Panel Meeting – Teacher D
|Date||17 February 2023|
|Panel||Arthur Stewart, Michelle Farrell and Pauline McClellan|
|Legal Assessor||Graeme Dalgleish|
|Servicing Officer||Jamie Roy|
|Teacher’s Representative||Martin Walker, Balfour + Manson (not present)|
Any reference in this decision to:
- ‘GTC Scotland’ means the General Teaching Council for Scotland;
- the ‘Panel’ means the Fitness to Teach Panel considering the case;
- the ‘Rules’ (and any related expression) means the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them;
- the ‘Register’ means the GTC Scotland Register of teacher; and
- ‘COPAC’ means the GTC Scotland Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012.
Notification of Meeting
The Panel had before it a copy of the Notice of Panel Consideration, dated 6 January 2023. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had been provided with notice of the meeting in accordance with Rules 1.6 and 2.3.1. The Teacher’s representative responded on 10 January 2023 advising he had nothing to add. The Panel noted that his representative has previously responded in detail to the allegation. Accordingly, the Panel considered that the Teacher had received notice of the Panel Consideration and proceeded to consider the case.
There were no preliminary matters for the Panel to consider.
- Between June/July 2018 and June 2019 whilst employed by xxx as a teacher at and in the course Teacher:
- Sent a Facebook friend request to Pupil A during the summer of 2018, prior to him starting 6th year
- Shared a confidential statement, which was provided to them as part of an ongoing formal process, with Pupil A via social media; and
- Persistently contacted Pupil A late at night, via social media, offering goods in return for them to change a statement they had made as part of an ongoing formal process.
- Between January 2019 and June 2019 whilst employed by xxx as a teacher at xxx and in the course of his employment, the Teacher:
- Behaved in an unseemly and aggressive manner and failed to treat colleagues with due respect by:
- writing ‘beware’ on an email to Colleague B on 22 May 2019;
- their tone towards Colleague C during a telephone conversation on 25 February 2019;
- Addressing Colleague A by her surname in a social media message to a pupil; and
- their conduct with xxx on 16 January and 7 June 2019 by making excessive calls and sending excessive emails to their office.
- Behaved in an unseemly and aggressive manner and failed to treat colleagues with due respect by:
And in light of the above it is alleged that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired and he is unfit to teach as a result of breaching parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012 (CoPAC).
Information available to the Panel
Investigation Report from received 12 November 2020 with the following appendices:
- Appendix 1 – Initial letter to the Teacher – 6 September 2019
- Appendix 2 – Follow up letter to the Teacher regarding areas for work at home
- Appendix 3 – Letter – Change of Nominated Officer
- Appendix 4 – Letters from XXX to the Teacher
- 21 December 2018
- 4 March 2019
- Appendix 5 – Outcome of Capability Hearing – 26 August 2019
- Appendix 6 – SQA Diet for Pupil CW 2019
- Appendix 7 – Interview Record – XXX 26 September 2019
- Appendix 8 – Meeting Note – Monday 20 May 2019
- Appendix 9 – Screenshot of confident pupil statement from Capability process
- Appendix 10 – Interview Record – XXX 25 September 2019
- Appendix 11 – Screenshot of Facebook Messenger conversation thread
- Appendix 12 – Note of Capability Interview – 31 January 2019
- Appendix 13 – Interview record – Teacher D 1 November 2019
- Appendix 14 – GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct
- Appendix 15 – GTCS Professional Guidance on the Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media
- Appendix 16 – XXX Social Media Policy
- Appendix 17 – Emails from Teacher D to XXX – 21/22 May 2019
- Appendix 18 – Interview record – XXX 26 September 2019
- Appendix 19 – Note of telephone call – 25 February 2019
- Appendix 20 – Emails from XXX XXX and XXX HR
- Appendix 21 – XXX issues log – 26 January 2019
- Appendix 22 – XXX reports – November 2018 – June 2019
- 8 November 2018
- 26 November 2018
- 7 December 2018
- 17 January 2019
- 11 February 2019
- 3 June 2019
- 21 June 2019
- 7 August 2019
- Appendix 23 – GP’s Communication – February 2019
- 5 February 2019
- 26 February 2019
- Appendix 24 – Discharge letter – 18 January 2019
- Appendix 25 – XXX Employee Code of Conduct
- Appendix 26 – Redacted pupil statement – Capability Report
- Appendix 27 – Pupil contact screenshot – 3 March & 16 May 2019
- Appendix 28 – Teacher pupil interaction on Messenger – undated
- Appendix 29 – Additional screenshot of pupil contact
- Appendix 30 – Screenshots of phone calls to XXX
- Appendix 31 – Additional Sept 2019 communication
- Appendix 32 – Email from XXX 13 November 2019
- List of Productions Part 1
- List of Productions Part 2
- List of Productions Part 3
- List of Productions Part 4
Disciplinary Hearing Outcome Letter (outcome redacted)
Signed Statement of XXX, dated 24 January 2022
Signed Statement of XXX, dated 19 January 2022
Signed Statement of XXX, dated 6 January 2022
Letter to witness, XXX, sent to term address
Letter to witness, XXX, send to home address
Response to Interim Report dated 18 August 2022
Additional Information for Panel, dated 12 December 2022
In response to the notice, the Teacher provided the following additional information for consideration by the Panel:
Response from Teacher, dated 7 October 2022 with:
- Character reference from XXX
- Character reference from XXX
Response to NOPC2 from Teacher, dated 6 January 2023
In an email from his Representative dated 18 August 2022 and 7 October 2022 the Teacher admitted the allegations in full subject to explanation and apology. The Teacher states that he has developed insight and has taken steps to deal with his health and well-being and is now in ‘a much better place.’ He has provided positive statements from his current Head Teacher and line manager.
Summary of Evidence and Submissions
An Investigation Report was obtained from xxx in which they investigated the allegations made. These were that the Teacher had contacted a pupil via social media, tried to get him to change a statement and that the Teacher behaved in an inappropriate and aggressive manner and failed to treat colleagues with due respect.
During the course of the investigation, statements were obtained from three witnesses including the Depute Head Teacher of xxx. The Teacher was also interviewed. The report confirms the chronology of the events which led to the investigations.
The Teacher was interviewed by his employer regarding the allegations. They went through the various allegations against the Teacher and asked for his response. The Teacher stated that Pupil A initiated the contact, and that the Teacher then shared the confidential document with Pupil A and that by sharing it with Pupil A he was looking for justice. The Teacher’s position was that his mental state was all about clearing his name due to some of the accusations made against him being ridiculous.
With regards to contacting pupils on social media, the Teacher stated that he had contacted former pupils. He was asked what his understanding of school leaving dates were and he stated that it was when they were finished their last exam. He was then asked about GTC Scotland’s Code of Conduct and also GTC Scotland’s Electronic Communication guidance and xxx’s Social Media Policy. He responded stating that he was not aware of all parts of them.
The Teacher confirmed that he had conversations with Pupil A late at night discussing music and was shown screenshots however he said that there were parts missing, it was just snapshots of a conversation. The Teacher explained that he was under huge stress and anxiety and was trying to clear his name.
The Panel considered all of the information available to it as described above. The Panel had a range of options open to it, as set out at Rule 2.3.2 (a) to (f). The Panel had regard to the factors set out in the GTC Scotland Panel Consideration Practice Statement. The allegations have been admitted by the Teacher.
The Panel did not consider it appropriate to dispose of the case in accordance with Rule 2.3.2 (a). The Panel reached this conclusion for the following reasons:
Having considered the nature and the gravity of the allegations, the Panel decided that the matter amounts to Relevant Conduct and there is on the face of it, a real prospect of a finding that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired.
The Panel considered the relevant Parts of COPAC to be Part 1 – Professionalism and maintaining trust in the profession. The Panel found that the Teacher had breached Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of COPAC.
The Panel considered the following additional factors to be relevant in their decision:
- The matter is not over 5 years of age, and it is in the public interest for the matter to be considered given the nature and gravity of the allegation.
- The matter has not already been considered.
- The matter is not frivolous or vexatious.
- The allegations have not been made anonymously or by a person who has failed to cooperate with the investigation.
- The Panel did not consider the referral to be malicious.
The Panel did not consider it appropriate to dismiss the case on the basis of an insufficiency of evidence as provided for by Rule 2.3.2 (b).
Fitness to Teach
The Panel carefully considered all of the available information and had regard to Part A of the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance in considering whether the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.
The Panel found that the allegations are serious given that they relate to wide ranging and generalised deficiencies in the Teacher’s conduct and behaviour over a 6 month period, although they acknowledged that there was no evidence of a more sustained, or previous, pattern of similar behaviour. The Panel concluded that the Teacher has breached the above mentioned parts of COPAC and that, at the time, the Teacher’s conduct fell short of the standards expected of a teacher and was guilty of misconduct.
Given that the Panel had found the Teacher guilty of misconduct it then required to consider whether the shortfalls identified by the conduct were remediable, have they been remedied, and whether there was a likelihood of reoccurrence.
The Panel considered that the conduct is remediable, however whilst there is a degree of reflection and remorse, felt that the Teacher has not demonstrated sufficient insight and fully acknowledged his conduct. The Teacher has shown some insight in his responses to the investigation and there is some evidence of the Teacher taking steps to tackle his health issues and remedy his practice. This is supported rom his current employer. Given the nature of his health conditions involving xxx and xxx health issues, the Panel considered that there remains a risk of reoccurrence. However, the Panel noted that there is no evidence of any repetition of the misconduct since June 2019.
The Panel concluded that in all the circumstances the Teacher is currently impaired. The Panel decided that the nature of the allegations was such that a finding of impairment was also appropriate in the wider public interest to maintain public confidence in the profession.
It next considered whether the Teacher’s conduct fell significantly short of the standards expected such that he is unfit to teach. There is no evidence of reoccurrence since the incidents alleged in 2019 and no evidence of harm being caused to any pupil. In the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the misconduct did not fall significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and his conduct is not fundamentally incompatible with remaining on the register.
For these reasons, the Panel concluded that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.
The Panel having concluded that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired, moved on to consider the appropriate sanction. The Panel had regard to Part B of the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance (IOG). In line with that guidance, the Panel considered the available options from least to most severe. The Panel noted that not all indicating factors required to be present for a disposal option to be considered appropriate. The Panel was mindful of the need to be proportionate and that the purpose of sanction is not to punish.
The Panel found the following mitigating factors:
- There is no evidence of any harm being caused by the Teacher’s misconduct.
- The Teacher’s health, stress and his difficult relationship with – had a significant impact on his conduct.
- There was no evidence of any repetition of the conduct or behaviour.
There was no evidence of any repetition of the conduct or behaviour. The Panel found the following aggravating factors:
- The conduct was not isolated and took place over a period of time.
- The Teacher admitted the allegation but did so subject to number of explanations which seek, to an extent, to deflect responsibility.
- The Teacher has not shown sufficient remorse for his conduct and the impact on colleagues, pupils and the wider public.
The Panel first considered a Reprimand. The Panel did not consider that the allegation gives rise to an abuse of trust. The Teacher has admitted the allegation and taken steps to remedy his practice and shown developing insight. The Teacher has continued to teach without further incident for the last 18 months and his current employer has provided positive character references.
In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the appropriate and proportionate way of dealing with the Teacher’s case was to issue the Teacher with a Reprimand for an aggregated period of 2 years. That disposal and the period it is imposed for will appropriately mark the seriousness of the allegation and maintain public confidence in the profession and in GTC Scotland as a professional regulator.
Given that the Panel concluded that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired but that he is not unfit to teach, the Panel have amended the final paragraph of the allegation to remove the words ‘and he is unfit to teach’ to reflect the conclusion of the Panel. The final paragraph of the allegation now reads ‘And in light of the above it is alleged that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired as a result of breaching …’
Having identified the appropriate disposal, the Panel decided to issue a consent order in accordance with Rule 2.7. The terms of the consent order are set out in the separate ‘Consent Order’ document. Should the Teacher fail to provide his consent to the order, the case is to be referred on for hearing proceedings.