 April 2022
  47. Response from Teacher, dated 7 April 2022
  48. Response from Teacher re: test call, dated 7 April 2022
  49. Email to Teacher providing link to third test call, dated 7 April 2022
  50. Email to Teacher advising date and time of test call, dated 7 April 2022
  51. Email to Parties, dated 11 April 2022
  52. Email to Parties chasing witness timings and availability, dated 20 April 2022
  53. Telephone Note, dated 5 August 2022

Bundle August 2022 – March 2023

  1. Timeline of Events and Communications, dated 16 March 2023
  2. Telephone and File Note, dated 21 September 2022
  3. Email to Teacher advising hearing cancelled, dated 26 September 2022
  4. Full Hearing Notice, dated 3 February 2023
  5. Track and Trace (delivered), dated 4 February 2023
  6. Full Hearing Notice (amended dates), dated 24 February 2023
  7. Track and Trace (pending), dated 25 February 2023
  8. Email to Teacher with amended Full Hearing dates, dated 8 March 2023
  9. Email to Teacher delivery receipt, dated 8 March 2023
  10. Full Hearing Notice with amended dates, posted on 8 March 2023
  11. Full Hearing Notice (amended dates) Track and Trace ‘unable to confirm’, dated 17 March 2023
  12. Cover letter with combined bundle, posted 14 March 2023
  13. Track and Trace Pending Part 1 (FH bundle of documents), dated 15 March 2023
  14. Track and Trace Pending Part 1 (FH bundle of documents), dated 15 March 2023
  15. Cover letter with combined bundle, posted 14 March 2023

Summary of Evidence

The Panel heard evidence on day 1 from Witness 1, PT Guidance at Beath High School and Witness 2, Depute Rector, Beath High School. On day 2 the Panel heard evidence from Witness 3, PT English, Beath High School and Witness 4, PT English, Beath High School. On day 3 the Panel heard from Witness 5, Pupil Support Assistant, Beath High School.

On day 3, Pupils A and B, both former pupils of Beath High School, had been scheduled to give evidence but had given reasons why they could not attend. The Presenting Officer made an application under Rules 1.7.17 and 1.7.23 to have Pupil A and Pupil B’s witness statements admitted as hearsay evidence.

The Panel had regard to the Witnesses and Hearsay Evidence Practice Statement and the Rules. The Panel considered various factors when making their decision whether to allow evidence in as hearsay evidence. The Panel decided there was good reason for Pupil A’s non attendance in that her mother had explained that due to the passage of time her recollection of events was not good. The Panel could understand that the pupils were 14 at the time of the allegations in 2018. It was a long time ago and the pupils wanted to move on with their lives. Further, it was unlikely that their memory would have improved with time and that the best evidence was likely to be the contemporaneous interview statements recorded at the time of events. The Panel also noted that the evidence of Pupils A and B was not the sole or decisive evidence of the allegations. The Panel considered that the allegations against the Teacher are serious. The Panel also considered that the statements taken by GTC Scotland and the interviews Pupil A and Pupil B gave to the local authority investigation were of a high quality in that they were recorded by investigation officers as part of formal investigation processes and contained detail. The Panel weighed up all the factors and decided to admit the evidence of Pupils A and B as hearsay evidence. The Panel was mindful that whilst the statements had been admitted, it would need to consider what weight it could apply to this evidence during fact-finding stage, bearing in mind that the witnesses had not attended the hearing to give evidence and be questioned.

On day 4 the Panel heard from Pupil C, former pupil, Beath High School.

Pupil B’s mother was asked to give evidence on day 4 but had declined due to health reasons. The Presenting Officer applied in terms of the aforementioned Rules and the Practice Statement to have Pupil B’s mother’s statement admitted as hearsay evidence.

In making its decision the Panel had regard to Rules 1.7.17 and 1.7.23, as well as the Witnesses and Hearsay Evidence Practice Statement. When making the decision the Panel took into account the fact that the Presenting Officer had made sustained efforts to secure Pupil B’s mother’s attendance but that she had felt unable to attend due to ill-health. The Panel accepted this as a good and cogent reason for her non-attendance and also noted that hers was not the sole or decisive evidence in any of the allegations. The Panel considered whether there was any prejudice to the Teacher but noted that the Teacher had sight of all the papers including Pupil B’s mother’s witness statement. The Panel reached the conclusion that in all the circumstances it was fair to admit the statement as hearsay evidence. As with the statements of Pupils A and B, the Panel was mindful that whilst the statements had been admitted, it would need to consider what weight it could apply to this evidence during fact-finding stage.

The witnesses who attended the hearing all adopted their GTC Scotland statements as their evidence in chief but in addition gave oral evidence and answered questions posed by the Presenting Officer and the Panel. The following is a summary of the oral evidence heard by the Panel.

Witness 1, PT Guidance

Witness 1 gave evidence in-person to the Panel. Witness 1 explained that in or around January 2018 she saw Pupil B in the corridor at Beath High School and that the pupil had been in tears and upset. Pupil B told Witness 1 that she was not going back into the classroom where the Teacher was teaching. Witness 1 observed that it was unusual for Pupil B to be upset and that Pupil B did not want to go back into the Teacher’s classroom. Witness 1 said that Pupil B had no history of complaining and went on to become a prefect at school and to attend university.

Witness 1 explained that Pupil B’s mother telephoned her later that day to report Pupil B’s concerns with the Teacher. Pupil B’s parent reported that a pupil in the Teacher’s class had used a racially inappropriate word (‘nigger’, hereafter referred to as ‘n*’) and that the Teacher had not reprimanded the pupil and instead laughed. Further that the Teacher had demeaned Pupil A. Witness 1 went on to explain that Pupil B would not have used the word ‘demean’ but instead would have said that Pupil A was made to feel bad or put down due to her dyslexia. As a result of the conversation with Pupil B’s mother, Witness 1 was sufficiently concerned about what was being reported to her that she escalated the matter. Directly after the telephone call with Pupil B’s mother, she wrote an email to the Depute Rector (which was contained in the bundle before the Panel) outlining the concerns raised. Witness 1 confirmed to the Panel that she did not think the use of Youtube videos such as Sarah Millican’s stand-up performances were appropriate for use in a classroom. If the Teacher was wanting to settle a class, then there were starter tasks, for example, making words out of nine letters. She explained she did not think the use of the videos was appropriate and that she was shocked that they had been used.

Witness 2, Depute Rector

Witness 2 gave evidence to the Panel. Witness 2 explained that the teachers all had access to course plans. Further that in relation to pupils with additional needs the class register was in electronic form and each pupil’s needs were recorded on the register. He recalled how in January 2018 two pupils had arrived in his office quickly followed by three other pupils. Even though the pupils came to see him in January 2018, he remembered it well as it was such an unusual occurrence and in fact had never happened to him before. He remembered that the pupils were all conscientious pupils who wanted to do well at school. He felt that it was very unusual for those pupils to be out of class and for them to come to speak to him. He confirmed that Pupil A and Pupil B were part of the five pupils and that the concern was that Pupil A was being discriminated against because of her dyslexia. He also recalled the pupils complaining about the way the Teacher had treated Pupil C with regard to derogatory remarks regarding his Christian faith. He said that the pupils mentioned Pupil C but he said that he also became aware of the allegation regarding Pupil C because Pupil C’s parents wrote to him to complain. The complaint by Pupil C’s parents was referred to in the bundle and reported that the Teacher had used the word ‘n*s’ in class. Pupil C’s parents also referred to Pupil A being put down by the Teacher due to her dyslexia.

Witness 2 told the Panel that the Sarah Millican video was not appropriate as it referred to a migraine and sex. He explained that there was a bank of materials available in the English Faculty but that the videos used were not approved. Witness 2 was asked about the culture in the school as the Teacher’s position was that she needed to use the videos to engage with the pupils as there was a lack of discipline in the class. Specifically the Teacher had alleged that there was an incident with a pupil using a chisel as a weapon, that there was spitting and bullying. Witness 2 was not aware of the alleged ‘chisel incident’ and said he would be amazed if anything of that nature had happened and had not been reported to him. He confirmed that he did not recognise the Teacher’s description of the culture at Beath High School. In his view the culture was supportive and that staff work together to support the young people in their learning.

Witness 3, PT English

Witness 3 relied on her statement as being reliable at the time but could not remember the detail of what had happened now. She did however remember that the pupils who were complaining, including Pupil A and Pupil B, were all quiet and hardworking pupils who wanted to do well and did not want to cause trouble. Witness 3 also recalled that she had met with the Teacher and Witness 4 to explain that the videos she had used in class were not appropriate, had not been approved and were not relevant to the teaching. She could not recall with any certainty the date of the meeting with the Teacher in January 2018.

Witness 4, PT English

Witness 4 had collected the jotters of S3 pupils which showed the pupils’ reaction to being shown the film Green Street. Witness 4 was clear that the material in question, shown by the Teacher to pupils was not appropriate.

Witness 4 explained to the Panel that the English department had many resources, both physical and electronic, available to the teachers and that the Teacher would have been made aware during her induction of the resources available. She also confirmed that a high number of the pupils have support needs and that the registration system allows the teacher to see the needs of each pupil. Witness 4 explained that Youtube clips could be used to teach but the teacher would need to check them to ensure they were appropriate and relevant before using them in a classroom. Witness 4 confirmed that the clips she had seen of the Youtube videos used by the Teacher were not relevant to what the class were doing, were offensive and not age appropriate. In particular she confirmed that the Sarah Millican clip was not age appropriate, the language was offensive and the punchline was absolutely not appropriate for school. She also stated that the use of the film ‘Green Street’ was inappropriate as it was certified 18. Its content was based on football hooliganism and violence. She was clear that it was not appropriate to show a film certified 18 in Beath High School. Witness 4 also stated that teachers could discuss drugs and alcohol if it was relevant to what they were teaching but that it was not appropriate for a teacher to share their own experiences of drugs and alcohol. Further that revealing an anecdote about her husband sending her to buy pornographic material was wholly inappropriate in her view as it was unprofessional, not relevant and teachers should not discuss their personal lives with pupils.

Witness 4 also explained that when she discussed the videos with the Teacher, the Teacher was very defensive initially and tried to justify the use of the materials. Witness 4 also explained that when the complaints about inappropriate use of materials had come to light she photocopied some of the S3 pupils’ jotters. It was clear from these jotters that the film ‘Green Street’ had been shown to the pupils. Witness 4 remembered that the Teacher had been open about showing ‘Green Street’ to the pupils at the meeting.

Witness 5, Pupil Support Assistant

Witness 5 explained to the Panel that she was the support teacher in the Teacher’s S3 class. The pupils were doing close reading in the Teacher’s class in January 2018. Witness 5 remembered the Teacher putting on a YouTube clip in the classroom. She recalled that the white board was set up with the clip ready to start when the pupils entered. The Teacher pressed play on her laptop. Witness 5 was shocked when she heard the joke by Sarah Millican and the pupils themselves asked her if they should be looking at the clip. The Teacher laughed but the pupils, in Witness 5’s view, were shocked. Witness 5 expressed the view that the clip was not relevant to the class and the language and content was totally inappropriate.

Pupil C

On day 4 of the hearing Pupil C gave evidence to the Panel. He explained that he did not know if the Teacher was aware that he was a Christian but the boys around him were quite loud and were teasing him for being a Christian. He remembered that when the Teacher raised the subject of Jesus being ‘fat, black or gay’ he did not feel good about that at the time. He remembered going home and being quite upset and telling his mother that he did not want to go back to the class. Pupil C did not remember all the comments made in 2018 but he specifically remembered the Teacher using the word n*. He could not remember the specific Russell Howard jokes that had been played but he recalled thinking that the videos were pointless and were not helping in their education. Pupil C remembered that the Teacher’s references to Jesus made him feel sad and the comment about Jesus being ‘fat, black or gay’ specifically made him upset. In more general terms, he felt the comments by the Teacher facilitated some of the pupils around him to make fun of him due to his religious beliefs. He felt that the Teacher should have stopped the pupils from making fun of him but she did not. He felt there was nobody to help him at the time.

In terms of his learning, he felt that the Teacher was not teaching him anything. Pupil C felt that the Teacher had not treated Pupil A well due to her dyslexia. He could not remember the details now but said that he felt at the time that the Teacher’s conduct toward Pupil A was not right and it made his feeling stronger that the Teacher should not be in the position of a teacher.

Pupil A

Pupil A did not give oral evidence but the Panel had regard to her interview with Fife Council on 7 March 2018 and her GTC Scotland statement.

Pupil B

Pupil B did not give oral evidence but the Panel had regard to her interview with Fife Council on 7 March 2018 and her statement to GTC Scotland. The Panel noted that her account of what occurred between Pupil A and the Teacher differed from Pupil A’s account and another Pupil D (whose interview notes to Fife Council were in the bundle). Pupil B thought that the dispute had arisen as Pupil A wanted an overlay to assist her and that the Teacher had mocked her for not understanding. Pupil A by contrast said that she had told the Teacher that she did not understand the ‘Added Value Unit’ and that she asked the Teacher to explain it again. She said that the Teacher shouted at her for not understanding and that Pupil D had then disputed the matter with the Teacher.

Pupil B’s mother

Pupil B’s mother gave evidence in her statement of what Pupil B had told her.

The Teacher

The Teacher did not attend the hearing and therefore did not give evidence directly to the Panel, but had provided the Panel with written explanations and had given explanations to her employer during the local authority investigation in 2018. The Panel noted from the evidence before it that the Teacher did not deny playing ‘Green Street’, or the YouTube clips of Sarah Millican or Russell Howard in class. The Teacher’s explanation appeared to be that she had played the videos to establish a rapport with pupils, that the pupils were disaffected in their learning and that she needed to play the videos to calm unruly behaviour and settle the class. Further, it was her position that the videos were relevant to what she was teaching.

In relation to the comments regarding God, the Teacher did not deny that she made comments about Jesus being ‘fat, black or gay’. Her explanation was that it was in the context of a philosophical discussion in class.

The Teacher accepted that she had told the anecdote about her husband sending her to buy pornographic material, but said it was relevant to the teaching.

The Teacher denied that she had used the word ‘n*****’ and denied that she condoned the use of it by a pupil.

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 regard to the advice of the Legal Assessor and Servicing Officer as required.

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 whose evidence was considered during the Full Hearing.

The Panel considered that Witness 1 was straightforward and measured in the way she gave her evidence. For example when she first became aware of the allegation that the Teacher had mocked Pupil A for her dyslexia she kept an open mind as to whether it could be true when referring it on to the Depute Rector. She knew the pupils and some of their families well. If she did not remember a particular matter she was quick to concede that she did not remember and preferred to rely on her statement that she had made nearer in time to events. The Panel found her evidence to be credible and her evidence when she could recall matters was reliable.

The Panel found Witness 2 to be both reliable and credible. The Panel found him to be professional and knowledgeable about both the pupils and the school. He spoke directly to five of the pupils coming to complain to him. He gave a detailed description of the demeanour of the pupils and had a good recollection of events. His evidence was consistent with that of other witnesses. Further, he had noted the pupils’ complaints at the time the complaints had been made.

Witness 3 confirmed her statement was true and accurate but did not have a good recollection of events after such a long period of time. The Panel found Witness 3 to be credible but could not rely on her oral evidence to any great extent given the passing of time and her lack of memory.

The Panel considered Witness 4 to be professional. She provided the Panel with information about pupils with additional support needs. She did not have good recall on the detail of the complaints made by the pupils but given the length of time since the events the Panel did not think that her lack of memory meant she was not credible. The Panel accepted her evidence when giving her opinion on the appropriateness of the YouTube videos. The Panel found Witness 4 a credible witness.

Witness 5 was a straightforward witness. She was clear about the incident which she witnessed namely the showing of the Sarah Millican clip on YouTube and had could recall the reaction of the pupils and the lack of relevance of the clip to what the pupils were doing that day. The Panel found her to be a credible and reliable witness.

The Panel considered that Pupil C was straightforward and clear in his emotional reaction to what happened. He was honest about his lack of recollection of some of the detail of precisely what was said but remembered vividly that the Teacher had used ‘the “n” word’ and that he had been very shocked by that. He preferred to rely on his evidence that he gave at the time as being more reliable as he was clear that he would have told the truth to both the local authority investigation and GTC Scotland. He was credible and reliable where he could remember the detail.

Pupil A did not attend to give live evidence to the Panel, but the Panel had regard to her written evidence. The Panel were of the view that Pupil A was a reliable witness in that she was consistent in reporting events initially to the school, then to Fife Council and then to GTC Scotland. The Panel decided that Pupil A’s evidence was credible and reliable.

Pupil B did not attend to give live evidence to the Panel, but the Panel had regard to her written evidence. The Panel accepted that Pupil B was recalling events from her perspective and in essence she was recalling the same outcome as the other pupils, namely that the Teacher had shouted at Pupil A for not understanding when she had dyslexia. Given that the Panel could not question and therefore test Pupil B’s evidence, the Panel gave less weight to Pupil B’s evidence.

Pupil B’s mother did not attend the hearing to give live evidence to the Panel. The Panel noted that Pupil B’s mother’s evidence was effectively ‘hearsay of hearsay’ so did not place any reliance on it other than as corroboration of other pieces of evidence.

The Panel considered each of the allegations in turn, as follows.

1. Made comments regarding God which were upsetting to pupils in her class  

The Panel relied on Pupil B’s statement, Pupil’s C oral evidence and statement, Witness 2’s statement and the Teacher’s own evidence where she admitted to saying in the context of a discussion about Jesus that ‘he could have been fat, black and gay’. The Panel found that the Teacher did make comments about Jesus being ‘fat, black and gay’. Pupil C told the Panel that he was upset by the comments made by the Teacher and that he personally found the comment about Jesus being ‘fat, black and gay’ offensive to his religious beliefs. The Panel had regard to Pupil C’s evidence that the comment had no relevance to the topic in class and that he did not see it as being part of a philosophical discussion. The Panel found that the comments made by the Teacher were upsetting to Pupil C both subjectively and objectively. The comments referred to ‘Jesus’ whereas the allegation refers to ‘God’. The Panel felt that this was a minor distinction as both God and Jesus are related to the Christian faith and the comments did upset the pupil.

In considering the evidence before it in order to make its findings of fact, the Panel could not see any evidence which indicated that more than one pupil was upset by the comments made. In line with Rule 2.8.4 the Panel invited submissions from the parties (in the absence of the Teacher this meant the Presenting Officer only) in terms of an amendment to the allegation to ‘a pupil’ as opposed to ‘pupils’. The Presenting Officer was of the view that this better reflected the evidence before the Panel and invited the Panel to make the amendment. The Panel was conscious that the Teacher was not present and was unable to comment on the proposed amendment. However, the Panel considered that the proposed amendment lessened the seriousness of the allegation and that the amendment could therefore be made without injustice. Accordingly, the Panel made the amendment and found the following allegation proved on the balance of probabilities:

‘Made comments regarding God which were upsetting to a pupil in her class’.

2. Mocked her pupil, Pupil A, as a result of her dyslexia.  

The Panel relied on the evidence of Pupil B, Pupil B’s mother, Pupil C, Witness 2 (including his notes of his meeting with the five pupils who reported their concerns), Pupil A, the evidence in the statements of two of the pupils who reported their concerns and the evidence of Pupil C who witnessed Pupil A’s distress. The Panel noted that the Teacher denied mocking a child with a learning disability, namely Pupil A. The Panel preferred the evidence of the pupils who all gave separate accounts that Pupil A had been made fun of by the Teacher due to her dyslexia. The Panel recognised that there were different interpretations of what exactly happened on the day in question but the theme of the evidence was consistent in that the Teacher had been unkind to Pupil A, had made fun of her due to her dyslexia and had made her upset. Accordingly, the Panel thought it more likely than not that the Teacher did mock Pupil A due to her dyslexia.

On the balance of probabilities, the Panel found this allegation proved.

3. Showed a number of videos to pupils in lessons which:
(a) Were not materials approved of by the school;
(b) Were not relevant to the classes being taught;
(c) Included offensive language; and
(d) Were not age appropriate.

The Teacher herself accepted she showed the videos (in particular a Sarah Millican clip, Russell Howard clips and the film ‘Green Street’) to pupils. The Panel also had the evidence of Witness 5, Pupil C, Witness 3, Witness 4 and photocopies of the jotters of S3 pupils which contained notes which indicated viewership of Green Street.

In relation to the Teacher’s position regarding the class being unruly and disaffected, the Panel preferred the evidence of Witness 5 who said that the pupils were working on their close reading in S3. In relation to the S4 pupils the Panel heard evidence from Pupil C and from the written accounts of the pupils who complained to the Depute Rector that the pupils were keen to learn. The Panel did not think it likely that the whole class was disaffected. The Panel thought it was more likely than not that the Teacher was showing the pupils risky material in order to gain favour with the pupils. The Panel thought that the Teacher exaggerated the atmosphere in the school to justify her actions. When considering whether the videos were relevant, the Panel did not accept the Teacher’s explanations and preferred Witness 5’s account that the Sarah Millican video was played when the pupils were doing close reading and that it had no relevance to the teaching at the time. Further the Panel accepted Pupil C’s account that there was no relevance to any of the videos being shown and it simply detracted from the learning that they could and should have been doing. In relation to the film ‘Green Street’ which was rated 18 the Panel did not accept that it was appropriate or relevant to show S3 pupils (who would be approximately 14-15 years of age) a film that was rated 18.

In summary, the Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 4 and Witness 3 that the videos used by the Teacher were not materials approved by school and so found allegation 3(a) proved. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 5 and Pupil C that they were not relevant to the classes being taught and so found allegation 3(b) proved. The Panel came to the view, in line with the evidence of Witness 5, Witness 4 and Witness 3, that the language in the Sarah Millican video relating to migraines and masturbation was offensive and that ‘Green Street’ being certified 18 meant that the content was not age appropriate. The Panel therefore found allegations 3 (c) and (d) proved.

Accordingly, on the balance of probabilities, the Panel found allegations 3(a), (b), (c) and (d) proved.

4. Had discussions on the subjects of drugs and alcohol and portrayed these in a positive light.

The Panel found there was insufficient evidence of the allegation as whilst there was evidence that the Teacher had discussed the use of drugs and alcohol in class, there was insufficient evidence that she portrayed them in a positive light.

The Panel therefore found this allegation not proved.

5. Told her class an anecdote about being asked to purchase a pornographic magazine for her husband.

The Teacher admitted that she had relayed this anecdote in the documentary evidence before the Panel. It was also reported by Witness 3 in her statement that three pupils had reported that the Teacher had told them the anecdote relating to her husband buying pornographic material as stated in the allegation.

On the balance of probabilities, the Panel found allegation 5 proved.

6. Used and condoned racist language in the classroom, in that she:
(a) Used the word ‘n*****’ in discussions with pupils;
(b) Allowed pupils to use the word ‘n*****’ without objection.

In relation to allegation 6(a), Pupil C recalled the Teacher using the word ‘n*****’ in class. Pupil A and Pupil B also stated in their written evidence that the Teacher had used this word in class and had condoned the use of it by a pupil. The Teacher denied the allegation but the Panel preferred the evidence of Pupils A, B and C, having thus far found them to be credible and reliable witnesses and given the overall consistency in their evidence. In particular, the Panel had regard to the evidence of Pupil C who gave oral evidence and spoke to the Teacher using the word ‘n*****’ in class.

In relation to allegation 6(b), the Panel relied on the evidence of Pupil B and Pupil who gave a statement to Fife Council on 7 March 2018. Pupil J was clear in her evidence that another pupil who she named would be allowed by the Teacher to go in and out of the class when he wanted and that he would use ‘the “n” word’ and that the Teacher said nothing.

On the balance of probabilities, the Panel found allegations 6(a) and 6(b) proved.

In summary, the Panel found allegation 1 proved as amended above, allegations 2, 3, 5 and 6 proved, and allegation 4 not proved.

Findings on fitness to Teach

Given that the Panel found that some of the allegations were proved, the Panel required to progress to stage 2 of the hearing, to assess the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

The Teacher had not attended the hearing to date. In accordance with the Practice Statement on Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence, the Panel considered the question of whether they should continue to the next stage of the hearing in the absence of the Teacher.

The Presenting Officer submitted that the Panel should continue in the absence of the Teacher, for the same reasons as outlined at the beginning of the Full Hearing.

The Panel decided to proceed in the absence of the Teacher. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had had notice of all the dates of the hearing and was aware of the possible outcomes of the hearing. The Panel remained of the view that the Teacher had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing as she had made it clear by email on 23 March 2023 that she would not be attending the hearing. The Panel did not believe that even if the hearing was adjourned to allow the Teacher a final opportunity to attend that she would in fact attend. The Panel considered that the matter had been ongoing for a long period of time and that it was in the parties’ interests as well as the public interest to have the matter concluded in the dates allocated. Accordingly, the Panel proceeded in the absence of the Teacher.

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and submissions made by the Presenting Officer in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach, as well as the written information provided by the Teacher to date. The Panel addressed the relevant considerations in relation to fitness to teach, as outlined in the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance Practice Statement (‘the IOG’).

The Panel considered the following questions:

(a) Did the Teacher’s conduct at the time of the incidents fall short of the expected professional standards? i.e. does the allegation that has been found proved constitute misconduct?

The Panel considered the parts of COPAC which had allegedly been breached, i.e. Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 3.1 and 5.1. The Panel was of the view that the Teacher’s conduct fell short of expected professional standards and in particular the conduct found proved breached Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6 and 5.1 of COPAC.

The Panel found that the Teacher breached Part 1.2 as she used inappropriate teaching materials, thus abusing her unique position of trust as a teacher. She breached Part 1.3 as her actions across the breadth of allegations found proved have undoubtedly called into question her fitness to teach. The Teacher breached Part 1.4 as her professional conduct did not uphold the standards expected of a teacher, for example by her mocking of a pupil with dyslexia. The Teacher breached Part 5.1 as the Panel was of the view that she had been disrespectful of a pupil’s religious beliefs and she used and condoned racist language in the classroom. All of the above led to the Panel finding that the Teacher had also breached Part 1.6 due to her failure to maintain an awareness that she is a role model to pupils. The Panel did not however find the Teacher to have breached part 3.1 of COPAC.

Accordingly, the Panel had no difficulty in reaching the view that the Teacher’s conduct at that time amounted to misconduct.

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

The Panel decided that objectively the conduct found proved by the Panel is remediable but that subjectively looking at the Teacher’s responses to the allegations and her actions, the Panel found that the conduct is, subjectively, unlikely to be remediable by the Teacher. The Teacher admitted some of the conduct under explanation but has shown no insight into the harm caused by the consequences of her conduct. Further, the Teacher has not admitted allegations 1, 2 and 6 which is conduct the Panel viewed to be attitudinal, is potentially not compatible with being in the teaching profession and is therefore more difficult to remedy.

The Teacher has not provided to the Panel any evidence to show that she has taken steps to remedy the shortfalls in her conduct.

As the Panel had determined that the conduct was not remediable for this Teacher and had not been remedied, the Panel was of the view that the risk of reoccurrence was therefore high.

The Panel had regard to the public interest when considering the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Panel found that the Teacher’s conduct was extremely serious as it included the mocking of a pupil due to her dyslexia, insensitive conduct relating to a pupil’s religion, the showing of potentially harmful and inappropriate materials to pupils, and the using and condoning the use of deeply offensive and racist language. All of the above conduct, if repeated by the Teacher, could cause harm to pupils. The Panel decided that action needed to be taken in order to protect members of the public, both in terms of the teaching setting and beyond. The Panel decided that if no action was taken, public confidence in registrants, the integrity of the profession and in GTC Scotland as a professional regulator would be damaged. It was the view of the Panel that a member of the public, knowing of the findings made by the Panel, would expect the Panel to take action in this case to protect the public. The public have to be confident that the standards set out in COPAC will be upheld and maintained. Further that if those standards are not maintained, that there are consequences which act as a deterrent to repetition of such conduct in the future.

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 therefore unfit to teach.

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.

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 considers that the Teacher is fit to teach at that time and directs that the application be granted. Rule 2.10.6 outlines that a Panel may direct that the Teacher be prohibited from making such an application until the expiry of such a period, not exceeding 2 years, as it may determine.

The Panel heard submissions from the Presenting Officer regarding the length of time before the Teacher could apply for re-registration, then retired into private to make its decision.

In this case, the Panel directed that the Teacher should be prohibited from making an application for re-registration for a period of 2 years from the date of its decision. The Panel considered that a shorter time period was inappropriate as the conduct found proved is very serious, there is no indication of any remediation undertaken by the Teacher and there is a lack of insight. The Panel decided that 2 years would give the Teacher an opportunity to reflect on her conduct and demonstrate insight.

For clarity, this is not a period of removal. It sets out how long the Teacher has to wait until an application for re-registration can be made, which may or may not be granted by a future Panel at a Subsequent Registration Application hearing.

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.

© The General Teaching Council for Scotland - Registered Scottish Charity No. SC006187