Full Hearing – Kevin O’Connor
|Teacher||Kevin O’Connor (present / unrepresented)|
|Hearing Type||Subsequent Registration Application Meeting|
|Date||17 August 2023|
|Registration Category||Secondary Education: History and ASN|
|Panel||Pauline McClellan (Convener), Gillian Fagan and Diane Molyneux|
|Legal Assessor||Graeme Dalgleish|
|Servicing Officer||Aga Adamczyk|
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;
- the ‘Register’ means the GTC Scotland register of teachers;
- the ‘SPR’ means the GTC Scotland Standard for Provisional Registration; and
- the ‘SFR’ means the GTC Scotland Standard for Full Registration.
The Panel received late papers in respect of the Applicant’s health. The Panel accepted legal advice from the Legal Assessor about fairness and the interests of justice. These papers contain information about a number of the Applicant’s [redacted]
The Applicant has explained the late production of this information and the Panel considered it was fair and appropriate to allow these papers to be admitted into the evidence.
A GTC Scotland Disciplinary Sub-Committee directed on 31 May 2010 that the Applicant be removed from the Register as a result of finding his conduct fell short of the standard expected of a registered teacher. He was prohibited from seeking restoration to the Register for a period of 12 months.
The charge found proved was as follows, except that it was found there was no evidence to substantiate the charge in respect of Kirkcaldy High School, to letters sent by the respondent, or to the threatening nature of written communications.
‘between November 2006 and December 2007, whilst a registered teacher, you did act in an unprofessional, inappropriate, aggressive and threatening way towards representatives of Stirling Council, Fife Council and Kirkcaldy High School, Dundee City Council and the City of Edinburgh Council, and did send to the said aforementioned representatives letters and emails containing language which was unprofessional, inappropriate, abusive and threatening, and in the course of meetings and telephone calls with said representatives did use language which was unprofessional, inappropriate abusive and threatening.’
In accordance with the Rules, an application made for registration subsequent to the removal from the Register described above, required to be considered by a Fitness to Teach Panel at a hearing.
Findings of Fact
The Panel had before it a copy of the following documents:
Notice of Subsequent Registration Application Hearing, dated 8 June 2023
Applicant’s response to Notice of SRA Full Hearing
Procedural decision, dated 22 March 2023
Email communication with the Applicant regarding full hearing, dated 9 March 2023 – 3 August 2023
Case Management Directions, dated 9 March 2023
SRA application with evidence
Letter to Mr O’Connor with decision annex, dated 31 May 2010
Medical evidence from the Applicant
Evidence from the Applicant
The Applicant made his opening statement and gave evidence. He told the Panel that in the late 2000s he had lived in Scotland but it was unknown to him then that he was beginning to suffer from, and was [redacted]. In 2009, he said he had “panicked” about his career and there had been no excuse for what he had done. He said that he had been frightened, anxious and worried and he had taken that out on people. He said that his conduct was inexcusable. He said he had [redacted] He said he was in denial of his [redacted] at that stage and that had back-fired badly.
The Applicant said that he presently works as a part-time tutor and also supports students with special educational needs. He told the Panel about three of his students with special needs whom he had successfully tutored. He said that he wanted to resume teaching in mainstream schools, but would not seek any management positions as that was too stressful. He said that he knew his limits and would initially seek part-time work. He said that he was interested in doing a dyslexia teaching course, and knew that he could not cope with any management position.
The Applicant said he was wearing a black armband today as he had learned to admit to weakness. He told the Panel about two of his colleagues and friends who had died prematurely, one being a friend who had died as a result of a car accident in which the Applicant was also involved.
In response to Panel questions, the Applicant told the Panel about his coping [redacted]. He said that he practised breathing exercises, yoga and physical fitness which also helped him to dissipate his negative energy. He said that he now recognised he could not do certain things, notably undertake any management role. [redacted].
The Applicant said he had been a tutor for 12 years and that had its own challenges. He had previously worked in “tough” schools in London and he recognised that he must not take on too much and that was why he had left London. He said that education was a caring profession but he had found that any signs of weakness were problematic. He knew he was rather paranoid at times but that had been his experience.
The Applicant told the Panel about the unpleasant, recent breakdown of his long term relationship and that he had managed to control himself in those difficult circumstances. He said he would withdraw himself immediately from any situation with pupils if it became too stressful.
[redacted]. He said he would never say that he can do more than he can. He said that he had trained as a Counsellor in 2014 and had been supervised in that role, and that process had been useful as it had allowed him to recognise and deal with his stress.
The Applicant said that in the last few years, he had been tutoring and focussed on that. He had accessed the curriculum when necessary through contact with his student’s schools. When he could afford it he said he intended to complete various courses and had been seeking roles as a mentor or classroom supervisor. He said he needed the income, but it was rather a catch-22 issue as he could not move forward until he was registered. The Applicant said that he had a number of students at present, although not enough to make a living. He conducted that work remotely at present.
In his closing statement, the Applicant told the Panel that he wanted to thank the GTC Scotland. He said that he had explained his actions, but that was not an excuse and if he could, he would apologise to those involved. [redacted] and provided the Panel with evidence of this. He said he was seeking to gain employment and show that he was dependable, adaptable and successful given his experience tutoring. He said that he wanted to keep teaching as he had been inspired by his late colleagues. The Applicant stated that he was content to undertake courses [redacted] as may be required by the Panel should it consider conditional registration.
Findings on Fitness to Teach
The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred it to the GTCS guidance note “Subsequent Registration Applications Practice Statement.” The Panel must weigh and assess all the evidence before it, including the live evidence from the Applicant. The Panel should consider, in particular, any evidence of insight and remediation of the Applicant’s conduct which led to the 2010 finding. The Panel must also be mindful of the wider public interest. Its role is to decide whether the Applicant has demonstrated that he is currently fit to teach and meets the standards required of a registered teacher.
The Panel decided that the Applicant is fit to teach in that he now meets the standards expected of a registered teacher. The Panel reached this decision for the following reasons.
The Panel considered all the evidence before it and accepted the legal advice. It considered the evidence from the Applicant and found him open, honest and candid. He sought to assist the Panel and was respectful of the Panel and the process. The Panel found that he has reflected at length on [redacted] and that he has developed strategies to seek to cope with them. The evidence about [redacted] was independent, credible and reliable and it was supported by and consistent with the Applicant’s live evidence.
The Panel found that the Applicant had carefully reflected on the findings in 2010 in respect of his conduct and behaviour in 2008. He had reflected on his life at that time, [redacted], and the impact on his behaviour of [redacted]. He did not seek to excuse or deflect responsibility for his conduct which he described repeatedly as “inexcusable”. He said that, if he could, he would apologise to those involved at that time.
The Panel found that the Applicant demonstrated good reflection and insight. [redacted].
The Panel was mindful that the original allegation was not concerned with the Applicant’s professional competence. It noted that, in any event, in his evidence, he said that if he were to face difficulties in managing [redacted] in the classroom he would immediately remove himself. He was also very clear that he would not seek any management role as he was conscious that he was not able to deal with the stress those roles involved.
The Panel found that whilst some risk remains, in light of the Applicant’s good insight, remorse and reflection, the risk of repetition of the conduct which led to the 2010 GTC Scotland finding is low.
The Panel next considered whether the Applicant was keeping his professional practice up to date. He is working successfully as a tutor and he explained to the Panel that he kept up to date with the subjects on which he tutors. The Panel found that he expressed a passion for teaching and particularly for teaching children with special needs, including children on the autistic spectrum. He has successfully done so for about 12 years.
The Panel accepted the evidence in his application and in his live evidence that the Applicant has completed a number of relevant courses and attended conferences to keep his professional knowledge up to date. Given his circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the Applicant had demonstrated that he has made good and sufficient efforts to keep his professional practice up to date. Despite his difficult personal circumstances, the Panel found that the Applicant can be commended for his perseverance and diligence, and it concluded that he has sufficiently remediated his conduct.
The Panel was also provided with a number of positive testimonials from the parents of a number of his students, one of whom spoke of the Applicant’s “patience, determination and rigorous preparations.”
The Panel was mindful that the Applicant’s competence has never been in question. The Panel found that there is a public interest in restoring to the Register a teacher who has demonstrated that he has good insight and who has positively and openly dealt with [redacted] and remediated his conduct. Based upon the evidence before the Panel, the Applicant’s [redacted] are now well managed, and the Applicant has demonstrated that he has fully acknowledged and recognises his [redacted], and he is well aware of the importance of managing his stress levels.
The Panel was satisfied that the Applicant has successfully demonstrated that the risk of repetition of his conduct which led to the 2010 finding is low. Furthermore, the Panel was satisfied that he has sufficiently remediated in large part by way of fully acknowledging and positively managing [redacted].
Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the Applicant has demonstrated that he is fit to teach.
As the Panel determined that the Applicant is fit to teach, subject to him otherwise meeting the GTC Scotland registration requirements (as specified in the Registration and Standards Rules), it directed that the Applicant, provided that he is otherwise eligible for registration, be granted full registration in Secondary Education: History, and full registration in Additional Support Needs.