GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Comhairle Choitcheann Teagaisg na h-Alba

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing - 23, 24 and 25 February 2021

 Teacher Scott Brown (present and represented)
 Registration Number 074287
 Registration category Secondary - English
 Panel Brian Feeney (Convener), Gillian Fagan and Diane Molyneux
 Legal Assessor Gareth Jones
 Servicing Officer Kirsty McIntosh
 Presenting Officer Sarah Donnachie (Anderson Strathern)
 Teacher's representative Claire Raftery (Clyde & Co) and Claire Nisbet (EIS)

Any reference in this decision to:

  • '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 GTCS Fitness to Teach and Appeals Rules 2012 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them
  • the 'Register' means the GTCS Register of Teachers

Preliminary Issues

At the outset of the proceedings, the Teacher’s Representative raised two preliminary matters, the first of which related to the submission of late papers.

The Panel was invited to accept a number of further documents, namely: an addendum statement from the Teacher updating his remediation; a statement from a witness to be called in support of the Teacher’s case; and a number of further documents that comprised mainly of testimonials. It was submitted that the documents were relevant and that it would be fair to admit them because the Presenting Officer had been given the documents in advance of the hearing and had therefore had an opportunity to consider them.

In response to the application, the Presenting Officer indicated that she remained ‘neutral’ as to the relevance of the information but took no issue with the documents being submitted at a late stage.

Given that a number of years had passed since the date of the allegations, the Panel considered that the late papers would provide up to date information in relation to the Teacher’s circumstances. The Panel also noted that there was no opposition by the Presenting Officer to the late papers being submitted. The Panel therefore allowed the application pursuant to Rules 1.7.22 and 1.7.1.

The second matter raised by the Teacher’s Representative related to an application to amend allegation 1(a), so that the wording of the allegation better reflected the evidence against the Teacher. It was submitted that allegation 1(a) should be amended so that it reads as follows (proposed amendment underlined):

You did:

fail to ensure that evidence submitted to the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in the form of pupil assignments was the candidates’ own work, resulting in the SQA returning 16 assessments due to similarities, 4 assessments due to being identical, and 2 assessments due to having identical sections.

Whilst the Teacher’s Representative accepted that the proposed amendment widened the allegations against the Teacher, she submitted that the amendment should be made for the sake of ‘fullness and honesty’. 

In response to the application, the Presenting Officer indicated that she was in agreement with the proposed amendment because it better reflected the evidence against the Teacher.

On the basis that no evidence had been heard, the Panel considered that it was a matter for the Presenting Officer to make the amendment. The Panel was however content to allow the amendment and having given that indication, allegation 1(a) was amended in the terms sought.

No other preliminary matters were raised for the Panel to consider.

Allegations (as amended)

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

  1. 1 While you were employed as a class teacher at Oldmachar Academy in respect of your pupils who were studying National 5 and Higher Media in the 2017/18 academic year, you did:
    1. (a) fail to ensure that evidence submitted to the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in the form of pupil assignments was the candidates’ own work, resulting in the SQA returning 16 assessments due to similarities, 4 assessments due to being identical, and 2 assessments due to having identical sections;
    2. (b) your conduct at allegation (a), above, lacked integrity;
    3. (c) edit the work of pupils prior to that work being submitted to the SQA, in breach of SQA conditions and arrangements for the production and submission of course assignments; and
    4. (d) your conduct at allegation (c), above, was dishonest;

And in light of the above it is alleged that your fitness to teach is impaired, as a result of breaching Parts 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6 and 2.3 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct (COPAC).

Teacher’s Admissions

The Teacher admitted all of the allegations (as amended). He also admitted that his fitness to teach was impaired at the time of the allegations. 

Under 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’, the Panel found the allegations proved. On this basis, the Panel proceeded to consider evidence relevant to Stages 2 and 3 of the fitness to teach process.

Hearing Papers

In accordance with Rule 1.7.17, the Panel admitted all of the documents and statements listed below as evidence for the purposes of the hearing:

Presenting Officer’s Hearing Papers

P1  Final Investigation Report, dated 13 May 2019, with appendices including:

  • Local Authority Investigation Report, dated 1 August 2018, and appendices including:
    1. Statement of Depute Head Teacher, dated 20 June 2018
    2. Statement of Head Teacher, dated 26 June 2018
    3. Statement of Learning Technologist, dated 21 June 2018
    4. Statement of the Teacher, dated 3 July 2018
    5. Statement of Faculty Head, dated 4 July 2018
    6. Statements of pupils, undated
    7. Suspension Letter, undated
    8. Audit Report, undated
    9. Additional Evidence Report from Google Docs, undated
    10. Statement of the Teacher (read aloud during investigatory meeting), undated
    11. Email from Head teacher to the Teacher, dated 3 July 2018
    12. Pupil Reports, Higher Media, dated 23 March 2018
    13. SQA Document, Higher Media Course Specification, version 1.0
    14. Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning, GTCS, dated December 2012
    15. Code of Professionalism and Conduct, dated 2012
    16. Letter from SQA, dated 6 June 2018
    17. SNCT duties of a teacher
  • Teacher’s Response to Notice of Investigation, dated 19 November 2018, with appendices including:
    1. Completed NoI Form
    2.  Testimonial from Testimonial 1, dated 16 November 2018
    3.  Testimonial from Witness 2, dated 19 November 2018
    4.  Letter from Testimonial 1, dated 19 March 2019
    5.  Higher Media Course Assessment Specification, version 2.1
    6.  National 5 Media Course Specification, version 2.1
    7.   Guidance on conditions of assessments for coursework, version 1.0

    • Teacher’s Response to Final Report, dated 5 June 2019

    • Notice of Investigation, dated 5 November 2018

    • Notice of Panel Consideration, dated 27 May 2019

Teacher’s Hearing Papers

T1 Statement of the Teacher, with appendices including:

  1. CV
  2. Materials for Media Class
  3. CPD certificates/bookings
  4. Mentoring minutes
  5. Reflective notes and stress journal
  6. Letter of support from [redacted]
  7. Personal review plans

T2 Statement of Witness 1 (in attendance)
T3 Statement of Testimonial 2
T4 Statement of Witness 2 (in attendance)
T5 Statement of Testimonial 1
T6 Statement of Witness 3 (in attendance)
T7 Statement of Testimonial 3 with testimonial
T8 Statement of Testimonial 4 with testimonial
T9 Statement of Testimonial 5 with testimonial
T10 Statement of Testimonial 6
T11 Additional testimonials, including:

  1. Testimonial 7
  2. Testimonial 8
  3. Testimonial 9
  4. Testimonial 10
  5. Testimonial 11
  6. Testimonial 12
  7. Testimonial 13
  8. Testimonial 14
  9. Testimonial 15
  10. Testimonial 16
  11. Testimonial 17

Late Papers

L1 Addendum Statement of the Teacher, with appendices thereto:

  1. Reflections on SQA result estimates
  2. Reflections on SQA verification meetings
  3. Reflections on SQA guidelines on Higher English
  4. Reflections on Higher Media Assignment (Higher Course Specification for Higher Media)
  5. Time Management CPD and reflection
  6. Honesty and Personal Values at Work CPD and reflection
  7. Minutes from meetings with Witness 2
  8. Updated stress journal
  9. Reflections on the benefits of counselling
  10. Reflections on life mentoring
  11. PRD for 2021/22
  12. Professional Learning Programme, PowerPoint and reflections
  13. Reflections on COPAC

L2 Statement of Witness 4

L3 Testimonials:

  1.  Testimonial 10
  2. (b) Testimonial 9
  3. (c) Testimonial 5
  4. (d) Testimonial 18
  5. (e) Testimonial 19

Servicing Officer’s Hearing Papers

S1 Notice of Full Hearing, dated 19 January 2021, with cover email and delivery receipt
S2 Panel Meeting Decision re: Privacy Application, dated 15 April 2020
S3 Teacher’s completed response form, dated 21 January 2021

Fitness to Teach

No witnesses were called by the Presenting Officer. However, the Teacher’s Representative called a number of witnesses to give evidence, including the Teacher.

The evidence given at the hearing is summarised below, but only to the extent necessary to explain the Panel’s decision.

Evidence of the Teacher – given under Oath

At the outset of his evidence the Teacher read aloud his witness statements dated 20 December 2019 and 3 February 2021. In the course of doing so, he was asked supplementary questions by his Representative before being cross-examined by the Presenting Officer.

Having set out his qualifications and teaching experience in detail, the Teacher explained that he worked at Oldmachar Academy between 2015 and 2018. He described his first year of teaching Higher English at the school as a success, with most of his pupils being awarded good grades. He was also promoted to Acting Principal Teacher of English. It was at around the same time as his promotion that the Languages and English departments combined to form a new Faculty of Literacy and Languages.

The Teacher explained that soon after the new Faculty was formed, he was asked by the Head Teacher to set up and implement a new National 5 Media class for 2016/2017. He said that whilst he recognised that setting up such a course would be a ‘considerable undertaking’, he agreed to do so in order to avoid jeopardising his prospects of becoming permanent Principal Teacher, which is a role that he had applied for.

Having agreed to set up the course, the Teacher explained that he spent many hours writing and developing resources on top of his teaching and Acting Principal Teacher duties. The task was made more difficult by the fact there was no precedent to indicate how long the various course elements would take. However, notwithstanding these challenges, the National 5 Media course was a success with many pupils coping well with the course content, which was split evenly between the assignment and the exam.

As a result of the success of the National 5 course, the individual who was ultimately appointed Principal Teacher of Literacy and Languages asked the Teacher to offer a Higher Media course in 2017/2018, which he agreed to do. However, unlike with Higher English, in Higher Media pupils had to work collaboratively for the assignment, while the evaluation had to be their own work. Furthermore, as with the National 5 Media course, the Higher course assessment was based on an assignment worth 50%, with the remaining 50% based on a written exam.

To encourage pupils to ‘brainstorm’ and to ‘share their experiences’ for the purpose of writing their assignment, the Teacher explained that he had set up ‘Google Classroom’, which was to be used during the planning stage for the assignment. This method was the recommended web tool and the Senior Management Team (SMT) had instructed all teaching staff to become familiar with it and to use it with their classes. However, when writing up assessments, students were expected to work individually using the shared materials only as ‘prompts’.

The Teacher then outlined in some detail the difficulties that he encountered in running the Higher Media course, in particular in time managing the work that needed to be done for the assignment.

He explained that pupils were required to undertake filming and editing as part of the course, which meant they had to leave the classroom for substantial periods. That limited the amount of time that could be spent on teaching the course content for the exam, and for completion of the written assignment. The situation was compounded by the fact that a number of pupils were taking Higher Media as a crash course and had not studied the subject before, which meant there was a great deal of course content to get through in the time available. Also, pupils tended to prioritise core subjects such as English and Maths, which resulted in some pupils failing to hand in work on time and missing lessons, which only served to put further strain on the already tight timescales. These difficulties, combined with the fact that the assignment had no upper word limit, meant that the course was extremely difficult to manage.

The Teacher acknowledged that he should have told his line manager about pupils missing deadlines and used the progress tracking system to record information about the pupil assignments, however he did not do so. A further difficulty also emerged because it became apparent that there were similarities between the assignments that were eventually submitted by the pupils.

The Teacher said that he thought he had made it clear to the pupils that while the Google Classroom document could be used for reference and preparation, all work for the assignment had to be done on an individual basis. He also said he did not believe there to be any risk of pupils copying and pasting from the Google Classroom document because they each had individual roles within their group work and when he supervised them typing up their assignments they appeared to be working independently. It was the Teacher’s evidence however, that on reflection he should have put in place more ‘robust measures’ to ensure that pupils were completing their own work.

The Teacher said that he could have explained the difference between the group work collaboration and the individual assignment in a better way by providing the pupils with typed instructions. He could have also caused the pupils to sign a written declaration confirming their understanding, which their parents or guardians could then read. He said he should have had ‘key checkpoints’ in the year to properly monitor the progress of pupils, which would have enabled him to identify any difficulties early on and rectify them. On reflection however, he admitted that he was ‘preoccupied’ with delivering the course content to ensure pupils were fully prepared for the exam rather than focussing on their assignments. The Teacher did however also express the view that there should have been more quality assurance from his line manager or SQA Co-ordinator because he was teaching the course to three Higher classes and over 40 students for the first time. Despite this, nobody from the school requested to see any coursework, resources, or unit outcomes at any stage. Ultimately though, he acknowledged that the onus was on him to ask for support, in particular from his line manager, which he could have done.

As a result of the pressures that came with delivering the course, the Teacher accepted that he dishonestly edited the work of some of the pupils, as reflected by his admissions to the allegations. He described being at ‘breaking point’ by the time he edited work and ‘panicking’ because his discovery that pupils had submitted similar assignments came close to the deadline for submission of the work to the SQA. There was also still ‘vital exam prep’ to be covered in the remaining lessons and he felt responsible that pupils had been unable to properly proof-read their own work and meet the standards that he knew they could achieve. He described that in the end, the pressure, stress, and a sense of isolation caused his mental health to deteriorate and that he made poor decisions independently rather than seeking support, which he now very much regrets.

In describing his actions, the Teacher acknowledged that he made a serious error of judgment in deciding to change the pupils’ work on Google Classroom. Whilst initially his intention was to check that work was completed, provide feedback suggestions and prompts, fix ‘glaring typos’ and ensure names and titles were on the work, he admitted to making more significant edits, including correcting errors and adding points that had been left out. He described that in one case, he made around 100 edits to one assignment.

In discussing the edits that he made, the Teacher acknowledged that any form of editing, no matter how minor, was a step too far, and that he should have only made general comments to the class as a whole. He described his decision to edit work as the ‘worst decision’ he has ever made and recognised that his actions fell ‘way below’ the standards expected of a registered Teacher. He said that he would be ‘devastated’, ‘angry’ and ‘disappointed’ if something like this happened to one of his own children and he repeatedly emphasised that he is deeply remorseful for his actions.

Having given the Panel a broad understanding of the difficulties that he encountered in managing the Higher Media course and the actions that he took as a result, the Teacher provided further detail about his workload at the time.

He explained that at the time of the incident he had responsibility for four certificate classes –  three bi-level Higher/Nat 5 Media classes and a National 5 English class of 30 pupils, which is well above the typical workload he experienced at other schools. He said that the certificate classes required a high degree of preparation and marking, and they included large folios and assignments by pupils that required planning and feedback, in addition to considerable exam preparation. He highlighted that he was allocated the same marking workload of English prelims for certificate classes as other members of the English team, despite having to mark all of the N5 and Higher Media prelims on his own, which meant that he spent most weeknights preparing and marking work, as well as several hours at the weekend. In addition to this, the Principal Teacher assigned development work to each member of the department. He said that when he brought up workload issues at departmental meetings, his complaints were ignored and, during a meeting with SMT, he was accused of being ‘difficult’ for raising various objections.

As a result, whilst the Teacher acknowledged that he could have and should have asked for help, he felt at the time that there was no one he could turn to for support, including his own union, who simply advised him that he should not develop any resources due to industrial action that was taking place at the time.

However, whilst in his evidence the Teacher maintained that his workload was heavy and that stress and a lack of support played a significant part in his decision making at the time, he took full responsibility for the poor decisions that he made and for the repercussions for the students involved.

Having acknowledged that he engaged in conduct that fell significantly short of the expected professional standards, the Teacher explained in detail the steps that he has since taken to remediate his conduct.

He described that since the date of the incident he has ‘dramatically’ changed his life. He now has a new role as an English teacher at Albyn School, which is an independent school also based in the Aberdeen area. He has been teaching at the school for approximately 3 years and he feels he has integrated well and has a good rapport with the staff, parents, and pupils. He has also been upfront about the allegations with colleagues and they have helped him move on in many respects.

The Teacher described Albyn School as a ‘supportive and nurturing environment’ where regular staff and departmental meetings are held, during which staff members are encouraged to exchange ideas and discuss issues. The Teacher described Department Head Witness 2, as very experienced, supportive, approachable and setting strict departmental guidelines for SQA submissions.

The Teacher explained that in addition to being his line manager, Witness 2 also undertakes a formal mentoring role, which involves the two of them having regular meetings. These meetings have included informal chats but also more formal sessions involving cross-marking, the verification of assessment marking and discussions about forward planning. He said that as a result of these meetings, he now knows that it is ‘imperative’ to seek assistance if there are any doubts about assessments, and to seek out guidance and support to help deal with high level pressure.

In recognition that his actions have called into question his professionalism, the Teacher also explained that he has attended a number of CPD courses aimed at addressing his prior failings and he provided evidence of the courses he has undertaken in the bundle of documents placed before the Panel. The courses he attended included an SQA ‘Understanding Standards’ event on N5 and Higher English coursework, which the Teacher said has strengthened his understanding of the expected standards and ensured that he has a secure and up-to-date knowledge of English assessments. He also attended a ‘Resilience and Wellbeing’ workshop in December 2019 and a ‘Time Management’ course in January 2020, and recently completed an online course relating to ‘Honesty and Personal Values at Work’ in which he was able to consider what it meant to be ‘intrinsically honest’. He said that he has also closely read and re-familiarised himself with a range of documents available on the SQA website. Furthermore, every year he has taught at Albyn he has gone through the course guidelines to ensure that he is completely up to date and has shared his understanding of the guidelines with pupils. He said that as a result, in the past 3 years of teaching at Albyn, he has met all deadlines without difficulty.

The Teacher described that he is now developing strategies to avoid stress. He keeps a ‘stress journal’, which he has found to be a useful tool in highlighting ‘stress flashpoints’ during the year, such as report and coursework deadlines. The journal has allowed him to ‘take stock’ and reflect on the causes of stress. In addition, he has explored the topic of mindfulness meditation, which he now uses to decrease stress levels and manage pressure.

As well as using the aforementioned tools, the Teacher explained that he attended [redacted] for weekly counselling sessions until January 2020, in order to help him understand why he acted in the way that he did and to put in place mechanisms to ensure his actions are not repeated. Through counselling, he now recognises that [redacted]. He feels that having counselling had made a ‘huge difference’ to his life because the therapeutic benefits of speaking about [redacted], the pressures at work and at home, was ‘liberating’.

To alleviate pressures at work he said that he also now regularly exercises by going to the gym and by going running with his daughter in the evenings, whereas before he did not have a healthy work-life balance. He also explained that he has built up a close friendship with a colleague called Witness 3, who he described as a ‘life mentor’. Prior to the Covid-19 restrictions, they regularly went to the gym together and often talked about what happened in the past and how things could have been handled differently. This support has continued in school, where possible, and virtually otherwise.

The Teacher believes that he has benefitted enormously from the changes he has made over the last 3 years during his time of teaching at Albyn School. He feels that his organisation skills have improved due to the mentoring he has received and the courses he has undertaken. He feels that he has a sound awareness of SQA guidelines and will seek assistance if he is unsure about anything. He feels he has improved his communication skills with colleagues and management. He has also immersed himself in the school community and runs a number of clubs, inside and outside of the school. 

The Teacher explained that he was also heavily involved in the process of estimating SQA results for Highers and National 5 for the English department as a result of SQA exams being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The grades issued to pupils were based on a combination of evidence of attainment and his own professional judgement of what students would have achieved had they sat the exam. He said that he worked closely with teachers via ‘Web Link’ to ensure that the grades were standardised and accurate across the department. Where pupils were sitting at the borderline, he sought advice. He said that in December 2020, he was also involved in the verification process for the Higher prelim papers, which involved each member of the department marking a component of the exam and then cross-marking six candidates’ work whose score fell within two marks of a grade boundary, in order to ensure that the marking was fair and consistent.

The Teacher then outlined that one of the key areas for his Professional Review and Development Portfolio for the 20/21 session was to deliver a CPD session for all senior school staff, the focus of which was to highlight the consequences of not following the SQA guidelines. In delivering this talk, he shared his experience with colleagues and in doing so highlighted the dangers and consequences of dishonesty and of not following the SQA guidelines.

In concluding his evidence in chief, the Teacher emphasised that he is extremely remorseful for his actions and that, while there were mitigating features that had a role in his decision making, he takes full responsibility for what happened. He recognises that his actions would have had a ‘pretty devastating’ effect on pupils because of the ‘uncertainty’ and ‘stress’ on being contacted by the school and advised that their assignments had been returned. He said that to think about that is ‘heart-breaking' because his intention was to provide pupils with a rewarding experience. He wants to make sure that he does his very best for the pupils at Albyn school and to be as transparent as possible in his approach to teaching. He was clear that he wants to be a role model to pupils, and he maintained that he will never allow himself to repeat what he did during his time at Oldmachar. 

Having read aloud and supplemented his witness statements, the Teacher was then asked a number of questions in cross-examination by the Presenting Officer.

During questioning, he agreed that he should have refused to teach the media course because he was Acting Principal Teacher at the time and already had a demanding timetable. Instead, however, he chose to take on the course knowing that it would add dramatically to his already heavy workload.

In line with his admissions, the Teacher accepted editing the work of pupils, but said that his mindset in the beginning was to help the pupils fulfil their potential. However, having reflected, he fully recognises that what he did was wrong, and that he did it to cover up his inadequacies.

It was then put then put to the Teacher that he did not report what he had done until it became subject to SQA investigation and he agreed that was the case. He also agreed that in the beginning, he found it very hard to take responsibility for his actions, stating that it was easier to hide behind the mitigating circumstances. He acknowledged however that he should have been looking at his own behaviour, which he has done in the years since the incident. He said that for him to fail as ‘spectacularly’ as he did, it has taken a lot of ‘soul searching’ to own up to the incident, which he has only been able to do with a lot of support. He accepted however, that he should have sought support from his line manager and/or from his teaching colleagues at the time, which he failed to do. 

The Teacher agreed with the Presenting Officer that his actions are more serious than simply overlooking the SQA guidelines and he acknowledged that other teachers at Oldmachar had to work under difficult conditions, albeit they did not have the added workload that came with the role of Acting Principal Teacher.

He agreed that he chose to be dishonest with the SQA and when asked about comments made by some of the pupils in his media class, he accepted that he did at one point advise pupils to copy and paste work, to reword work completed by others, and encouraged candidates to share work.

The Teacher accepted that it was his responsibility alone to ensure that pupils did not fall behind with work and that by ultimately behaving dishonestly, he set a poor example to pupils. He said there was simply no excuse for editing their work and that whilst he was working in a stressful environment and his mental health suffered, he made the conscious decision to edit the work of pupils.

Despite recognising his significant shortfalls, the Teacher was nevertheless adamant in his responses to further questions by the Presenting Officer that there is no risk in the future of him repeating the same or similar conduct. He described the experience as ‘horrific’ for everyone involved and reiterated that he has gone through ‘a lot of soul searching’ in coming to terms with what he did. He emphasised that he has developed strategies to prevent anything like this happening again and he maintained that he is a far better teacher now than he ever has been.

Evidence of Witness 1 – given under Oath

At the outset of her evidence, Witness 1 read aloud her witness statement dated 18 December 2019 before being cross-examined by the Presenting Officer.

In outlining her teaching experience, Witness 1 explained that she worked at Oldmachar Academy, initially as a supply teacher but thereafter on a permanent basis until June 2017. She worked in the same department as the Teacher for approximately 1 year however they first met during her teaching degree back in 2006.

She said that she interacted with the Teacher every day and they got on very well. She respected him as a teacher and he helped her out a great deal with her secondary classes, giving her advice and assistance when necessary, as well as providing valuable input at departmental meetings.

In relation to the English department, she said that for a long time it was fairly well established and there were good relationships within the department. However experienced teachers started to leave, and relationships started to ‘sour’. She expressed an opinion that it became an unsupportive and unfriendly place to work and she personally felt unable to speak to certain members of staff, including the then Principal Teacher, who she recalls did not provide staff with a lot of support but instead left them to resolve issues by themselves. She said that in the end there was no one in the leadership team that members of staff felt they could approach.

She explained that in August 2015 she went on maternity leave, following which the Teacher was promoted to the role of Acting Principal Teacher. When she returned, her teaching colleagues seemed happy with the way the Teacher was running the department. However, he ended up not being appointed Principal Teacher. She said that the person that was appointed was not easy to get on with because she was not good at speaking to people and often made accusations, giving the impression that she did not trust anyone.

Of particular concern was the Principal Teacher’s approach to the working time agreement, which is a country-wide legal agreement about teacher workload. It requires there to be a certain number of hours allocated for teaching, marking, planning and whole school activities. The Principal Teacher, however, failed to understand why the agreement was important and made no attempt to create an atmosphere where teachers felt supported. 

Witness 1 said that, at the point she decided to leave Oldmachar, the Teacher’s timetable was ‘very full’ and he had a ‘heavy workload’. She felt that he taught more than his fair share of certificate classes, which meant a greater amount of assignments, marking and deadlines. Moreover, he was teaching Media, which was a new class that involved a ‘huge amount of work’.

In her concluding remarks about the Teacher, she said that she regarded him as a hardworking, motivated, and conscientious teacher whom she could go to for support regarding any element of her teaching. She described him as ‘always focussed and professional’ at departmental meetings and as ‘genuinely supportive’ of both pupils and teaching colleagues. Knowing what she does about the allegations, she believes that he acted in the way that he did because he wanted pupils to succeed, as opposed to being malicious or driven by a desire to cheat or deceive.

During cross-examination by the Presenting Officer, Witness 1 clarified that she was no longer working at Oldmachar by the time of the allegations but she knows what happened.

In response to being told that the Teacher had not immediately admitted what he had done wrong, she said that he would not have known who to turn to because there was no one else teaching at the school who knew about the Media course. Also, as someone who was familiar with the management at the school, she would not have encouraged the Teacher to discuss the matter with senior management because in her view they were unsupportive.

During further questioning by the Presenting Officer, she was then asked about the extent to which the Principal Teacher had input into what was happening at the school and she said that whilst the Principal Teacher was very keen to have weekly meetings with them in an effort to find out what was happening in classes, she was often not forthcoming in giving advice or support.

Finally, she agreed with the suggestion made by the Presenting Officer that administering SQA assessments is fundamental to the role of a teacher and requires complete honesty. She also agreed that working in a stressful environment was not an excuse for the Teacher’s behaviour, albeit she understood why he felt he could not turn to management for support.

Evidence of Witness 2 – given under Oath

At the outset of her evidence, Witness 2 read aloud her witness statement and was asked some supplementary questions before being cross-examined by the Presenting Officer.

In outlining her teaching experience, she said that she accepted the post of Head of Department at Albyn School in around in 2001, having previously worked for a number of years at Robert Gordon’s College.

She explained that the Teacher is one of four full-time members of staff within the English department, which is now relatively well established. She interviewed the Teacher and was impressed by him, and he joined the department in late 2017. Since that time, he has got on very well at the school and has established himself as an integral part of the department.

She described the Teacher as having a ‘very good rapport’ with his classes and as a ‘well prepared’ and ‘excellent’ teacher. She said that he has ‘a lot of strength, empathy and subject knowledge’ and works ‘really well’ with pupils, teachers, and parents. He has helped to generate teaching resources within the department and works closely with SFL/EAL to support pupils in his classes.

She further described how the Teacher contributes to the department more widely beyond his own classes by undertaking an active role in the teaching and learning committee. He has prepared generalised materials for the whole department to use and has set up clubs for pupils. He also provides reports that are ‘well executed’.

In short, it was Witness 2’s evidence that the Teacher’s conduct during his time at the school has been to a high standard and entirely professional.

As the Teacher’s line manager at Albyn School, Witness 2 explained that she oversees his work and therefore knows exactly how he is getting on in terms of his class assignments. He has provided her with his comments on pupil essays and in turn she has provided him with constructive feedback. She also observed the Teacher giving a well-planned, controlled lesson to pupils on 9 December 2020 in which they fully engaged.

Moreover, she explained that within the department there are strict guidelines to ensure that everyone complies with SQA deadlines and the Teacher has adhered to the guidelines. Teachers are also provided with a great deal of support by the school and receive advice from those who have acted as markers for SQA exams. As a matter of course, teachers also cross-check and cross-mark a sample of each other’s work and no-one is ever left to their own devices. There are also regular departmental meetings in which a range of issues are discussed, including support for learning, creation of new materials, feedback for pupils and marking.

In addition to having regular meetings with the Teacher, Witness 2 explained that she undertakes a formal mentoring role, which involves them meeting up to discuss current personal and professional matters. During these meetings they have discussed the GTCS case, as well as issues concerning SQA guidance and how information should be shared with pupils.

In the course of her evidence, Witness 2 was also keen to emphasise that the Teacher had been up front with the school about the GTCS case from the very beginning and that, having evaluated his performance and professionalism during his time at the school, she has no concerns about his honesty and integrity. She said that she trusts him as a member of staff ‘without reservation’ and feels that he has a lot to offer. She would be sorry to lose him as a member of staff.

During further questioning by the Teacher’s Representative, Witness 2 made it clear that whilst she provided a witness statement back in 2019, nothing has changed to alter her opinion of the Teacher. She said that he adapted to the demands of lockdown and continued to teach pupils at a high level. He has continued to meet deadlines. He has been involved in marking Higher papers and performed well, with his marking being within the boundaries of what was set. They have continued to meet up and during their meetings they have discussed planning procedures. The Teacher has also shared knowledge that he has gained from his attendance on time management courses. Through their discussions it has become apparent that he has spent a lot of time looking at SQA standards and he even created a session with staff in order to discuss the mistakes that he made. 

During cross-examination by the Presenting Officer, Witness 2 acknowledged that the Teacher should have asked for support at Oldmachar Academy, however, she understood that he did not have a particularly good relationship with his line manager. She also understood the Teacher’s decision to accept responsibility for a new course despite his already heavy workload because teachers ‘want to do their best for their pupils’. She agreed, however, that the Teacher ought to have discussed with someone, whether inside or outside of school, the fact he was experiencing stress and if he found himself in a similar stressful situation in the future, she would expect him to turn to her and/or to other teaching colleagues for support.

During further questioning, Witness 2 agreed with the suggestion made by the Presenting Officer that administering SQA assessments is fundamental to the role of a teacher. She also agreed that the role requires honesty because there has to be integrity within the system. Having expressed those views, she was then asked whether she had any concern about the Teacher acting dishonestly and in response she made it clear that he has always been open and honest about what he did, which made her ‘less concerned’ than if he was in denial. Not only that but he has put in a great deal of work to correct his past mistakes and from what she has seen of his working standards, he has set examples of honesty and integrity to his current pupils, who have not witnessed him behaving dishonestly in any way over the last 3-4 years. She said that his work is ‘entirely professional’, that he operates with ‘high standards of integrity’ and that acting dishonestly is not his default response to difficult or stressful situations. He is also now much more aware of the steps that he can take to mitigate stress and there are a number of people within the school that he could turn to for support.

Finally, on being asked questions by the Panel, Witness 2 expressed her opinion that the Teacher has now reached the stage where he could cope independently without her assistance. She said that he has the skills to be a ‘very good’ teacher and has been ‘exemplary’ throughout his time at Albyn.

Evidence of Witness 3 – given under Oath

At the outset of his evidence, Witness 3 read aloud his witness statement dated 12 December 2019 and was asked supplementary questions by the Teacher’s Representative before being cross-examined by the Presenting Officer.

He explained that he joined Albyn School in 2012 and met the Teacher when he joined the school in 2017. They both work within the English department and interact with each other on a daily basis. He described the Teacher as ‘sociable, friendly and reliable at work’, as well as being ‘good with pupils and staff alike’.

Having been told by the Teacher about the GTCS proceedings, he said he agreed to meet with him to discuss the allegations and provide him with support and guidance, which he feels has helped the Teacher to come to terms with the allegations. Having had many discussions with the Teacher he said he is in no doubt that he is ‘deeply remorseful’ for his actions.

Witness 3 described being very positive about the benefits of fitness for stress management and said that he has helped the Teacher to use exercise as a way of managing his stress and keeping up with the pressures of being a teacher. They attend the gym together and discuss other techniques that might help with stress management. They also discuss the reasons why the Teacher gets stressed and how better to manage those stresses, such as working on aspects of time management, reducing marking workload and finding ways to unwind outside of school hours. Having interacted with the Teacher in these various ways, he expressed the opinion that the Teacher has made ‘big improvements’ on managing his stress and no longer seems to let things get to him.

As well as talking about techniques to manage stress, Witness 3 said that he and the Teacher also talk a lot about what it means to show integrity and about being open and honest. It was Witness 3’s opinion that the Teacher ‘wholeheartedly accepts’ that what he did was wrong and agrees that he should have been more proactive in taking steps to avoid the matter escalating. Through their discussions, he also believes that the Teacher understands the errors that he made, which has been a ‘huge step forward’.

It was Witness 3’s evidence that the Teacher has made ‘great improvements’ in his ability to manage time. There has been no problem in him meeting deadlines and he has helped other teachers to prepare work, such as National 5 folios. The Teacher is known to communicate well at staff meetings and meaningfully contributes to the discussions that take place. He explained that during these meetings the teaching staff are given good guidance about what is expected of them in terms of marking and how to ensure adherence to SQA guidance. Furthermore, deadlines are clearly outlined before an assignment is due to ensure there is enough time left over for pupils to check their own work.

It was Witness 3’s firm view that the Teacher has been an ‘asset’ to the team at Albyn School and has changed the social dynamic in a ‘really positive way’ by ‘bringing the team together’. He said he has an ‘excellent rapport with pupils’ and even assists with organising many activities outside of the classroom, such as the ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ lunch club.

In summary, it was Witness 3’s opinion was that the Teacher is a valuable addition to the school because he is an enthusiastic, knowledgeable, committed teacher who works hard to ensure that pupils are given the best possible experience and support. He has also been an organised and supportive colleague in preparing resources and mentoring pupils at Advanced Higher level and has provided an ‘enriching experience’ for pupils beyond the classroom.

During cross-examination by the Presenting Officer, Witness 3 confirmed that he has seen the allegations and, as with other witnesses, he agreed that administering SQA assessments requires complete honesty and is fundamental to the role of a teacher. He also candidly stated that when he was first made aware of the allegations, he was ‘concerned’. However, having got to know the Teacher very well, he no longer has any concerns about him because he has witnessed first-hand what the Teacher has done to learn from the experience and progress his teaching career.

During further questioning, Witness 3 confirmed that the Teacher has made improvements in managing stress and he agreed with the Presenting Officer that Albyn was a particularly supportive school. He also said that if the Teacher found himself in a less supportive environment, he would be able to manage the situation because he now appreciates the need to identify support in stressful circumstances and has developed techniques to help him cope effectively with stress management. It was Witness 3’s firm opinion that the Teacher could teach anywhere and there is no risk of him behaving in a similar way in the future. Furthermore, he is now able to work independently, as opposed to having people watch what he is doing.

Evidence of Witness 4 – given under Oath

At the outset of his evidence, Witness 4 read aloud his witness statement dated 21 January 2021 before being asked questions by the Teacher’s Representative and by the Presenting Officer.

In outlining his teaching experience, he explained that he became Deputy Head Teacher at Albyn School in 2013 and Acting Head Teacher in 2020.

In explaining school procedures, Witness 4 said that the school generally adopts a ‘rigorous’ cross-marking procedure, even more so during the current lockdown because the pupils had to be graded on the basis of estimates.

He said that since his employment he has found the Teacher to be a ‘dedicated’ and ‘diligent’ teacher who has developed very positive relationships with pupils and with the rest of his teaching colleagues. No concerns at all have been raised about the Teacher since he has been working at Albyn and he has been fully involved in the school community, running a number of extracurricular clubs. His most recent observation feedback from December 2020 was also very positive.

He was also clear that having spoken to the Teacher about the allegations, he well understands that what he did was wrong. It was Witness 4’s firm view that despite the allegations, the Teacher is a ‘credit’ to the profession for how he has since dealt with the situation and that if he were removed from the Register now it would be a ‘really devastating loss’. It was also Witness 4’s opinion that there is no risk of repetition in the future and he also made it clear that moving forward the school would support the Teacher with his career and with any conditions that GTCS might see fit to impose.

During cross-examination by the Presenting Officer, Witness 4 agreed that the allegations are serious. He said that it is ‘vital’ to follow SQA guidance ‘clearly’ and ‘accurately’, which the Teacher did not do. However, it was also Witness 4’s evidence that the Teacher has ‘diligently’ and ‘conscientiously’ reflected on what went wrong and that he would never do anything like that again. He has expressed ‘sincere remorse’ and fully understands his wrongdoing. 

Submissions (Presenting Officer)

At the conclusion of the evidence, the Panel heard submissions from both the Presenting Officer and from the Teacher’s Representative. In reaching a decision, the Panel had careful regard to the submissions made, which can be summarised as follows.

It was submitted by the Presenting Officer that the Panel should find that the Teacher is unfit to teach, failing which, that his fitness to teach is currently impaired. In making that submission, the Presenting Officer reminded the Panel of the legal framework that applies to Stage 2 of the fitness to teach proceedings.

It was submitted that the Teacher had breached parts 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6 and 2.3 of COPAC and that his actions not only amount to misconduct but fall significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.

With reference to the allegations, it was submitted that the Teacher’s actions were not a single isolated error but a course of conduct. He did not ask for support or reveal that he was struggling until his misconduct came to light. Furthermore, whilst there is evidence that the department was unsupportive, that does not excuse such a ‘clear departure’ from SQA procedures and COPAC.

In addressing the Panel about whether the Teacher’s conduct is remediable, whether it has been remedied and the likelihood of repetition, it was submitted by the Presenting Officer that the Teacher’s conduct is fundamentally incompatible with him being a registered teacher because to act dishonestly in connection with the SQA is so serious that it cannot be remedied. Furthermore, the public could have no confidence in the Teacher going forward.

It was submitted that even if the Panel were to find that the Teacher’s conduct is remediable, the evidence shows that he has not fully remediated. His evidence involved him listing a number of factors to blame for his behaviour, such as a lack of support at the school, which is of no relevance. He not only engaged in a course of conduct but accepted there was a period of time when he did not confess, as evidenced by his first response to his employer. Instead, it was only when it became clear that he had been caught that he admitted what he had done.

In short, it was submitted that any attempt to excuse his conduct is an indicator that the Teacher has failed to take responsibility.

Submissions (Teacher’s Representative)

At the outset of her submissions, the Teacher’s Representative reminded the Panel that the purpose of the proceedings was not to punish the Teacher but to protect the public and the wider public interest. As such, the Panel was invited to carefully consider the evidence in deciding whether the Teacher’s conduct was remediable, whether it had been remedied and the likelihood of reoccurrence. Furthermore, the Panel was reminded that any assessment of the Teacher’s fitness to teach has to be made at the date of the hearing and for that reason the Panel needs to take a holistic approach to the evidence and take into account what has happened since. 

By reference to the oral and documentary evidence, it was submitted by the Teacher’s Representative that the Teacher’s conduct is remediable, that it has been remediated and that the risk of reoccurrence is low.

It was submitted that the Teacher clearly understands that his conduct was wrong and fell short of the standards identified in COPAC. He has provided detailed written reflections, as set out in his addendum statement. There is support for the submission that his behaviour was wholly out of character because evidence has been presented from other teachers at Albyn school that over the course of approximately 3 years he has behaved with honesty and integrity. He fully understands the impact of his actions on pupils and the profession and has sought to change.

With reference to the oral and documentary evidence, it was submitted that there is clear evidence of remediation. There is evidence within the agreed bundle of documents that the Teacher has researched the SQA standards and has reviewed all SQA guidance on exams, assignments, and course specification. He has undertaken directly relevant professional learning. He has recently given a talk to colleagues on SQA guidelines in which he shared his experiences. He has taken steps to understand his past actions by attending counselling sessions until January 2020, by developing strategies to better cope with stress, by providing detailed written reflections and by forging close relationships with colleagues, who have helped him develop. All of these factors are clear indicators that the Teacher has shown a great deal of insight and point towards his remediation.

It was submitted that while not an excuse for his conduct, the circumstances that the Teacher found himself in at the time should be considered as part of the bigger picture. He was running a media course for the first time and from scratch. He describes an unsupportive and isolated culture and there is support in the evidence for what he describes.

In submitting that that there is an extremely low risk of similar conduct being repeated, it was highlighted that there is no evidence of repeat behaviour in the 3 years that have passed since the allegations came to light. To the contrary, all of the reports about the Teacher are positive. There are also numerous testimonials from people attesting to his good character and how he is currently performing as a teacher. He is seen by colleagues as an excellent teacher who builds a positive rapport with pupils and who sets himself and pupils high standards. Overall, the impression is that he is a dedicated, professional teacher and an excellent colleague.

Whilst it was submitted that in light of all of the documentary and oral evidence, the Panel ought not to find the Teacher unfit to teach, it was acknowledged that a finding of current impairment might need to be made on public interest grounds, given the serious nature of the allegations. However, the Panel was reminded that assessment of the public interest is from the perspective of a fully informed member of the public who would be aware of the ‘whole picture’, including the Teacher’s expression of remorse and the extent to which he has made progress since the date of the allegations.

Decision on Fitness to Teach

The Panel gave careful consideration to all the evidence presented and to 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 GTCS Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases - Indicative Outcomes Guidance Practice Statement (IOG).

Whilst the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher’s conduct was confined to a particular period in time and was not representative of a pattern of behaviour, it was nevertheless clear that he had consciously fabricated evidence to present to the SQA. In doing so, his actions could have prevented pupils from obtaining grades for university and/or from getting the credit they deserved from the work they had done. Furthermore, the Teacher was in a position of responsibility, having been entrusted to deliver SQA assessments, and his dishonest actions undermined the assessment process and clearly called into question his integrity as a Teacher. 

The Panel also identified a number of breaches of COPAC relating to Parts:

1.3 – you should avoid situations both within and outwith the professional context which may call into question your fitness to teach,

1.4 – you must uphold standards of personal and professional conduct, honesty and integrity so that the public have confidence in you as a teacher and teaching as a profession,

1.5 – you should be professional, honest and act with integrity in your dealings and correspondence with GTC Scotland, other regulatory (or similar) bodies and employers (including prospective and past);

1.6 – you should maintain an awareness that as a teacher you are a role model to pupils; and

2.3 – you should aim to be a positive role model to pupils and motivate and inspire them to realise their full potential.

For all of these reasons, the Panel was entirely satisfied that the Teacher’s conduct was sufficiently serious as to amount to misconduct.

For the same reasons, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had fallen significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and was unfit to teach at the time of the allegations. Whilst the Panel recognised that there were mitigating circumstances, which included the Teacher being placed under a great deal of pressure to deliver a new course with limited support, by his own admission he could have and should have turned to others for support. Furthermore, whilst at one point in his evidence he suggested that there was a culture of assisting pupils at the school, it was apparent from his own evidence that he understood what he did was wrong and the potential impact his actions could have had on pupils.

However, whilst the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher did fall significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher, the Panel recognised that the fitness to teach tests must be applied to the Teacher’s circumstances currently, meaning as at the date of the hearing. For that reason, the Panel had careful regard to what has happened since the date of the allegations in considering whether the Teacher’s conduct is remediable, whether it has been remedied and the likelihood of repetition.

Whilst the Panel recognised that acting dishonestly is often an indicator of an attitudinal issue that is difficult to remediate, the Panel was satisfied that in this case the Teacher’s conduct is remediable.

The Panel considered that the Teacher’s conduct, whilst serious, was isolated to a particular period in time and was not indicative of a pattern of dishonest behaviour. Furthermore, whilst it did not afford him an excuse for behaving dishonestly, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher found himself in a difficult situation in having to set up, facilitate and deliver a new course, whilst undertaking other teaching work. There was also evidence, which the Panel accepted, that he was not supported in running the course and that he found the situation extremely stressful.

It was the Panel’s view that if the Teacher had been more proactive in seeking support and had used appropriate coping strategies to deal better with the situation, it could have been avoided. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the Teacher’s conduct is remediable.

The Panel next considered whether the Teacher’s conduct has been remedied and the likelihood of repetition.

The Panel was mindful that approximately 3 years had passed since the date of the allegations and for a significant part of that time the Teacher has been working in the English department at Albyn School. During that time there had been no repetition of the same or similar behaviour. To the contrary, the evidence clearly shows that the Teacher has been working effectively and without incident at the school, whilst under close supervision from his line manager, who gave evidence about him that was very positive, as did the other witnesses.

Having carefully considered all of the evidence, it was clear to the Panel that the Teacher has reflected extensively on his actions and is deeply remorseful for his behaviour. He provided detailed written reflections, which had been included in the agreed bundle of documents. He voluntarily engaged in courses to help him improve the areas of his teaching practice that he previously failed to manage, such as time management. He re-familiarised himself with the SQA procedures. He researched and developed coping strategies to help him better manage stressful situations, which has involved him working closely with other teachers. He voluntarily attended counselling sessions to better understand why he behaved in the way that he did. He has also shared his experiences with his current teaching colleagues, including delivering a talk on SQA standards in which he made reference to his past failings.

The Panel noted that all of the witnesses called on the Teacher’s behalf spoke very highly of him, both in terms of his teaching ability and his integrity. There was also a number of very positive testimonials attesting to his good character included within the agreed bundle of documents.

The Panel also noted that there had been no challenge by the Presenting Officer to the credibility and/or reliability of the witnesses called on the Teacher’s behalf and, for the avoidance of doubt, the Panel found all of the witnesses to be credible and reliable. They each gave evidence in a straightforward and, in the Panel’s view, honest way, and the oral evidence given was consistent with the documentary evidence in the agreed bundle of documents.

For all of these reasons, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had fully remediated and that the risk of similar behaviour being repeated is low.

However, whilst the Panel recognised and took into account all of the above mentioned factors, the Panel was nevertheless satisfied that the Teacher’s conduct was so serious that a finding of current impairment was necessary on public interest grounds. Of particular relevance to the present case, the Panel reminded itself that consideration of the public interest involves consideration of: (i) the maintenance of the public’s confidence in registrants and in the integrity of the teaching profession; (ii) the maintenance of the public’s confidence in GTC Scotland as a professional regulator; (iii) the need to declare and uphold proper teaching standards; and (iv) the deterrent effect that the determination may have on other GTC Scotland registrants.

It was the Panel’s view that, given the serious nature of the Teacher’s conduct, not to make a finding of current impairment would result in the public’s confidence in registrants, the integrity of the teaching profession and in GTC Scotland as a professional regulator, being undermined. The Panel also considered that a finding of current impairment was necessary to declare and uphold proper teaching standards and would have a deterrent effect on other GTC Scotland registrants.

The Panel therefore determined that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.

Disposal

Having determined that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired, the Panel then considered what if any sanction was appropriate. In reaching a decision, the Panel had regard to the submissions made by the parties and to all of the documents submitted, including the character references attesting to the Teacher’s professionalism and skills as a teacher.

Submissions (Presenting Officer)

In the course of her submissions on disposal, the Presenting Officer summarised the options available to the Panel and the relevant factors to be taken into account, with reference to the IOG.

It was submitted that the allegations are serious and that acts of dishonesty fall at the serious end of the spectrum because dishonesty brings the reputation of the teaching profession into question. As a result, it was submitted that for a lesser sanction than removal to be imposed, there would need to be ‘compelling evidence’ of insight, as well as evidence that the dishonesty was out of character.

In assessing what is the appropriate disposal, it was submitted that the following factors be taken into account by the Panel: (i) the Teacher has admitted serious breaches; (ii) SQA assessments are central and fundamental to the role of a teacher; (iii) it is not disputed that the Teacher was aware of SQA requirements; (iv) the Teacher only admitted his actions once they were highlighted by the investigation; and (v) his explanation has changed over time, as he initially denied any wrongdoing before adopting his current position. Furthermore, whilst the allegations were admitted in their entirety and there is evidence of insight and good character, the allegations do involve a breach of trust and pupil awards could have been affected. 

Ultimately, however, it was acknowledged by the Presenting Officer that disposal was entirely a matter for the Panel.

Submissions (Teacher’s Representative)

At the outset of her submissions, the Teacher’s Representative stated that a Reprimand would be an appropriate and proportionate outcome in the particular circumstances of the case.

In making that submission, the following factors were highlighted as being particularly relevant: (i) the Teacher’s actions were an isolated event; (ii) there has been no repetition since the time of the allegations; (iii) the conduct is remediable and has been remedied; (iv) there is strong evidence of the Teacher’s good character, including a number of positive testimonials; (v) the conduct is one chapter in an otherwise unblemished career; (vi) the Teacher has admitted the allegations and reflected; (vii) the Teacher has shown genuine remorse; and (viii) he has positively engaged with GTCS.

In light of all of these factors, it was submitted that the public does not need to be protected from the Teacher. To the contrary, he clearly has commendable abilities as a teacher, as confirmed by the witnesses. As a result, removal from the Register would be unnecessary and disproportionate. A Conditional Registration Order would also be unnecessary because support has been in place for years and witnesses have said that the Teacher does not need any further support. A Reprimand would therefore mark the conduct and would indicate to the profession and to the public, the seriousness of the Teacher’s conduct.

Decision on Disposal

In considering what disposal might be appropriate, the Panel noted that the purpose of imposing a sanction is not to be punitive, though it may have that effect. The purpose of any sanction is to protect the public and the wider public interest in a way that is proportionate. For that reason, the Panel had to consider the available sanctions in ascending order of severity, starting with the least restrictive option first.

The Panel first considered whether a Reprimand was appropriate with reference to the factors listed in the IOG.

The Panel was satisfied that the matter did constitute an abuse of a position of trust and that the Teacher’s conduct had the potential to cause pupils harm. However, the Teacher admitted his wrongdoing at an early stage in the process, had reflected on the matter, had demonstrated genuine remorse, and had taken positive steps to properly address the issues that gave rise to his misconduct. The Panel was also satisfied that the matter represents an isolated period in an otherwise unblemished teaching career, there having been no repetition of the same or similar behaviour since the date of the allegations. There was also a wealth of oral and documentary evidence attesting to the Teacher’s good character and skills as a teacher and to the positive changes he has made to his lifestyle.

Having regard to all of these factors, the Panel was satisfied that a Reprimand was both an appropriate and proportionate way of marking the Teacher’s conduct. In reaching that conclusion, the Panel also considered that a properly informed member of the public, who was aware of all of the circumstances, including what has happened since the date of the allegations, would recognise and understand why such a disposal was appropriate.

Since the Panel determined that a Reprimand was the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case, it did not require to go on to consider whether a CRO was necessary. However, the Panel did comment that it did not believe that a CRO would be necessary or proportionate in this case due to the close supervision the Teacher has been subject to for the past 3 years and his level of progress and abilities during that time. The Panel considered that to go further in exploring conditions for the Teacher would be disproportionate due to the progress he has made and the assertion of witnesses from Albyn School that he does not require any ongoing support or supervision.

As set out in the IOG, a Panel may impose a Reprimand for such a period of time as the Panel sees fit but sets out that between 6 months and 2 years is the general starting range. In recognition of the seriousness of the Teacher’s conduct, the Panel decided to impose a Reprimand for a period of 3 years.

Having reached that decision, the proceedings were concluded.