Full Hearing – Paul Graham
|Date||2, 3, 4, 9 November 2022; 7, 8, 9 December 2022; and 11, 12 May 2023|
|Registration Category||Primary Education|
|Panel||Alison Reid (Convener), Michele Knight and Helen James|
|Legal Assessor||Patricia Comiskey|
|Servicing Officer||Hannah Oakley|
|Presenting Officer||Jennifer McPhee, Anderson Strathern|
|Teacher’s Representative||Graeme Watson, Clyde and Co|
Any reference in this decision to:
- ‘GTC Scotland’ or ‘GTCS’ 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.
At the end of day 4 of the full hearing, 9 November 2022, and following hearing the evidence of Witness 11, an application was made by the Presenting Officer for the statement of Witness 10, dated 21 October 2019, to be admitted as hearsay evidence. The Presenting Officer advised that Witness 10 had confirmed that she was unable to attend the hearing due to recently [redacted]. The Presenting Officer acknowledged the Teacher’s position that there was some difference between the statement Witness 10 had provided to the Local Authority and the statement she provided to GTC Scotland, and that the Teacher/Representative would not have the opportunity to cross examine her. However, the Presenting Officer advised that this could be addressed in parties’ Stage 1 submissions. The Presenting Officer submitted that the statement was relevant to proceedings and it was fair to admit it, particularly as the witness was only unable to attend due to an emergency situation.
The Teacher’s Representative advised that the Teacher did not object to the Presenting Officer’s application, and stated that submissions could be made regarding the weight that should be attached to the evidence of Witness 10, which would ultimately be a matter for the Panel. The Teacher’s Representative confirmed that he would not intend to make an application for the Panel to order Witness 10 to attend for the purpose of cross examining her.
The Panel had careful regard to parties’ submissions, the Witnesses and Hearsay Evidence Practice Statement and the relevant Rules, namely 1.7.17 and 1.7.23. The Panel was also directed to the cases of Thorneycroft v Nursing and Midwifery Council  EWHC 1565 (Admin) and El Karout v Nursing and Midwifery Council  EWHC 28 (Admin).
The Panel considered that reasonable steps had been taken to secure Witness 10’s attendance, and that she had responded and provided a good reason as to why she was unable to attend. It noted that having a good reason for not attending did not automatically mean the statement should be admitted. The Panel noted that Witness 10’s evidence was the sole and decisive evidence for allegation 6(c). Part of her evidence was accepted by the Teacher, but he disputed kissing her on the cheek. The Panel noted that Witness 10 would not be available for cross-examination but it would be a matter for it to determine what weight to attach to her evidence in light of this. The Panel considered that the content of Witness 10’s statement was relevant and that it was fair to admit it in all the circumstances. The Panel also noted that the application was not objected to.
As such, the Panel decided to grant the Presenting Officer’s application for Witness 10’s evidence to be admitted into evidence as hearsay.
At the same time as making her hearsay application, the Presenting Officer made an application for the full hearing to be adjourned at the end of that day, 9 November 2022, to reconvene until 7 December 2022. The Teacher was due to give evidence that afternoon and the hearing had originally been scheduled to continue on Friday 11 November 2022. The application, under Rule 1.7.12, was made as the Presenting Officer had been called to the High Court as a witness on 11 November. The Presenting Officer therefore sought to close her case by reading Witness 10’s statement into the record, at which time proceedings should be adjourned. The Presenting Officer advised that the Teacher’s evidence would more than likely take longer than the afternoon, and it would be unfair for him to remain under oath for such a prolonged period. She also submitted that it was appropriate to hear from the Teacher’s witnesses immediately after his evidence.
The Teacher’s Representative did not oppose the Presenting Officer’s application, and in fact agreed that an adjournment was the most appropriate course of action in the circumstances. The Teacher’s Representative agreed that the Teacher’s evidence would likely take longer than the time originally scheduled. He submitted that a situation where the Teacher is under oath for a month is not just and should be avoided. The Teacher’s Representative stated that he anticipated being able to deal with the Teacher’s Stage 1 and Stage 2 evidence together, but that he would likely need to call the Teacher as a witness again at Stage 2 if there was to be a large gap in his evidence.
The Panel had careful regard to parties’ submissions, the Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence Practice Statement, and the relevant Rules, namely Rules 1.7.12 and 1.7.14. The Panel considered that it was in the public interest for the case to be concluded expeditiously, as well as in the interests of the Teacher given the prolonged time in which the Teacher had been subject to the fitness to teach process. However, the Panel noted that both parties were for the case being adjourned and agreed that it would be unfair and unjust for the Teacher to be under oath for an extended period if his evidence was not concluded. The Panel noted that two Teacher witnesses would require to be rescheduled, but considered that any inconvenience caused to them did not outweigh the parties’ interest in the hearing being adjourned.
The Panel determined that it was fair and just to grant the Presenting Officer’s application and ordered that the hearing be adjourned at the conclusion of the Presenting Officer’s case, to reconvene on 7 December 2022. The Panel advised the parties that, whilst it appreciated their optimism in being able to conclude the case in the remaining time, the Panel could not be rushed in its deliberations and parties had to be mindful that there was a chance the hearing would not conclude in the scheduled time and further dates would require to be arranged.
Late Papers (Supplementary Statements)
On day 5 of the hearing, 7 December 2022, and prior to the Teacher giving evidence at Stage 1, the Teacher’s Representative made an application on the Teacher’s behalf for the submission of late papers into evidence. The late papers consisted of a supplementary statement of the Teacher along with appendices, and supplementary statements of Witness 13 and Witness 14, who were due to give evidence at Stage 2 of proceedings. The Teacher’s Representative explained that, whilst the Teacher’s supplementary statement was dated a month prior, he was awaiting the signed statements of Witness 13 and Witness 14. Witness 14 had ultimately been unable to sign his statement by this stage, but could be asked about this when he provided his oral evidence. The supplementary statements provided up to date information regarding the Teacher’s fitness to teach.
The Presenting Officer did not object to the submission of the late papers and confirmed she had no other comment to make other than drawing the Panel’s attention to the date of the Teacher’s supplementary statement, which had been highlighted by the Teacher’s Representative.
The Panel had regard to Rule 1.7.17, which states that ‘subject to the requirements of relevance and fairness, a Panel may admit oral, documentary or other evidence, whether or not such evidence would be admissible in civil or criminal proceedings in the United Kingdom.’ It considered that it was fair to the Teacher to admit the supplementary statements given the length of time that had passed since their original statements were written, and that it would be helpful for the Panel to have this more up to date information with regards to where the Teacher is now. The Panel therefore decided to grant the Teacher’s application and admit the late papers into evidence.
Late Papers (Testimonials)
On day 8 of the Full Hearing, 11 May 2023, and following the oral evidence of Witness 13 at Stage 2, the Teacher’s Representative made an application on the Teacher’s behalf for the submission of late papers into evidence. The late papers consisted of five testimonials and the associated emails confirming the sources of the testimonials. These testimonials dated from October 2022, shortly before the Full Hearing commenced, and had been sought to provide the Panel with up to date information on the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Teacher’s Representative submitted that the testimonials were squarely relevant to the issue of current impairment and that it was fair to admit them.
The Presenting Officer advised that she did not object to the admission of the late papers. She had been provided with fair notice of these papers and opportunity to raise concerns. The Presenting Officer agreed that the documents were relevant to Stage 2 of proceedings and provided the Panel with up to date information regarding the Teacher.
The Panel had regard to Rule 1.7.17. The Panel considered that it was sensible for it to have relevant, up to date information relating to the Teacher’s fitness to teach and that this was fair to the Teacher, particularly in light of the length of proceedings. As such, the Panel decided to grant the Teacher’s application and admitted the late papers into evidence.
The following allegation(s) were considered at the hearing:
Between in or around August 2016 and on or around 28 February 2018, whilst employed in various teaching roles by East Ayrshire Council, the Teacher did:
- Act inappropriately towards Colleague A in that you did:
- on or around 18 August 2017, rub your hand on her leg and disclose sexually explicit details of your private life;
- on another occasion disclose sexually explicit details of your private life; and
- on multiple occasions touch, rub and squeeze her shoulders with your hands.
- Between in or around August 2016 and in or around February 2017, and thereafter between in or around August 2017 and in or around February 2018 whilst at Bellsbank Primary School, act inappropriately towards Colleague B in that you did on multiple occasions:
- rub her neck, back and shoulders with your hands;
- touch her hair; and
- in or around October 2016, after having been spoken to by your line manager about inappropriate touching of colleagues, put your arms around Colleague B’s body.
- Between in or around August 2016 and in or around October 2016, whilst at Bellsbank Primary School, act inappropriately towards Colleague C in that you did on multiple occasions, rub her back and shoulders with your hands.
- Whilst working in the East Ayrshire Support Team, act inappropriately towards Colleague D in that you did:
- put your arms around her body; and
- on or around 31st January 2018 kiss her on her lips.
- On multiple occasions between in or around August 2017 and in or around February 2018, act inappropriately towards Colleague E in that you did repeatedly touch and rub her back with your hands.
- On multiple occasions between August 2017 and February 2018 whilst at Bellsbank Primary School and Shortlees Primary School, act inappropriately towards Colleague F in that you did:
- rub her neck, back and shoulders with your hands;
- put your arms around her waist; and
- in or around February 2018 kiss her on the cheek.
- Between in or around January 2018 and in or around February 2018, act inappropriately towards Colleague G in that you did disclose sexually explicit details of your private life to her.
- In or around January 2018, whilst at Dalmellington Primary School, act inappropriately towards Colleague H in that you did place your hands on top of her hands and kiss her on the forehead
- On or around 21 February 2018, act inappropriately towards Colleague A and Colleague G in that you did place your arms around their shoulders.
- Your actions at all of the allegations above were of a sexually motivated nature.
The Teacher admitted allegations 1(a); 1(b); 1(c); 2(a); 2(b); 2(c); 3; 4(a); 4(b); 5; 6(a); 6(b); 7; 8; and 9. The Teacher denied allegations 6(c) and 10 and denied that he is unfit to teach. The Teacher stated that he would admit allegation 6(c) subject to clarifying that the kiss was on Colleague F’s forehead and not her cheek.
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
- Local Authority Investigation Report dated 9 May 2018 with appendices including:
- Appendix 1 – witness statement of Witness 1 dated 20 Match 2018
- Appendix 2 – witness statement of Witness 2 dated 20 March 2018
- Appendix 3 – witness statement of Witness 3 dated 20 March 2018
- Appendix 4 – witness statement of Witness 4 dated 19 March 2018
- Appendix 5 – witness statement of Witness 10 dated 26 March 2018
- Appendix 6 – witness statement of Witness 9 dated 16 March 2018
- Appendix 7A – witness statement of Witness 8 dated 16 March 2018
- Appendix 7B – witness statement of Witness 8 dated 1 May 2018
- Appendix 8A – witnesstatement of Witness 5 dated 19 March 2018
- Appendix 8B – witness statement of Witness 5 dated 16 April 2018
- Appendix 8C – witness statement of Witness 5 dated 9 April 2018
- Appendix 9 – witness statement of Witness 7 dated 19 March 2018
- Appendix 10A – witness statement of Witness 6 dated 19 March 2018
- Appendix 10B – witness statement of Witness 6 dated 16 April 2018
- Appendix 11 – witness statement of Witness 4 dated 18 April 2018
- Appendix 12 – email from Witness 11 dated 20 April 2018
- Appendix 13 – investigatory interview with the Teacher dated 29 March 2018
- GTCS Witness Statements
- Witness 1 – [redacted], Bellsbank Primary School (attended hearing)
- Witness 2 – [redacted], Bellsbank Primary School (attended hearing)
- Witness 3 – [redacted], Bellsbank Primary School (attended hearing)
- Witness 4 – [redacted], Bellsbank Primary School (attended hearing)
- Witness 5 – [redacted], East Ayrshire Support Team (attended hearing)
- Witness 6 – [redacted], East Ayrshire Support Team (attended hearing)
- Witness 7 – [redacted], East Ayrshire Support Team (attended hearing)
- Witness 8 – [redacted], East Ayrshire Support Team (attended hearing)
- Witness 9 – [redacted], East Ayrshire Support Team (attended hearing)
- Witness 10 – [redacted], Shortlees Primary School
- Witness 11 – [redacted], Dalmellington Primary School (attended hearing)
- Teacher’s Response to Notification of Investigation dated 22 November 2018
- Email from Teacher’s Representative dated 3 March 2020
- Statement from Colleague 1, [redacted], North Bute Primary School, dated 3 March 2020
- Email from Teacher’s Representative dated 7 May 2020 with appendices:
- [redacted], stamped 27 April 2018
- Letter from [redacted] dated 6 September 2018
- Letter from Medical Professional 1, dated 11 September 2018
- [redacted], stamped 2 November 2018
- Screenshots in relation to Teacher’s participation in Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace modular course
Teacher’s Hearing Papers
- Statement of the Teacher, dated 23 November 2020
- Letter from [redacted], dated 6 September 2018
- [redacted], dated 27 April 2018
- Letter from Medical Professional 1, dated 11 September 2018
- [redacted], dated 2 November 2018
- CLPL Log
- Reflections on the standard for CLPL
- Emotional intelligence at work course, April 2020
- Reflections on emotional intelligence course
- Covid-19: Tackling the novel coronavirus, April 2020
- Makaton Taster Session – Classroom Commands, dated 18 November 2020
- Reflections on behaviour between 2016 and 2018
- Reflections on the Code of Professionalism and Conduct
- Minutes of mentoring meeting, dated 28 September 2020
- Minutes of mentoring meeting, dated 27 October 2020
- Minutes of mentoring meeting, dated 18 November 2020
- Reflections on mentoring sessions
- Statement of Witness 13, dated 31 August 2021, and exhibited testimonial dated 20 September 2020 (attended hearing)
- Testimonial of Witness 14, dated 26 October 2020 (attended hearing)
- Statement of Witness 14, dated 18 June 2021, and exhibited testimonial, dated 6 May 2020
- Statement of Colleague 2, dated 6 August 2021, and exhibited testimonial dated 23 November 2020
- Teacher’s Notice of Case Form, dated 23 November 2020
Servicing Officer’s Hearing Papers
- Notice of Investigation, dated 7 November 2018
- Notice of Full Hearing, dated 28 September 2020, with delivery receipt
- Supplementary witness statement of the Teacher dated 2 November 2022
- Supplementary witness statement of Witness 13 dated 1 December 2022
- Supplementary witness statement of Witness 14, undated.
- Testimonial of Colleague 3, dated 27 October 2022, with email correspondence confirming Colleague 3 as author of testimonial
- Testimonial of Colleague 4, dated 25 October 2022
- Testimonial of Colleague 5, dated 27 October 2022, with email correspondence confirming Colleague 5 as author of testimonial
- Testimonial of Colleague 6, dated 27 October 2022, with email correspondence confirming Colleague 6 as author of testimonial
- Testimonial of Colleague 7, dated 24 October 2022, with email correspondence confirming Colleague 7 as author of testimonial.
Summary of Evidence
The Panel heard the following witnesses give their oral testimony as follows:
Witness 1 is referred to as Colleague C in the allegations.
At the outset of her evidence, Witness 1 read her statement, dated 24 September 2019, aloud and confirmed that it was true and accurate.
Witness 1 spoke to the Teacher already working at Bellsbank Primary School when she started work there in August 2016. She had a friendly and professional relationship with the Teacher, in the same way she did with all other members of staff, and they did not see each other outside of work. Witness 1 was new to the school and staff team, having just finished her probationary year. The Teacher worked on a one-to-one basis with a pupil with Additional Support Needs (ASN), and would support the pupil in class and take him to do activities outside the classroom.
Witness 1 stated that she would encounter the Teacher around the school in breaks and at lunch, as well as in the computer room. The school’s computer room had around 20 computers for the use of pupils and staff. Witness 1 would use her class non-contact time to complete planning and any other tasks and would work in the computer room. The Teacher’s pupil was on a reduced timetable, so Witness 1 assumed the Teacher was also in the computer room due to having non-contact time.
Witness 1 stated that she would be sitting in the room facing the computer, with her right side facing the door which was usually shut. She would see the Teacher come in and assume he was going to use one of the other computers. The Teacher would come up behind her and massage both of her shoulders with his hands, and would sometimes take one of his hands and rub it around the top or middle of her back using his palm. This would usually last for 1 to 2 minutes. Witness 1 stated that when the Teacher touched her, it was always a surprise. She did not know he was right behind her until he placed his hands on her shoulders. The Teacher had no reason to approach the area she was sitting in and there was never an invitation for him to touch her. The touching was unwanted and it made her uncomfortable, worried and anxious.
Witness 1 stated that she would freeze up and become tense. She never said anything or verbalised that the touching was unwelcome, but would face forwards without looking at the Teacher. She stated that her body language would be tense and stiff, so would not be encouraging. Witness 1 never indicated to the Teacher that he could touch her or that she needed any support. The Teacher would always say something like ’alright kid, how are you getting on?’ It sounded very friendly and encouraging but the touching and rubbing felt inappropriate. Witness 1 stated that there was never anyone else present in the room when the Teacher touched her.
Witness 1 stated that she did not consider the Teacher was in a position of power or authority necessarily, but she was new to the profession and he was already an experienced and established part of the school, so there was an imbalance there.
Witness 1 stated that the touching probably went on for a couple of months between August 2016 and October 2016 before she said anything to anyone. She eventually spoke to a colleague, Witness 2, who was also new to the school and just out of her probation year. Witness 2 shared a similar experience and they then mentioned it to a member of management, who advised them to raise this with the headteacher, which they did.
Witness 1 stated that, at the time, she did not think that the Teacher’s actions were sexual in nature. She would take massaging as being sexual, but the conversation from the Teacher that accompanied the touching was kind and encouraging. She did not feel as though the Teacher was intending for his actions to lead anywhere. Witness 1 stated that, at the time, she also did not make the connection that it was only happening when she was alone. It was only when she spoke to other colleagues about it that she realised that the Teacher might not just be being friendly, as he was only doing it to female members of staff, and those who were younger and newer to the profession. Witness 1 stated that the Teacher did not do this to male colleagues or older colleagues who had been working at the school longer.
Witness 1 stated that she did not believe the experience had impacted her work life, but that she would be worried and would feel uncomfortable if she knew the Teacher was returning to work. In her view, the touching was not appropriate behaviour for a teacher. She stated that she would now challenge such inappropriate behaviour if she saw something similar happening to a colleague.
Witness 2 is referred to as Colleague B in the allegations.
At the outset of her evidence, Witness 2 read her statement, dated 28 September 2019, aloud and confirmed that it was true and accurate.
Witness 2 stated that she finished her probation year in [redacted] and got a permanent class teacher job at Bellsbank Primary School. She knew the Teacher through his work with a pupil in her class who had ASN. The Teacher would provide one-to-one support with this pupil, and she was told on her first day at the school that the Teacher would be with her full-time to support him. In around February 2017, it was decided that the Teacher would be best placed in another school due to the pupil making good progress, and Witness 2 then had a classroom assistant in her class instead of the Teacher.
Witness 2 stated that she initially trusted the Teacher ‘whole-heartedly’ but within a few weeks, started to feel an uneasiness around him.
Witness 2 stated that her classroom was square shaped and arranged with computers around the outside, meaning that your back was always facing the classroom if you were sitting at a computer. Most mornings, she would sit at her computer getting everything sorted for the day, and her door would be open. The Teacher would walk in very quietly without saying anything, come up behind her and put his hands on the top of her shoulders near her neck. He would massage her back, neck or shoulders a few times and would then run his hands up and down her arms, or run his hand down her back. The Teacher would also approach her from behind and put two arms around Witness 2 in a big embrace and say something like ‘how are you today kid?’ He would sometimes have a hand on her shoulder and flick her hair, or if her hair was in the way, he would move it in order to massage her shoulders.
Witness 2 stated that this always made her feel uncomfortable and would only happen when she was alone. Witness 2 stated that the Teacher must have felt how tense she was. She would immediately stand up and turn so that her body language showed she did not like it. However, none of this made a difference.
Witness 2 stated that the touching also happened on a few occasions in the computer room, which had a similar layout to her classroom. She would sit in the corner of the room, diagonal to the door, so the Teacher would have to walk right across to the other side of the room to get to her and he would have plenty of time to say something.
Witness 2 stated that the incidents occurred most days from August 2016, and that she started modifying her behaviour within a few weeks because of the Teacher. She wanted to take back some control and ensure she was not an easy target. She stated that she learned to close her classroom door so that she could hear the Teacher coming, and could position herself in a way that she could see him coming towards her and could remove herself from the situation. If she heard the Teacher come in, she would stand up and turn round to face him. Sometimes, this would change the Teacher’s behaviour and he would then not come over to massage her or cuddle her.
Witness 2 stated that the Teacher never asked her if he could touch her, and she never confided in him in any way that would cause him to think he needed to support or comfort her. She felt dread and worry coming into school because of these incidents. Witness 2 was unsure how to approach the issue and talk to anyone about it because she was young, newly qualified and new to the school. The Teacher was quite well known in the Local Authority and had a high level of expertise in teaching. She felt that as a newcomer, she could not say anything, as she was still getting to grips with a new school and the management. However, she eventually spoke to Witness 1, who told Witness 2 the Teacher was doing the same thing to her. They raised it with the Principal Teacher who subsequently raised it with the Headteacher. Witness 2 was aware that the Headteacher spoke to the Teacher and explained to him that he should not put his hands on people. Immediately after he was spoken to, the Teacher came into Witness 2’s classroom crying and asking her why she had reported him. He then gave her a cuddle, and Witness 2 said she had reported him because of behaviours like this. The Teacher stated that they should have told him, but Witness 2 explained that it was awkward and they did not know how to approach the situation. Witness 2 stated that she just stood with her hands by her sides, hoping that the Teacher would leave quickly. He kept saying that he was sorry, that he had been ‘pulled up for this before’, and that he could not believe it was happening again.
Witness 2 stated that it was a horrible experience, and when the Teacher left, she went straight to one of her colleagues and was in tears. Her colleague had to take her class because she was in such an upset state.
Witness 2 stated that the Teacher was removed from the school in February 2017 and returned in August 2017, where the same behaviours started to creep back in after a few weeks. She spoke to her Principal Teacher, who spoke to the Headteacher, and the matter was passed on to the Local Authority.
Witness 2 stated that she did not think the Teacher was carrying out this behaviour with any of the teachers who had been at the school for a long time, or any of the older staff. She and the other colleagues who were being targeted were all around 22-23 years of age. They felt they were being targeted because they were perhaps believed to be more vulnerable or gullible, and unlikely to say anything. Witness 2 stated that, at the time, there were only two other males working in the school, the janitor and the Headteacher.
Witness 2 stated that, initially, she thought the Teacher was perhaps just a ‘touchy-feely’ person and that it was just his demeanour. However, she now thinks that the Teacher was trying to create more than a friendship. Whilst she does not think he was trying to do it in a sexual manner, there was perhaps intent there that went beyond friendship. Witness 2 stated that she does believe that the Teacher’s actions could be perceived as being sexualised. She stated that she did not provide consent for anyone to touch her and that the Teacher’s behaviour was very unprofessional. She stated that she does not know the purpose of the Teacher’s behaviour, but he would always have [redacted] and would speak about issues in his personal life, whilst sharing a lot of personal information.
Witness 2 stated that she will now never leave her classroom door open if she is working in there alone. She is now very aware of any male presence in the room with her. She stated that she worked with a male supporter from the start of 2019, and it took her a very long time to trust him. She did not want to talk to this colleague about anything personal and it took her over a full term to feel able to converse with him properly. This colleague was young and fairly new to the supporting role, but was strictly professional and never touched her or entered her personal space. She has also worked with another male supporter in her classroom, and was also initially anxious with him. This would have been unusual for her prior to the allegations.
Witness 3 is referred to as Colleague E in the allegations.
At the outset of her evidence, Witness 3 read her statement, dated 20 August 2019, aloud and confirmed that it was true and accurate.
Witness 3 graduated in [redacted] and at the time of the allegations, had been working at Bellsbank Primary School for less than a year. She met the Teacher when she started working at Bellsbank and had taken over Witness 10’s class when Witness 10 left the school. The Teacher supported a child in Witness 3’s class who needed support with behaviour management. The child would come in at around 10:00am and leave at lunch, but the Teacher would usually arrive before her at around or before 9:00am. Witness 3 did the planning for the child and the Teacher did not need to set anything up, and she was therefore unsure as to what the Teacher was doing between his arrival and the child starting school. He would stand about the classroom and watch her teach or would go into the computer room until the child arrived.
Witness 3 stated that the Teacher made her feel quite uncomfortable. She stated that he would sometimes address her when he came into the classroom by saying ‘hiya kid’, but that there were also times he did not make his presence known and would linger in the room without her realising he was there. Witness 3 would turn round and the Teacher would suddenly be there.
Witness 3 stated that she would work on the computer in her classroom with her back to the door, and the Teacher would come up behind her and rub her back or generally touch her. The Teacher would usually put both his hands on her back and shoulders, doing a ‘rubbing’ motion. Witness 3 would be sitting so would be lower than the Teacher, and it would therefore be on the top half of her back. This happened once or twice a week and made Witness 3 feel very uncomfortable. The Teacher only did this when Witness 3 was alone and never did it with others present. Witness 3 stated she would freeze and felt helpless. Witness 3 described one particular occasion when she was feeling a bit stressed and was talking to the Teacher. The Teacher said ’don’t worry kid’ and Witness 3 went to sit down. The Teacher then came up behind her and started rubbing her back.
Witness 3 described feeling uncomfortable and awkward when these incidents happened. She felt helpless and would freeze and be paralysed. She began to feel anxious knowing that the Teacher would be coming into the classroom. She would actively try and avoid situations where she would be with him on a one-to-one basis or where she would be in the classroom alone for long periods of time.
Witness 3 spoke to Witness 2 about what was happening, and was advised that she needed to speak to the headteacher, as it had happened before. Witness 3 stated that she felt relief that this was not only happening to her, and spoke to another colleague who also advised her to go to the headteacher, Witness 4. Witness 3 did this and specifically asked Witness 4 to tell the Teacher not to approach her about the matter, as she felt so uncomfortable. She stated that talking about it still makes her feel uncomfortable.
Witness 3 stated that she did not know why the Teacher was rubbing her back and shoulders. She stated that one of her biggest fears when the situation came to light was that the Teacher would come to speak to her about it, as she does not like confrontation and did not want to be put in that position. Witness 3 stated that she would always ask permission from someone before touching them, and that it was vital to get consent to touch any part of someone else’s body. Witness 3 was unsure if the Teacher’s actions were sexually motivated.
At the outset of his evidence, Witness 4 read his statement aloud and confirmed that it was true and accurate.
Witness 4 is [redacted] of Bellsbank Primary School, and has been in this role since 2011. At the time of the allegations, there were five classes in the school and all the teachers were female, largely under the age of 45 years. Witness 1, Witness 2 and Witness 10 were the youngest staff members and were all at an early stage of their careers.
Witness 4 became aware of an issue when one of his Principal Teachers came to see him with concerns about the Teacher’s manner in the classroom. The Teacher was reportedly making colleagues feel uncomfortable. He spoke to the teachers, Witness 1, Witness 2 and Witness 10, and they they told him that the Teacher was ‘touchy-feely’ and was putting his hands on their shoulders. No one said there was any sexual motivation, but they were all clear that the Teacher’s behaviour had made them feel uncomfortable. Witness 4 could not remember specifically what each colleague told him, and he did not take minutes or notes of these meetings. However, they all appeared distressed.
Witness 4 spoke to the Teacher, who was shocked at being spoken to. He told the Teacher that a number of staff had come to him feeling uncomfortable about the way the Teacher was touching them. The Teacher was surprised and stated that he had no intention of upsetting anyone. The Teacher apologised to the individual members of staff one-to-one, and everyone was happy to move on from it. Witness 4 stated that after this discussion, he thought he had made it clear to the Teacher that his behaviour was inappropriate. However, it then happened again.
Witness 3, who had replaced Witness 10 when she left Bellsbank Primary, came to him and told him that she felt uncomfortable around the Teacher in the classroom. She stated that the Teacher would place his hands on her shoulders, arm and back. Witness 4 raised these concerns with the Teacher, who became tearful. He reiterated his expectations of the Teacher within the classroom and in his interactions with Witness 3. Witness 4 told the Teacher that he was to go into the classroom, focus on teaching in a professional manner and then leave straight away. He wanted to give the Teacher the benefit of the doubt and did not think there was any particular intent there. The Teacher did not provide any explanation for the touching, but Witness 4 did not ask for one. Witness 4 did not refer to COPAC, but was very specific about professionalism and that the Teacher’s behaviour had been inappropriate.
Witness 4 thought that the Teacher had crossed a boundary when he received the first complaints. He was unsure whether the Teacher just did not recognise the boundary, rather than there being more to it. This is why he had a conversation with the Teacher. However, Witness 4 described being ‘gobsmacked’ when it was brought to him again. Witness 4 felt that this made it a much more serious issue. He spoke to the Teacher a second time, who was distraught and said he was seeking help.
Witness 4 was unaware that the Teacher had gone back to Witness 2 after being spoken to the first time, asking her why she had reported him and cuddling her. His view was that this was inappropriate.
Witness 5 is referred to as Colleague G in the allegations.
At the outset of her evidence, Witness 5 read her statement, dated 27 September 2019, aloud and confirmed that it was true and accurate.
Witness 5 stated that she met the Teacher when she joined the Local Authority’s support team in 2013-2014, and he was already a member of the team. She considered the Teacher to be a work colleague with whom she had a good working relationship. She did not consider herself to have a personal relationship with the Teacher and usually only shared general ‘chit-chat’ with him. Witness 5 and her family had met up with the Teacher and his family about three times to go geocaching, and they had gone back to one of their homes on each occasion. Witness 5 acknowledged that the Teacher may have considered her a friend, but she considered him a work colleague.
In January 2018, Witness 5 had a conversation with the Teacher in which she asked how he was as they were both going to their cars. He began talking about [redacted], including sexually explicit details of their private life. Witness 5 described trying to end the conversation as she felt uncomfortable. The Teacher moved over to her and stood very close to her. Witness 5 believed she said ‘that’s enough of that’ or something similar, but the Teacher continued with the conversation. Witness 5 told the Teacher it was too much information, and this was when he stopped. Witness 5 described the topic of conversation as making her very uncomfortable. As far as she could recall, she had never had a conversation like this with the Teacher before.
Witness 5 could recall another occasion where the Teacher had encroached on her personal space and had touched her, although not in a sexualised manner. Witness 5 was aware that the Teacher had hearing issues so might stand close to hear people if they were talking.
In February 2018, the school had an in-service day covering therapeutic approaches, which Witness 5 delivered with a colleague. They noticed that the Teacher appeared to be uncomfortable with the training and was acting strangely, in that he was turning off the lights when she was trying to set up, and was walking in and out of the room. The Teacher also left the room and took a phone call whilst she was delivering the training. In the training, participants were expected to take part in a ‘safe-touch’ activity in the form of a ‘massage story’, as they were exploring ways in which the ‘Massage in Schools Programme’ (MISP) could enhance learning experiences. Witness 5 was worried about the Teacher and thought he was perhaps finding it difficult, as the training involved self-reflection and used guided imagery. Witness 5 reported her concerns about the Teacher to her manager, who spoke to the Teacher. The following week, Witness 5 was in the office with Witness 7, with both of them sitting at computers. The Teacher entered the room, closed the door, came up between them, and put his arms around both of them, whilst apologising for his behaviour at the training. The Teacher had one hand on Witness 5’s shoulder and the other on Witness 7’s shoulder. It made her feel very uncomfortable again, and she felt on ‘high alert’, as the Teacher was in her personal space without permission.
Witness 5 shared with Witness 7 her experience with the Teacher in the car park. Witness 7 stated she had also been made to feel uncomfortable by the Teacher in another situation. They shared this with Witness 6, who also shared her own experience. They then went to management with their concerns. Witness 5 described feeling concerned, particularly in light of the fact that the Teacher was an outreach teacher working in various different schools.
Witness 5 described feeling more wary of male colleagues following her experience with the Teacher, although she is now less wary and has moved forwards. She is still alert and wary with regard to her personal space. Her view of the Teacher’s behaviour was that it was inappropriate. She stated that she would feel too uncomfortable to work with the Teacher again. She did not know why the Teacher was getting into her personal space and why he told her about his sexual experiences. He had never brought up any topic of conversation like that with her previously to make him think that it was appropriate for them to talk about. Witness 5 did not know where this came from and was shocked by it.
Witness 6 is referred to as Colleague D in the allegations
At the outset of her evidence, Witness 6 read her statement, dated 2 September 2019, aloud and confirmed that it was true and accurate.
Witness 6 spoke to meeting the Teacher when her role within the behaviour support service amalgamated with the East Ayrshire Support Team. She found the Teacher to be quite ‘tactile’ when he spoke to her, which made her uncomfortable. He would talk to her with his hand on her arm or with his arm around her, for example. She commented on this to another colleague, who attributed this to the fact that the Teacher has a hearing impairment. Her colleague explained that if a person has loss in one of their senses then they tend to overcompensate with the other senses, in this case touch. Witness 6 consequently felt she could not say to the Teacher that she did not like him touching her. Witness 6 stated that she did not ever have a conversation with the Teacher where there was not some sort of physical contact from him. As when she had spoken to someone about her concerns she was made to feel as though she was being unfair, Witness 6 did not feel as though she could raise the issue. She had also gotten into a headspace where she felt she had perhaps overreacted to the Teacher being tactile and she needed to be more empathetic.
However, Witness 6 spoke to feeling as though the Teacher ‘crossed the line’ when he kissed her. She had come away from a conversation with her line manager feeling upset, and the Teacher had noticed she was visibly upset when they passed in the corridor. Witness 6 spoke to then entering her office which was a square room with the door positioned in the corner with her desk facing the corner opposite the door. She was standing with her back to the desk when the Teacher came in and gave her a ‘cuddle’ by putting his hands right around her body, with his head next to hers. This lasted around 5 seconds. As he released from the ‘cuddle’, he kissed Witness 6 on the lips. The Teacher did not say anything about the kiss and Witness 6 formed the impression that he was not aware that he had crossed a boundary. The Teacher then left to make a cup of tea, and Witness 6 felt relieved but also anxious that she did not know what to do and how to address it. Witness 6 sat at her desk, which is a ‘L’ shaped desk, so that she was facing the corner when the Teacher came back in, keeping herself tucked under the desk. He gave her the tea and she tried to give the impression that she wanted him to leave by saying something like ‘that’s great thanks, I just need to get on with this.’ Witness 6 spoke to the Teacher then putting his arm around her from the side, so she reiterated that she needed to get on with things. He tried to hug her a second time by putting his right arm around her shoulders, and then left.
Witness 6 stated that they deal with challenging situations in their work, so it was not uncommon for colleagues to give each other a hug if someone was upset, and this was not the source of her discomfort. However, a kiss was not a normal supportive measure and Witness 6 felt this was not accidental.
Witness 6 was one of the managers on the team, and whilst she was not the Teacher’s direct line manager, staff tended to speak to any manager as they are a peripatetic service. Witness 6 felt as though there were times when the Teacher ‘offloaded’, and he had spoken to her a number of times about difficulties [redacted] and the [redacted]. Witness 6 also recalled a conversation where the Teacher shared intimate details of his sex life, and this was not long before the incident where he kissed her. She felt that the conversation was more personal than she was comfortable with, but she was equally aware that he needed someone to talk and offload to. She therefore steered the conversation back to more of a general discussion about [redacted]. Witness 6 stated that the Teacher would talk about issues [redacted] on a regular basis, but it was only once that he discussed intimate details with her.
Regarding the in-service training day around therapeutic approaches, Witness 6 stated that she believed the Teacher had left the training as he had better things to do. She went to speak to him and explained that a lot of effort had been put into the training and his behaviour had been disrespectful.
Witness 6 stated that she would also receive Facebook messages from the Teacher, which she would get early in the morning as soon as she logged on and was showing as being ‘active’. She stated that around the time of the intimate conversation initiated by the Teacher and the kiss, the messages started to feel a little different to her, although she could not recall exactly why they had struck her as being different, just that they felt more personal. Witness 6 did respond to messages that were work related, which they often were, but she would not reply to any messages she was not comfortable with.
Witness 6 felt the Teacher’s behaviour was inappropriate. It left her feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable. She did not understand why the kiss happened. She stated that she would feel uncomfortable working with the Teacher again and does not trust him.
Witness 7 is referred to as Colleague A in the allegations.
At the outset of her evidence, Witness 7 read her statement, dated 23 August 2019, aloud and confirmed that it was true and accurate.
Witness 7 knew the Teacher as a colleague whilst working on the East Ayrshire Support Team, where he mentored her for a period. She stated that she was not really aware of the Teacher’s behaviour being inappropriate at the time, it just seemed to be who he was. She was aware he had a hearing impairment and thought he maybe behaved in a certain way to get people’s attention. Witness 7 stated that looking back, there were times where she was uncomfortable, but it was not until much later that she realised that the Teacher’s behaviour was inappropriate. Witness 7 stated that the Teacher would put his hand on her back or shoulder and would sometimes rub or squeeze. This would happen quite often, although not every time she saw him. She stated there were times when she would push away from him to make it clear she was not comfortable.
During in-service days in February 2018, Witness 7 delivered training with Witness 5, Witness 6 and Witness 8 around supporting young people to express thoughts and feelings through art and play, as well as ideas and strategies to support self-regulation, including massage stories and guided imagery. The staff delivering the training noticed that the Teacher seemed uncomfortable with the training, and he stood up and left the room during the guided imagery and massage story section. Witness 7 saw him go into the one of the offices and sit at a computer.
The following day, Witness 7 and Witness 5 were sat at a computer in one of the small offices, and talked about what had happened at the training. They acknowledged that they found it strange that the Teacher did not like the massage as he was a very ‘touchy’ person. This then led to them discussing the times he had touched them and how they felt uncomfortable about it. They were talking about what they would do next, when the Teacher entered the room and put his arms around both of them and tried to apologise for leaving the training. The Teacher’s head was inbetween them and he placed his hand just below Witness 7’s shoulder. Witness 7 stated that he bent down to put his arms around them so quickly that it gave them a fright. Witness 7 did not acknowledge he was there and moved away from him, which Witness 5 also did. The Teacher then left the room quite quickly. Witness 7 and Witness 5 later spoke to Witness 8 about it.
Witness 7 described an incident where the Teacher offered her a lift, and whilst in the car, put his hand on her leg and started talking about his sex life [redacted]. The Teacher was talking about sexually explicit details while his hand was on her leg. This was above the knee and was over her clothing. The Teacher rubbed her leg several times. Witness 7 felt very uncomfortable with this and did not feel it was an appropriate discussion to have with her. She had never given him any indication that she wanted to discuss these things with him. Witness 7 told the Teacher that he needed to speak to [redacted] and that this was private. She recalls the Teacher continuing the conversation even when she said this. As she went to leave the car, the Teacher started talking about [redacted], so Witness 7 felt she could not leave and made sure, using her training, that the Teacher [redacted]. Witness 7 subsequently spoke to her management team about what the Teacher had been saying.
Witness 7 also described a previous occasion where the Teacher spoke to her in detail about [redacted] sex life, and she tried to shut this down and told him he needed to speak to [redacted].
Witness 7 stated that she now believes the Teacher was trying to make her feel uncomfortable, and that he got some kind of ‘kick’ out of having these conversations with people. Witness 7 stated that, in terms of touching, there was a difference with how he interacted with male colleagues. He was friendly but she does not recall him touching any males in the same way.
At the outset of his evidence, Witness 8 read his statement, dated 6 September 2019, aloud and confirmed that it was true and accurate.
Witness 8 is a [redacted] with the East Ayrshire Support Team and had known the Teacher for at least 5 years prior to the allegations, since the Teacher joined the team. He had line management responsibilities for the Teacher at various points and did see him occasionally in a social setting.
Witness 8 first became aware of an issue following the in-service training day, where the Teacher’s behaviour had been strange. He seemed to struggle with regarding to opening up about things and was going out of his way to make it difficult for the two female colleagues delivering the training, by changing the lighting and turning off equipment that was being used. His body language made it clear he was uncomfortable and did not want to be there.
Witness 8 spoke to understanding that the Teacher had gone to see Witness 5 and Witness 7 after the training and tried to cuddle them. Witness 8 describes them speaking to him about the Teacher’s behaviour. Witness 6 came into the room and reported that the Teacher had kissed her. He could see how upset everyone was and this was the start of people talking about their experiences and the encounters they had had with the Teacher.
Witness 8 stated that the common theme seemed to be that it was females who were quite vulnerable at the time or who were in vulnerable situations, and it was always on a one-to-one basis when females were alone. Witness 8 stated that they were quite a close team, and the Teacher would rely on others quite a bit to support him, although not himself or his male colleague, Witness 9. The Teacher would speak more to certain members of staff, particularly Witness 6 and Witness 7. Witness 8 also stated that the Teacher never encroached on his personal space, nor the other males on the team.
Witness 8 described speaking to the Teacher, alongside Witness 9, and it being ‘bizarre’. Witness 9 started explaining why they were talking to him, and the Teacher slumped in his chair and quickly requested counselling. This was one of the first things he said. The Teacher then appeared to make an attempt to cry, but there were no real signs of emotion or crying. When Witness 9 asked if he had a problem crying, the Teacher let out a ‘roar’. Witness 8 stated that it appeared to be a fake attempt at crying. He then appeared to snap out of this quickly and went back to normal, which led to Witness 8 forming the opinion that he was not really upset.
Witness 8 described the Teacher holding out his arms at one point, as if to signal he wanted a hug. Witness 8 stood up and walked towards him, at which point the Teacher ‘threw’ his arms around his waist. The Teacher then put his hands and head on a unit in the room, at which point he seemed to show some real emotion. However, he came out of this quickly and slid his back down the wall until he was sitting on the floor. Witness 8 described it as a ‘performance’, and as though the Teacher was trying to work out what he needed to say, what he needed to do and how he needed to act. Witness 8 stated that the Teacher did not deny what had happened and did not accept that he was in the wrong. He did not seem to respond to questions or statements around his interaction with female members of staff.
Witness 8 stated that a headteacher in the Local Authority had previously contacted him to complain about the Teacher displaying similar behaviour to a female member of staff in his school, and that the headteacher wanted to deal with that situation internally. Witness 8 stated that he believes people had made exceptions for the Teacher and a lot of things were put down to his hearing loss.
At the outset of his evidence, Witness 9 read his statement, dated 28 August 2019, aloud and confirmed that it was true and accurate.
Witness 9 is a [redacted] within the East Ayrshire Support Team, and knew the Teacher for around 5 years prior to the allegations. He became aware of the issues with the Teacher when he was told by Witness 8 that two female colleagues had told him that the Teacher was making them feel uneasy with inappropriate touching, closeness and discussions, which had been going on for a period of time. A further colleague had then told Witness 8 that the Teacher had kissed her on the lips and tried to hug her when the two of them were alone.
Witness 9 described speaking to Witness 7 and Witness 5, and later Witness 6, and what they told him and Witness 8. Witness 9 described these colleagues as being ‘strong’, but at that time presenting as quite ‘frightened and vulnerable’. They were worried when the Teacher was in the building that they were going to run into him. They found it difficult to talk about their own experiences, despite their experience of discussing difficult situations on a professional level. Witness 9 described the colleagues becoming emotional and finding it unusual that they were unable to express themselves.
Witness 9 described meeting with the Teacher along with Witness 8, and it being difficult to describe the behaviour he exhibited at the meeting. The Teacher said he needed help and needed to see a counsellor. Witness 9 described the Teacher as ‘quite distraught, he was crying, standing up, sitting down, he ran around and also motioned to punch the wall.’ The Teacher then spoke out of the blue about a past relationship and Witness 9 formed the view that his behaviour was deflective. He was not answering questions and was trying to change the subject by saying he needed support and then discussing something unrelated.
Witness 9 described being told by Witness 6 that the Teacher would send her Facebook messages early in the morning, immediately after she opened it. He described other staff members being concerned about the Teacher’s close proximity to them, and feeling uneasy in his presence.
Witness 9 stated that the Teacher had never physically touched him. On one occasion, the Teacher told Witness 9 that he was [redacted]. However, he had not said anything sexualised to him.
Witness 10 is referred to as Colleague F in the allegations.
As Witness 10 could not attend the hearing and the Panel had decided to admit her statement, dated 21 October 2019, into evidence, the Presenting Officer read Witness 10’s statement aloud.
In her statement, Witness 10 stated that she met the Teacher when she did her probation year at Bellsbank Primary School, having qualified in [redacted]. Following her probation year, she was given a P5/6 class, and the Teacher provided support to a boy in her class up until lunchtime, Monday to Thursday.
Witness 10 stated that, a few times, the Teacher came up behind her and pressed her shoulders with his hands while saying ‘morning’. Witness 10 stated she was not a confrontational person so tended to get up and walk about or do something else to put an end to it. She stated this happened around three or four times. She stated that the Teacher would not always speak first, he would just come into her classroom and put his hands on her shoulders. He would gently squeeze her shoulders, whilst saying ‘good morning’ and this would last for a few seconds. Witness 10 stated that she did not believe the Teacher was trying to make her feel uncomfortable, but she was not a ‘touchy feely’ person. This would always happen in the morning before pupils arrived.
Witness 10 stated that once or twice, during conversation, the Teacher had put his hands so they were resting on her hips. She would walk away and continue the conversation. Witness 1 stated she did not believe this was done purposely to make her feel uncomfortable.
Witness 10 stated that when she got a new job, the Teacher came into her class and congratulated her and gave her a hug and an ‘air kiss’ but did not put his lips on her. She stated that she never thought anything the Teacher did was malicious, nor did she ever feel frightened, threatened or as though anything was sexual.
Witness 11 is referred to as Colleague H in the allegations.
At the outset of her evidence, Witness 11 read her statement, dated 7 April 2020, aloud and confirmed that it was true and accurate.
Witness 11 is [redacted] of Dallmellington Primary School and first met the Teacher in around 2014 when he taught at the academy her school were joined to, but knew him only in passing. She met him again properly in January 2018 when he was allocated to her school to support a pupil with ASN on a short term basis. He was in the school for a couple of hours in the afternoon and this only lasted a few weeks before he went off sick.
When the Teacher arrived on his first day, he came into Witness 11’s office, and they had a discussion about the background of the pupil he would be supporting. Witness 11 was telling the Teacher that they were concerned about the pupil and really needed some support, so they were glad the Teacher was with them. The Teacher said ‘don’t worry, we will all work together’ and gave her a ‘peck’ on the head. Witness 11 stated that she did not feel uncomfortable or threatened, it was more of a surprise. This happened when the Teacher was getting up to leave and Witness 11 was still sat down. The Teacher put his hand on hers as he got up and then bent down and kissed her on the forehead before leaving the office and going to the classroom. Witness 11 thought the Teacher was trying to be kind and reassuring, but was surprised and taken aback by how he had expressed this. She would expect a teacher to show kindness by appropriate facial expressions, and in what they say and how they say it. She stated that you may give someone a hug, but you should ensure you have their permission first. Witness 11 stated that she probably did minimise the incident at the time. She had never been kissed on the head by a colleague or another professional before, and stated that this is not how a teacher should be acting in a professional capacity.
Witness 11 stated that she spoke to the class teacher the Teacher was working with and described the Teacher as ‘quirky’ and said something along the lines of him being quite ‘touchy feely/quite open’. Witness 11 stated that she felt the need to comment on the Teacher to the class teacher as she may have found an interaction such as that which occurred between Witness 11 and the Teacher upsetting and uncomfortable.
At the conclusion of Witness 11’s evidence and after reading Witness 10’s statement aloud and into evidence, the Presenting Officer confirmed that she did not intend to call any further witnesses and closed her case at Stage 1.
Witness 12 – the Teacher
At the outset of his evidence, the Teacher read aloud a statement he had provided on 23 November 2020, and his supplementary statement dated 2 November 2022. He confirmed that these were true and accurate.
The Teacher provided an overview of his teaching experience and his current roles. He confirmed the allegations that were admitted, including that he admitted allegation 6(c) subject to the clarification that the kiss was on Witness 10’s head and not her cheek. The Teacher had offered Witness 10 a hug, which was accepted, and he then kissed her on the head. He did so along with verbal support as a gesture of encouragement and reassurance at the end of their conversation. He denied this was sexual.
In relation to allegation 10, the Teacher denied that any of his actions were sexually motivated. He believed he was offering support to his colleagues in response to the demanding nature of their roles. He viewed himself as offering comfort to colleagues when they were displaying symptoms of stress and uncertainty, but in retrospect sees that he was the one looking for comfort and reassurance and that he was projecting his own feelings onto his female colleagues. The Teacher detailed the importance of consent and recognised that he should have sought consent to touch his colleagues. He stated that physical touch is his motivator, and because he values this as a supportive gesture, this is what led him to use touch first. The Teacher denied getting any pleasure from sharing sexually explicit details of his private life with colleagues, although he acknowledged that Witness 7’s interpretation was valid.
In relation to allegation 9, the Teacher stated that he leaned over both colleagues and gave a group hug. He stated that he was the one who needed the hug and it was clearly not reciprocated as he felt them freeze and he realised he had caused Witness 5 and Witness 7 stress. He was offering an apology after they felt he had been disrespectful in the training. He stated that he had removed himself from the training to reduce discomfort, as he was aware of the change in his colleagues’ behaviour towards him.
In relation to allegation 2(c), the Teacher recognised that it was ‘silly’ and ‘crazy’ to hug Witness 2, and essentially do the one thing he had been told not to do. He stated that he was upset and it was an attempt to apologise, but it is something he regrets and never should have done.
In relation to allegation 4(b), the Teacher stated that Witness 6 was distressed and crying, and he provided a hug and comfort along with verbal support to help calm her. He attempted to his her on the head and this was to thank her for trusting him and to reciprocate some of the emotional support she had provided him in the previous months. He was taken by surprise when the kiss accidentally landed on her lips. The Teacher was unsure as to whether Witness 6 had lifted her head as he went to kiss her forehead, but stated he was surprised as she was. He was unsure how to react and did not want to make it into anything, so did not apologise. The Teacher stated it was a mistake and not a sexual act. After making Witness 6 a cup of tea, he leaned over and gave her a hug as he was leaving to demonstrate that he was ignoring the kiss and moving on. The Teacher stated that a few days later, Witness 6 thanked him for his support by putting a note in a ‘celebration of success’ jar. Until around a month previous, he believed this to be Witness 6’s writing and is unsure who else could have written this note. At the time, he had been proud to receive it. The Teacher stated that he understands now that his actions were totally inappropriate and he should have addressed the incident at the time, which would have enabled him to make his motivation clear.
In relation to allegations 1(a), 1(b) and 7 around inappropriate discussions with colleagues of a sexual nature, the Teacher stated that he thought these were supportive conversations between friends. He looked forward to conversations with these colleagues and never thought he was being inappropriate as it was never his perception that they were uncomfortable. The sexualised language was not directed at his colleagues, he was attempting to explain his frustrations [redacted]. He was under personal stress and was looking for reassurance. His colleagues told him he needed to speak to [redacted], but he did not perceive this as them saying they did not want him to talk about his issues. The Teacher now recognises these conversations were inappropriate and that there is a danger in having conversations of a personal nature in the workplace. He stated that he placed his hand on Witness 7’s leg as he was slowing her down and letting her know she needed to listen to him, as he was plucking up enough courage to ask her about [redacted].
The Teacher described it coming as a shock when he was made aware of complaints against him in October 2016, and feeling uneasy that he had caused distress. He felt that he had good relationships with colleagues, and no one had raised any concerns with him directly.
The Teacher stated that he did not agree that he did not wish to connect with male colleagues in the same way as his female colleagues. For example, if Witness 4 was upset, he would have offered him a hug. He stated that there is a stigma around men touching men. He stated that asking Witness 8 for a hug would not be perceived to him to be socially acceptable, and that females tend to be more supportive than males. He did not speak to his male colleagues about personal issues and sexually explicit details as it was a female’s perspective he was looking for. He thought he had the relationships with these colleagues that he could ask for advice.
The Teacher stated that he has considered why he fell back into a similar pattern of behaviour after being made aware of complaints in October 2016. He had been mindful of keeping his distance and ensuring he was behaving professionally. However, these issues started to happen again when further stress came into his life. He believed his friendships with Witness 6 and Witness 7 were stronger than they were, which led to his interactions with them being inappropriate. He now realises that he misread this situation and the stress in his life led him to rationalise his behaviour as being appropriate.
The Teacher detailed the steps he has taken since the allegations. He attended [redacted] via his former employer as well as [redacted], which he found helpful in developing insight and reflecting on his behaviour. The Teacher stated that he had worked to forgive himself and seek forgiveness from others for past mistakes. He has built up a better support network and has been more open wih his family and friends about personal issues. He has worked [redacted] to assist his [redacted], which has involved [redacted]. The Teacher detailed reading and courses he has completed, including a course on Emotional Intelligence at Work. He has also sought the assistance of a mentor, Witness 14, with whom he discusses his reflections on his teaching practice and professional relationships.
The Teacher provided his reflections on his behaviour and his determination not to repeat his mistakes. He now recognises he handled his personal stress in the wrong way, and that he lacked self-awareness and thought he was comforting others in periods of stress when it was really him who needed comfort. He stated that he is certain the behaviour will not be repeated due to his increase in self-awareness, the removal of unhealthy relationships from his life, his increased ability to ask for and accept help, his improved support mechanisms, his mental and physical coping strategies and his separation of his work and personal lives.
The Teacher detailed his regret over the hurt he caused to himself, his colleagues and his [redacted], and the impact his behaviour had on those involved, as well as the teaching profession.
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 noted Rule 1.7.21, which states that ‘a Teacher may admit a fact or description of a fact and a fact or description of a fact so admitted will be treated as proved.’ It noted that allegations 1(a), 1(b), 1(c), 2(a), 2(b), 2(c), 3, 4(a), 4(b), 5, 6(a), 6(b), 7, 8 and 9 were all admitted in full by the Teacher. As such, the Panel found all all of these allegations proved by admission.
The Panel noted that allegation 6(c) was admitted by the Teacher subject to the clarification that the kiss was on Witness 10’s head and not her cheek. Allegation 10 was denied by the Teacher. The Panel was therefore only required to assess the credibility and reliability of the witnesses in order to make its findings in relation to these allegations. The Panel noted that Witness 10 was the only other witness, asides from the Teacher, who could speak to allegation 6(c).
The Panel considered that Witness 1 was a calm, confident, measured and professional witness. Her evidence was consistent with her previous accounts of events, and the Panel felt she was a credible witness and that her evidence was reliable. The Panel had no sense that Witness 1 was embellishing her account of events, nor that she had a particular motivation or interest in the outcome of the case. Witness 1 suggested that she viewed massaging someone as sexualised behaviour, but that she did not specifically view the Teacher’s behaviour as sexually motivated and she did not believe he was intending it to lead to anything more. When Witness 1 was asked about the Teacher’s motivation, she said that she would be speculating. The Panel considered that a a good amount of weight could be placed on Witness 1’s evidence and felt that it leant away from there being a sexual motivation.
The Panel considered that Witness 2 was a less confident witness and that it was clear she was still experiencing some impact from the Teacher’s behaviour. Witness 2 was more emotional in her evidence, but gave a clear, factual account, which was consistent with her previous accounts. The Panel had no sense that Witness 2 had a particular motivation or interest in the outcome of the case and felt that she was being as objective as possible. The Panel considered that Witness 2 was a credible and reliable witness. Witness 2 suggested that the Teacher’s demeanour was ‘touchy feely’ and that whilst she said that touching without consent was unprofessional, she stopped short of saying it was a sexual act. The Panel felt the evidence of Witness 2 was quite powerful in this regard, and it placed a good amount of weight on her evidence, which also leant away from a sexual motivation.
The Panel considered that Witness 3 gave her evidence in an open and straightforward manner, consistent with her previous accounts and other evidence. She was brief in her answers, but not evasive. Again, the Panel felt that the emotional impact was apparent in Witness 3, and it was clear she is still not comfortable talking about events. The Panel considered that Witness 3 was a credible and reliable witness and that it could place weight on her evidence. Witness 3 suggested that the Teacher’s behaviour could be construed as sexually motivated but the Panel considered that she did not provide specific evidence of sexual motivation.
In relation to Witness 4, the Panel felt there was a casualness in his evidence and that it was limited in detail. Witness 4 had not observed any of the behaviours concerned in the allegations but heard about them from members of his team. He did not speak to sexual motivation being mentioned by his colleagues. The Panel determined that Witness 4 was factual in his account and was a credible and reliable witness, but that his evidence did not assist them in terms of the allegations in dispute.
The Panel considered that Witness 5 appeared to be uncomfortable and reluctant in her evidence. This was not to say she was not telling the truth, and the Panel felt that her account was honest, and consistent with other evidence and her previous accounts. Witness 5 did not have a particular motivation or interest in the outcome of the case. The Panel considered that she was a credible and reliable witness, and that it could place a good amount of weight on her evidence. Witness 5 suggested that, on reflection, she felt the Teacher’s behaviour was unacceptable and inappropriate, but the Panel considered that she did not provide specific evidence pointing towards a sexual motivation.
The Panel considered that Witness 6 was straightforward and honest in her evidence. She was frank and the Panel had no sense of her being evasive. The Panel believed she was telling the truth and considered that her evidence was consistent with other evidence and her previous accounts. The Panel felt that Witness 6 did not have a particular motivation or interest in the outcome of the case. The Panel felt Witness 6 was a credible and reliable witness and that it could place a good amount of weight on her evidence. However, Witness 6 told the Panel that she could not see what the Teacher’s motivation or thoughts were at the time, and as such, the Panel felt that Witness 6’s evidence did not take it further with regards to sexual motivation.
The Panel found the evidence of Witness 7 powerful in terms of the level of detail and the time she appeared to have taken to reflect on the incidents. The Panel considered that Witness 7 did not appear to have a particular motive or interest in the outcome, and it felt that she was honest and that her evidence was consistent with other evidence and her previous accounts. Witness 7 answered questions as completely as she could, but stopped when she felt she could not provide further information or offer a conclusion. The Panel felt she was a credible and reliable witness and that it could place a good amount of weight on her evidence.
The Panel found Witness 8 to be direct and clear in his evidence. As with Witness 4, Witness 8 did not witness any of the conduct, but he was tasked with exploring the issues when they were brought to him. Witness 8’s evidence was consistent with the evidence of his female colleagues in terms of how and what they reported. The Panel considered that Witness 8 was a credible and reliable witness, but that his evidence did not assist it with regards to determining the allegations in dispute.
The Panel felt similarly regarding Witness 9, who gave a reliable account but whose evidence was limited. Witness 9’s evidence is consistent with the evidence of others and the Panel considered that he was credible and reliable, but that his evidence does not assist it with regard to allegation 10.
The Panel felt that Witness 11’s evidence was direct and consistent with the evidence she had previously given. The Panel felt that she was credible and that she was telling the truth, but that reflection and analysis on the Teacher’s conduct was limited. The Panel felt that Witness 11’s evidence did not assist it in relation to allegation 10.
The Panel felt that the Teacher’s evidence was very repetitive, and largely focused on himself, the impact that the incidents and the subsequent reporting of these had had on him. The Panel sensed that the Teacher struggled to have an objective view on the experience of others despite being asked about this numerous times, and that there was an element of ‘victim-blaming’ in terms of his colleagues not taking his behaviour in the manner he had intended. In addition, the Teacher has a vested interest in the outcome of the matter so was unable to be completely objective. The Panel felt that the Teacher was not deliberately trying to mislead the Panel and genuinely believed what he was saying, particularly around touch being his ‘value language’. However, it felt as though the Teacher looked at the majority of questions from his own perspective. The Teacher’s recollection of specific facts was consistent with the other witnesses but the Panel felt that his recollection in terms of what his actions represented was not probable or reliable, including in regard to having a sexually explicit conversation with Colleague 7 whilst touching her. The Panel considered that the Teacher’s credibility and reliability were limited for all of these reasons.
In respect of allegation 6(c), the Panel noted that only Witness 10 and the Teacher could speak to this, and Witness 10 was a hearsay witness who did not attend the hearing. The Panel considered that there were some inconsistencies between the statement she provided to the Local Authority and the statement she provided to GTC Scotland. Witness 10 mentions in her statement to the Local Authority about the Teacher kissing her on the cheek, but does not make reference to this in her statement to GTC Scotland. The Teacher gave clear evidence that he did kiss Witness 10 on the head, and on the basis that Witness 10 did not appear before them to be cross-examined on the discrepancies in her evidence, the Panel preferred the evidence of the Teacher in this regard.
As such, the Panel found allegation 6(c) proved on the balance of probabilities, on the basis that the wording of the allegation was amended to ‘in or around February 2018, kiss her on the top of her head.’
In relation to allegation 10, the Panel considered that weight could be given to the evidence of Witness 7. It felt that she appeared to have spent more time reflecting on the Teacher’s conduct than others, and she clearly stated that she felt the Teacher did get some pleasure or a ‘kick’ from telling her sexually explicit details about his private life. However, she could not articulate it further than this and did not explicitly refer to a sexual motivation. The Panel considered that whilst some weight could be given to the evidence of Witness 1, Witness 2, Witness 3, Witness 5, Witness 6, and Witness 11 in respect of allegation 10, this pointed more towards an absence of sexual motivation. Whilst some considered that the allegations concerning them could be considered as sexual in nature, they stopped short of saying the Teacher’s behaviour was sexually motivated and in some cases said that they did not believe the Teacher intended to make them uncomfortable.
The Panel felt that no weight could be given to the evidence of Witness 4, Witness 8 and Witness 9 in terms of allegation 10, as they were not involved in the incidents and did not witness these. Whilst they were able to speak to the observable impact the Teacher’s behaviour had on their female colleagues, they could not speak to sexual motivation.
The Panel noted that the burden of proof rested with the Presenting Officer, and not on the Teacher in terms of proving that his conduct was not sexually motivated. The Panel also noted the generally accepted definition of ‘sexual motivation’ from Sait v General Medical Council  EWHC 3279 (Admin) as being ‘either for gratification or with a view to a future sexual relationship’.
Whilst the Panel considered the Teacher’s evidence around his motivations to be improbable, taking into account the above, the Panel considered that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the Teacher’s actions were in pursuit of sexual gratification or a future sexual relationship. Therefore, there was insufficient evidence to prove on the balance of probabilities that the Teacher’s actions were sexually motivated in relation to any of the allegations at 1 to 9.
As such, the Panel found that allegation 10 was not proved.
Findings on Fitness to Teach
Given that the Panel found that some of the allegations were proved, the Panel invited the parties to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.
The Presenting Officer did not lead any further evidence with regards to fitness to teach. However, the Teacher’s Representative led two witnesses as follows.
At the outset of her evidence, Witness 13 read her statement dated 31 August 2021 and supplementary statement dated 1 December 2022 aloud and confirmed that they were true and accurate.
Witness 13 has known the Teacher since December 2019, in her capacity as [redacted] of Parklands School, where the Teacher is currently employed. The Teacher had been working at the school full time since November 2020; prior to this he had been providing ad-hoc cover. He secured a permanent position at the school in June 2021 and teaches 3 days a week.
Witness 13 described the Teacher as a ‘competent’ teacher who responds to pupils’ needs and plans motivating activities. He works well with other staff and deals well with dysregulated pupils. Witness 13 stated that support staff find him supportive; they feel involved within the class and work as a team. The Teacher has positive and appropriate relationships with colleagues and engages in professional dialogue. Witness 13 stated that all the staff at the school feel comfortable in the Teacher’s presence and have not reported any concerns to her. Witness 13 stated that teachers had fair notice of formal observations, but that she would also pop into classrooms and be in and out of classrooms when walking around the school.
Witness 13 stated that the Teacher has been open and honest about the allegations from the start of his employment, and as such she was more cautious and kept a closer eye on what was happening within his class and with his interactions with staff. However, the Teacher has not given Witness 13 any cause for concern; she does not have concerns about him continuing to teach or how this would reflect on the teaching profession.
When asked in more detail about when the Teacher had made her aware of the allegations, Witness 13 stated that she was not fully aware of the specifics of the allegations until around June 2021. When the Teacher was first employed as a supply teacher at the school, he told Witness 13 that he was subject to a fitness to teach investigation and that a hearing date was forthcoming. He did not go into the details of the allegations at this stage, but told her about the nature of the allegations at the end of his first week, stating that they related to inappropriate relationships. The Teacher told Witness 13 that it was to do with his previous local authority employment and that he had not been [redacted]. When the full time post came up, the Teacher went into more details about what the allegations were.
Witness 13 described checking in with support staff in the Teacher’s classroom to see how things were going and whether there were any concerns or issues. Witness 13 stated that she did not raise the nature of the allegations the Teacher was subject to when she spoke to support staff; she would keep it general and was confident that staff would come to her with concerns.
Witness 13 stated that she was not aware of the Teacher using physical contact to support his colleagues, but he has offered verbal support when pupils have displayed aggressive or upsetting behaviour. She stated that the Teacher is very private and does not speak much about his private life. He has spoken about his family but has not talked about anything inappropriate.
At the outset of his evidence, Witness 14 read his statement dated 18 August 2021 aloud and confirmed it was true and accurate. Witness 14 also confirmed that a later supplementary statement he provided, which he was unable to sign, was true and accurate.
Witness 14 works on East Ayshire Support Team and has known the Teacher for around 10 years on a professional and personal level. Witness 14 and his family have been in the company of the Teacher and his family socially on many occasions. Witness 14 became aware of the allegations being faced by the Teacher when the disciplinary process was underway and initially advised the Teacher in his capacity as an EIS representative. Witness 14 did not represent him in the disciplinary proceedings and did not witness any of the alleged inappropriate conduct before being informed by the Teacher about the complaints that had been received. Witness 14 described keeping in touch with the Teacher following his dismissal, and supporting the Teacher as a mentor. Witness 14 stated that he has witnessed the ‘soul searching’ that the Teacher has undertaken. He stated that he was shocked and disappointed when the Teacher first made him aware of the allegations.
Witness 14 described the Teacher being anxious and remorseful about his actions, as well as being fully aware of their seriousness and how they affected his character. Witness 14 described the Teacher as being very ‘disturbed’ by the allegation of sexual motivation, and as never having seen the Teacher behave in a way with colleagues that is anything other than appropriate or correct. Witness 14 described the Teacher being remorseful that his actions had upset others; he felt he was trying to support people and was upset that this had been taken the wrong way.
Witness 14 stated that there were things going on in the Teacher’s life that he does not think he appreciated were having a huge impact on him, so the Teacher was trying to understand why he was in the place he was. He was upset that he had upset people to the point where they had made complaints about him. Witness 14 explained that the Teacher was now more aware of the potential impact his words and actions can have on others. He has thought about how things could be construed as a lot of this current situation was how people had perceived things. Witness 14 stated that there was no denial from the Teacher that his actions were inappropriate. At the time, he thought he was being supportive for people who were upset, but he now realises he made his female colleagues feel uncomfortable in his presence, and that his actions were not appropriate and went against professional standards.
In response to questioning, Witness 14 stated that he had no formal qualifications in mentoring, but he was there as a ‘sounding board’ for the Teacher. They started meeting from time to time following the complaints being received, and they decided to keep these meetings going as the Teacher was getting a lot of benefit from them.
Witness 14 stated that in his mentor meetings with the Teacher, they have reviewed situations the Teacher has found himself in, where he has thought about how things could be taken and how he has taken steps to avoid this. They have talked about respecting people’s personal space and not seeking to physically comfort people.
Witness 14 stated that the Teacher had made mistakes which he had admitted to and had never tried to hide from. The allegations gave him a ‘wake up call’ as he did not realise how he was being perceived. The place he was in personally may have clouded his judgement, as he was in a place where he needed support and understanding and so felt he needed to provide this to others. Witness 14 stated, however, that the Teacher had not tried to use this as an excuse.
Witness 14 stated that he would not personally have any issues with the Teacher continuing to teach.
The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and submissions made by the parties in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach. 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 (‘IOG’). The Panel also had regard to advice from the Legal Assessor and Servicing Officer as necessary.
The Panel first assessed the evidence of Witness 13 and Witness 14 and considered their credibility and reliability.
The Panel felt that Witness 13 gave her evidence in a straightforward and clear manner and that she was well placed to form an objective view of the Teacher’s fitness to teach and comment on how he is currently performing. Witness 13 is working in a school with the Teacher and is regularly talking to those colleagues working directly with him. Witness 13’s evidence was consistent with what she has said previously, as well as other evidence around the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Panel considered that she does not have a particular motive or interest in the outcome of the hearing which would lead her to want to embellish and provide inaccurate information to the Panel. The Panel considered that Witness 13’s evidence was inherently probable and that she was a credible and reliable witness. The Panel considered that it could place some weight to her evidence, although it did consider that the extent to which she is able to be present in situations that relate to those in which the allegations took place is limited. This limited somewhat the weight that could be attached to her evidence, although the Panel considered that she has managed the Teacher with the allegations in mind and monitored things as best she can.
The Panel felt that Witness 14 was slightly defensive in the way he gave his evidence, although it noted that had more of a personal connection to the Teacher and had previously advised him in his capacity as a union representative. The Panel also felt there was a casualness and relaxed approach to Witness 14’s evidence. The Panel felt that Witness 14’s evidence was consistent with what he had said on previous occasions and that he was telling the truth. He was honest when he did not know the answer to a question. However, the Panel noted that Witness 14 is not currently working with the Teacher and so does not have greater knowledge or understanding of the Teacher’s current fitness to teach. He was very much relying on what he was told by the Teacher. The Panel felt that he appeared to offer support to the Teacher but not challenge, and that his ability to be objective was limited due to his connection to the Teacher and his previous role as an EIS representative who supported the Teacher in the initial stages of the matter. The Panel felt that Witness 14 did not appear to have considered the impact of the Teacher’s behaviour on others in any great depth, and this reflected some of the concerns the Panel had about the Teacher’s attitude towards the allegations and the impact on others. The Panel felt that it could give fairly little weight to Witness 14’s evidence.
In making a determination on fitness to teach, the Panel noted that, as detailed in the IOG, it was first required to consider whether the Teacher’s conduct at the time of the incident(s) fell short of the expected professional standards, i.e. do the allegations found provided constitute misconduct.
The Panel noted that it had been alleged that the Teacher had breached parts 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 4.1 and 4.2 of COPAC.
With regards to Part 1.3, the Panel noted that the breach of the criminal law aspect of this part does not apply. However, the allegations do relate to a crossing of professional boundaries, including touching and massaging colleagues and sharing sexually explicit details. The Panel considered that the allegations represented totally inappropriate behaviour that does call into question the Teacher’s fitness to teach and that this part of COPAC had been breached.
In relation to Part 1.4, the Panel noted that the Teacher’s honesty was not in question. However, his behaviour had not upheld standards of personal and professional conduct, and was capable of significantly undermining public confidence in the Teacher and the teaching profession. The public expect teachers to be safe people and to behave in a proper manner, and should be able to have faith and trust in teachers. The Panel considered that the public would be entitled to question what to make of the profession if the type of the behaviour at the allegations found proved could take place in the context of professional relationships. As such, the Panel determined that Part 1.4 of COPAC had been breached.
In relation to Part 1.6, the Panel considered that how teachers interact with each other in the workplace is important, regardless of whether pupils can see them. A teacher’s responsibility in this respect does not stop when they are not in the classroom and/or the presence of pupils. The Panel considered that, whilst teachers are not expected to be perfect, they should be role models in terms of having a respectful attitude towards personal boundaries and ownership of their actions. The Panel determined that, in his actions, the Teacher had not been a role model to pupils, and as such Part 1.6 of COPAC had been breached.
In relation to Part 4.1, the Panel considered that collegiate and cooperative working can only happen if everyone feels safe and empowered, and feels that they have equal levels of control and respect. It considered that the Teacher’s behaviour, which was forced upon his colleagues, meant that he was not collegiate or cooperative. As such, the Panel determined that Part 4.1 of COPAC had been breached.
Finally, in respect of Part 4.2, the Panel considered that the Teacher’s treatment of his colleagues at the allegations found proved was not fair and lacked all respect. It considered that the evidence demonstrated that the Teacher had behaved differently towards his female colleagues than his male colleagues. As such, the Panel determined that Part 4.2 of COPAC had been breached.
The Panel was therefore satisfied that the Teacher’s conduct at the time of the allegations fell short of the expected professional standards, and as such, constituted misconduct.
The Panel was next required to consider whether the shortfalls identified were remediable, whether they had been remedied and whether there was a likelihood of reoccurrence.
The Panel noted that the Teacher’s behaviour did not directly concern pupils or young people. Nonetheless, it considered that the Teacher’s inappropriate behaviour towards his female colleagues was very serious and had had a significant impact on those affected. The allegations found proved did not represent a one off, impulsive incident, but consisted of an established pattern of behaviour over a period of around 18 months, directed towards a significant number of colleagues across various settings. The Panel considered that whilst the behaviour was not at the most extreme end of the spectrum in terms of seriousness, this was aggravated to some degree by the fact that the Teacher continued with the behaviours despite having been spoken to and warned by Witness 4 to stop such conduct. In addition, the Panel considered that regardless of the Teacher’s assertion to the contrary, it was hard not to view the Teacher’s behaviour as deliberately targeting of younger female teachers who were fairly new to the profession when they were alone. The Panel considered this to be another aggravating factor.
The Teacher admitted all of the allegations which had been found proved. The Panel considered that he had demonstrated some degree of insight. However, the Panel was concerned that this appeared to centre around the impact on him and what had led him to engage in the conduct found proved. Whilst the Teacher made it clear that he viewed his behaviour as inappropriate, the Panel was not satisfied that he had demonstrated the level of emotional intelligence it wanted to see in order to grasp the significant and long lasting impact this had had on his colleagues. The Panel was also concerned that the Teacher’s insight appeared to be that his behaviour was wrong because others had reacted badly to it, and not necessarily that it was wrong in itself, regardless of what reaction it elicited.
The Panel noted the time that has elapsed since the allegations with no suggestion that the Teacher has repeated the behaviour, and that the Teacher has no history of misconduct. The Teacher discussed going to his headteacher when he has found himself under pressure and talking through the appropriate steps to take. There was evidence of steps taken by the Teacher to remediate the shortfalls. The Panel noted that the evidence of Witness 13 supported the Teacher now behaving appropriately with colleagues. However, it considered that this was the outcome, and that Witness 13 was not able to speak to the steps taken by the Teacher to reach this point.
The Panel considered that there was nothing particular in the Teacher’s circumstances or surrounding factors which made the risk of reoccurrence unlikely. The Teacher had described personal circumstances that he attributes to being the cause of his behaviour. Whilst the Teacher had talked about certain coping strategies, the Panel was not satisfied that these circumstances had disappeared. The Panel was concerned about the possibility of the behaviour reoccuring if the Teacher found himself dealing with similar stressors and triggers in the future.
Overall, the Panel considered that the shortfalls are remediable, and are not fundamentally incompatible with being a teacher. The Teacher had talked about his remorse and reflection on the allegations, as well as about steps he has taken to remediate the shortfalls. His oral evidence was supported by his written reflections submitted as documentary evidence. It was also supported to some extent by the evidence of Witness 13, who was clear that she had no concerns about the Teacher’s behaviour and relationships with colleagues, and a testimony to similar effect from another colleague at the Teacher’s current school. The Panel noted that there had been no repetition of the concerns in the last 5 years. It considered that there had been limited opportunity for this to be ‘tested’ as he is currently in a slightly different setting without certain stressors present, but this was not the fault of the Teacher. The Teacher had described that he personally needs touch when being comforted, but had recognised that this might not the case for others and that there were alternative ways to provide comfort to others. The Panel did feel there were some slight gaps in the Teacher’s insight, but acknowledged that it was perhaps looking for an unreasonable level of self-awareness, especially when the Teacher had provided clear evidence that he knows he cannot and should not behave in the way he had done previously, and had adopted strategies which would likely be successful in ensuring he did not engage in similar behaviours in the future. The Panel believed that the Teacher is invested in ensuring that the behaviour does not reoccur and that, overall, the likelihood of reoccurrence was low.
Taking into account all the above, the Panel therefore determined that the conduct was remediable, had been remedied and that there was a low likelihood of reoccurrence. However, given the nature and seriousness of the allegations, there was nonetheless an overriding public interest in finding the Teacher’s current fitness to teach impaired. The public perception of the conduct would be that it is serious and the public would reasonably expect GTC Scotland to take action. With reference to the public interest considerations set out in the IOG, the Panel determined that these were all engaged. The Panel considered that a finding of impairment was required in order to maintain public confidence in the Teacher and the teaching profession. It considered that public confidence in the teacher, teaching profession and indeed GTC Scotland as a professional regulator would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made. Such a finding was also required to protect members of the public, to declare and uphold proper teaching standards and for the deterrent effect the determination may have upon other registrants.
The Panel determined that the Teacher had fallen short of the standards, but not significantly short and that there was a public interest in finding the Teacher’s fitness to teach impaired.
As the Panel found that the Teacher’s fitness to teach was impaired, it required to determine which sanction was appropriate in light of this.
The Panel gave careful consideration to the submissions made by the parties in relation to the appropriate disposal, and also had regard to advice from the Legal Assessor and Servicing Officer as necessary. The Panel noted that its decision with regard to which sanction to impose needed to be approroached with holistic and proportionate regard to the principles set out in the IOG, and that it needed to balance all the factors involved in order to reach what it considered to be an appropriate outcome in all the circumstances. The Panel noted that the primary purpose of the sanction is to be protective and not punitive, and that it required to consider the sanctions in ascending order from least to most severity.
With this in mind, the Panel firstly considered a Reprimand. It noted the indicating factors detailed in the IOG and that not all factors required to be met for it to consider this the most appropriate disposal.
The Panel determined that a Reprimand was not sufficient in addressing the public interest and maintaining confidence in the Teacher and teaching profession, considering the seriousness and deliberateness of the conduct. Some of the indicating factors were present, particularly that pupils/young people were not harmed, the Teacher has admitted the conduct and that there has been no repetition of the behaviour. However, the Panel considered that the conduct represented an abuse of professional trust between colleagues which occurred repeatedly over an extended period of time and had a significant impact on those involved. As such, a Reprimand was not the appropriate sanction to impose and did not sufficiently address the public interest identified.
The Panel therefore moved on to consider a Conditional Registration Order (CRO). The Panel considered that the Teacher had showed sufficient insight to suggest that he would be willing and able to comply with conditions, and that a CRO would appropriately indicate to the profession and the public the seriousness of the matter at issue. It would adequately protect the public and help maintain public confidence in teachers and the teaching profession. The Panel determined that a CRO was proportionate to the facts found proved and struck an appropriate balance between the public interest and the rights of the Teacher.
The Panel imposed the following conditions on the Teacher’s registration:
- You must inform the following parties that your GTC Scotland registration is subject to these conditions and provide them with a copy of the Decision Notice that resulted in this order being imposed on you:
- Any organisation or person employing you as a teacher or in a post for which GTC Scotland registration is required (whether on a permanent, temporary or supply basis); and
- Any prospective employer covered by (a) above at the time of making your application for employment.
- If you take up employment or cease to be employed as a teacher or within a role for which GTC Scotland registration is required, you must inform GTC Scotland of this in writing and within 7 days of commencing or ceasing such employment. You must also provide GTC Scotland’s Fitness to Teach Department with contact details for any new employer within 7 days of taking up employment.
- You must identify a supporter who is GTC Scotland registered and work in the school in which you are working or local authority, and meet with this supporter on a monthly basis to discuss the following:
- Your growing insight into the necessity of maintaining professional boundaries;
- The adverse impact on others if professional boundaries are not maintained; and
- The steps you are taking to ensure you are maintaining professional boundaries.
- You must provide a written reflective account covering:
- Your growing insight into the necessity of maintaining professional boundaries;
- The adverse impact on others if professional boundaries are not maintained; and
- The steps you are taking to ensure you are maintaining professional boundaries.
The account must be countersigned by your supporter to confirm that the account has been exhibited to them; and the countersigned account is to be submitted to the GTC Scotland’s Fitness to Teach (Regulation) Department, preferably by email, on a termly basis and by last day of each term. The first of these accounts should be submitted by the last day before the 2023 Christmas break. Your supporter’s name and role should be clearly set out in the first submission.
The Panel considered that: the conditions are proportionate and appropriate in all the circumstances of the case; they would take account and satisfy the identified public interest concerns; they are measurable; they are clearly framed so that it is clear what the Teacher requires to do; they are directed at the Teacher and not elsewhere; and the Teacher would realistically be able to comply with them.
The Panel determined that an appropriate period of time for the CRO to remain in place was 18 months. The Panel determined that this was an appropriate period to reflect the seriousness of the facts found proved and to provide the Teacher with a reasonable and fair opportunity to engage with and comply effectively with the conditions imposed, as well as to continue to reflect and develop insight.
Accordingly, the Panel directed that the Teacher’s registration be subject to a CRO for an aggregated period of 18 months, and due to there being a delay in the issuing of this written decision, this should be effective from the date of 9 June 2023. The conditions above are also contained within an attached CRO document and will be recorded against the Teacher’s entry in the GTC Scotland Register.