16th October 2023
GTC Scotland News

GTC Scotland reiterates calls for improvements to regulatory system at Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

GTC Scotland, the teaching profession’s independent registration and regulation body, has reiterated calls for improvements to the regulatory system at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry’s latest case study into abuse at the Edinburgh Academy.

During the hearing, GTC Scotland Strategic Director, Jennifer Macdonald, raised the need for improvement to information flow between responsible bodies and for improvement to the quality and coordination of investigations.

Jennifer said: “GTC Scotland’s work centres on maintaining and enhancing trust in teaching. Communities place a high degree of trust in teachers. They rely on teachers to interpret what is right and wrong, keep learners safe and be positive role models.

“We have said in our earlier submissions to the Inquiry that we believe improvements should be made to the regulatory system to help ensure that what survivors have told the Inquiry about never happens again in our schools.

“To achieve this, roles in child protection and safeguarding in education must be rigorous, transparent, understood and joined up. The right information must flow to the right places at the right time. We must ensure that the suitability of individuals to continue to work with children is actively and effectively monitored.”

GTC Scotland’s regulatory role and who we work with

GTC Scotland registration became a requirement for teachers in the independent school sector in June 2021, while it has been a requirement for teachers employed in local authority schools since April 1968.

GTC Scotland’s Fitness to Teach process is about determining who belongs and does not belong within the teaching profession. We respond to concerns raised with us about teachers.

We undertake thorough investigations, involving evidence gathering and hearings. If there is sufficient evidence to prove allegations, the case is then considered by an independent Panel. If a Panel decides that the allegations are proven it can issue a reprimand and/or place a condition on the teacher’s registration.

In the most serious cases, the Panel can remove teachers from our Register who present a real risk of harm. Removal means an individual cannot be legally employed as a teacher in a Scottish school. There is an opportunity to appeal against a decision to the Court of Session.

We inform local authorities and Police Scotland of child protection concerns because they are the key agencies with the legal powers and responsibilities to handle child protection concerns in education. They can ensure teachers are removed from the classroom and manage immediate identified risk.

Local authorities are required by law to make Fitness to Teach referrals about the teachers they employ in set circumstances. Disclosure Scotland can bar people from the children’s workforce under the PVG Scheme. We must remove from our Register any teacher who is barred and we make referrals to Disclosure Scotland when risk/harm referral grounds are met. We can also receive referrals from members of the public.

Opportunity for improvement to the regulatory system

GTC Scotland’s calls for improvement stems from analysis of our regulatory work. Our calls include:

  • a need for a coordinated approach as to who investigates when and what information should flow between organisations
  • that investigations are rigorous and of high quality, particularly those carried out immediately after a concern is raised
  • that appropriate checks and balances are in place to ensure all is happening as it should
  • an agreed, system-wide data sharing framework and clarity for all on respective roles and responsibilities

The Scottish Government’s work provides opportunity for this improvement. Its National Guidance for Child Protection could better address, through a national statutory framework, situations where concerns are raised about professionals working within education.   

National education reform is an opportunity to address the role an inspectorate or other agency will play in ensuring that education providers do what is required of them and that the education system is appropriately regulated.

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is also in a unique position to lead positive system-wide improvement in the interests of child protection and safeguarding.

Read more about GTC Scotland’s regulatory role

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