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

17 and 18 June 2021

 Teacher Sharon Sinclair
 Registration Number 135438
 Registration category Primary
 Panel Brian Feeney (Convener), Michelle Farrell and Ruth Sharp
 Legal Assessor John Muir
 Servicing Officer Kirsty McIntosh
 Teacher's representative Martin Walker (Balfour + Manson)

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' means the GTCS Fitness to Teach and Appeals Rules 2017
  • the ‘Standards' means the GTCS Standards for Registration 2012
  • the 'SFR' means GTCS Standard for Full Registration; and
  • the 'SPR' means GTCS Standard for Provisional Registration

Recommendation

In November 2018, GTCS received a recommendation from Glasgow City Council ('the Local Authority') recommending that the Teacher’s registration be made subject to conditions because it is alleged that she lacks professional competence. In the Case Overview Report (the ‘Report’) submitted with the recommendation, it is alleged that the Teacher lacks professional competence because she has not maintained the sections of the Standards for Full Registration as indicated by an ‘N’ in the following table. Standards met are indicated by a ‘Y’ and ‘NJ’ indicates no judgement:

 1  Professional Values and Professional Commitment SFR
1.1 Social Justice Y
1.2 Integrity Y
1.3 Trust and Respect Y
1.4 Professional Commitment

Y

 
 2 Professional Knowledge and Understanding SFR
2.1 Curriculum  
2.1.1 Have knowledge and understanding of the nature of the curriculum and its development. Y
2.1.2 Have knowledge and understanding of the relevant area(s) of pre-school, primary or secondary curriculum. Y
2.1.3 Have knowledge and understanding of planning coherent and progressive teaching programmes N
2.1.4 Have knowledge and understanding of context for learning to fulfil their responsibilities in literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and interdisciplinary learning Y
2.1.5   Have knowledge and understanding of the principles of assessment, recording and reporting. Y
2.2  Education Systems and Professional Responsibilities
2.2.1 Have knowledge and understanding of the principal features of the education system, educational policy and practice. Y
2.2.2 Have knowledge and understanding of the schools and learning communities in which they teach and their own professional responsibilities within them. Y
2.3 Pedagogical Theories and Practice  
2.3.1 Have knowledge and understanding of relevant educational principles and pedagogical theories to inform professional practices. Y
2.3.2 Have knowledge and understanding of the importance of research and engagement in professional enquiry Y
3 Professional Skills and Abilities SFR
3.1 Teaching and Learning
3.1.1 Plan coherent, progressive and stimulating teaching programmes which match learners’ needs and abilities. Y
3.1.2 Communicate effectively and interact productively with learners, individually and collectively. N
3.1.3 Employ a range of teaching strategies and resources to meet the needs and abilities of learners. Y
3.1.4 Have high expectations of all learners. N
3.1.5 Work effectively in partnership in order to promote learning and wellbeing. N
3.2 Classroom Organisation and Management
3.2.1 Create a safe, caring and purposeful learning environment. N
3.2.2 Develop positive relationships and positive behaviour strategies. Y
3.3 Pupil Assessment
3.3.1 Use assessment, recording and reporting as an integral part of the teaching process to support and enhance learning. Y
3.4 Professional Reflection and Communication
3.4.1 Read and critically engage with professional literature, educational research and policy. Y
3.4.2 Engage in reflective practice to develop and advance career-long professional learning and expertise. Y

The Report along with the accompanying written evidence explained why the Local Authority formed this view. The Teacher was provided with a copy of the Report and evidence and confirmed that she did not intend to challenge the recommendation made by Glasgow City Council for her registration to be made subject to conditions.

On 13 June 2019, the recommendation was considered by a Panel at a private Panel Meeting. The Panel decided not to accept the recommendation made on that day. In line with Rules 3.1.1 and 3.8, the Panel decided instead that the matter be referred on for Full Hearing proceedings. The Panel reached this decision for a number of reasons, including: the Local Authority recommended conditions but did not give a view as to what these conditions should be; the Teacher claimed to have felt unsupported and victimised during her time at the school; there are issues around the Teacher’s health and the Panel were not clear to what extent this impacted on her competence at the time; and there were a significant number of standards that the Teacher was meeting. Ultimately, the Panel felt that it lacked sufficient information to be able to put in place effective and meaningful conditions, and so, in fairness to those involved, directed that a Full Hearing be arranged.

The hearing was arranged to take place in early 2020, however due to the Covid-19 pandemic and government guidance, the GTCS office was closed. In early 2021 virtual hearings began to be arranged, and a Panel approved that this case be heard virtually.

Preliminary Issues

There were no preliminary issues.

Evidence and Submissions

The Teacher provided an opening and closing statement and answered questions put to her by the Panel. The Panel also asked questions of the Local Authority witnesses, Local Authority Witness A (Head Teacher) and Local Authority Witness B (Principal Teacher).

The written evidence submitted for consideration by the Panel was:

  1. Case Overview Report, dated 14 November 2018 and appendices thereto:
    1.1 Chronology by Local Authority Witness A
    1.2 Chronology by Local Authority Witness B
    1.3 Competence referral cover email, dated 7 December 2018
    1.4 Letter to Teacher with Head Teacher’s concerns, dated 13 August 2018
    1.5 LNCT 11 Tracking Document, dated June 2018
    1.6 Supporting Report by Local Authority Witness A, undated
    1.7 Supporting Report by Local Authority Witness B, dated 28 November 2018
  2. Documentation Submitted by the Teacher:
    • Examples of planning at School A
    • Ancient Egypt co-operative learning group resources
    • Photographs – classroom, displays and outdoor learning
    • Photographs of classroom
    • Thank-you cards
    • Letter from Previous Head Teacher A, dated 23 January 2018
    • School A Parent Council Meeting Minutes
    • Signed statement of MR
    • Approved unsigned statement of TRed 22 June, 10 October and 21 November 2018
    • GP report by Medical Professional A, dated 29 August 2019
    • Letter from Medical Professional B, dated 23 August 2019
    • Report of Medical Professional B
  3. Notice of Full Hearing, dated 20 May 2021, with delivery receipt
  4. Panel Meeting Decision, dated 13 June 2019
  5. Completed hearing response form, dated 24 May 2021
  6. Written opening statement dated 16 June 2021.

After hearing the opening statement from the Teacher (also supplied in writing), she told the Panel that, of the SFR which the Local Authority alleged she was not meeting, she was meeting SFR 3.1.2, 3.1.4 and 3.2.1. She told the Panel that she did have knowledge and understanding in respect of SFR 2.1.3, however she accepted that her delivery fell short in some respects. With regard to SFR 3.1.5, she told the Panel that she had met this standard at the outset but accepted there were later issues and that latterly she likely wasn’t quite meeting this standard.

In answer to the Panel, the Teacher stated that her delivery of planning fell below par and that she struggled to get plans in on time. She told the Panel that she did work in partnership with colleagues at the outset of her time at the school, but she had not understood she was being informally assessed rather than simply supported. By the end she had felt victimised and stopped taking advice on board.

Local Authority Witness A told the Panel that the Local Authority had recommended the Teacher’s registration be made subject to conditions because she had resigned before their formal competence processes had been completed.

In relation to planning, Local Authority Witness B told the Panel about the role she had to seek to raise attainment in numeracy and literacy across the school. She had some concerns that the Teacher’s planning was activity based rather than skills based. She did not discuss perceived gaps with the Teacher. Although she had hoped to do so, Local Authority Witness B never in fact formally observed the Teacher in practice. Local Authority Witness A explained that she had sought to be supportive to the Teacher and that she had been encouraged by the Teacher’s positive engagement and willingness to improve. The Teacher told the Panel that she was aware that her planning was late in being submitted, but that nobody had raised any concerns about the quality of her plans.

With regards to SFR 3.1.2, Local Authority Witness A told the Panel that the school shared learning with parents. She explained that the Teacher did this quite well at the outset, but that she fell behind in the second term and was struggling to keep on top of this. Local Authority Witness B was very clear to the Panel that the Teacher cared about her children and that pupils had fun and enjoyed being in her class. The children were safe and having fun. Her issue was that when she spoke to children, they found it hard to articulate their learning processes. The Teacher explained that she did go over her learning intentions with her pupils. She did change her practice to make it more child friendly. She was unaware that there had been any concerns in this respect and had she been made aware of such concerns she would have attempted to address them.

Local Authority Witness A told that Panel that there were concerns that the Teacher would disclose matters of a personal nature to pupils. The Teacher denied that she would disclose personal information to pupils and that she was well aware that such disclosures should not happen.

With regard to SFR 3.1.4, Local Authority Witness B explained that she could only go on informal observations as formal observations had not taken place. From her informal observations, she had concerns about the pace being inappropriate. She had only been appointed as official mentor shortly before the Teacher was off ill for personal reasons and had then resigned. Local Authority Witness A told the Panel that the Teacher had asked for help around planning and gratefully received it. Although she was very creative, Local Authority Witness A told the Panel that the Teacher’s planning in numeracy and literacy were not up to standard. The Teacher explained that there had been positive feedback from other observations and that she would have happily addressed negative feedback, but that she had never actually been told that her plans were not good enough.

With reference to SFR 3.1.5 the Teacher told the Panel she had a great relationship with parents. She would address any parental questions at the end of the school day. She spoke every morning to the parents of a child with Additional Support Needs. She felt she had a good relationship with parents and colleagues. She had not understood that Local Authority Witness B’s input was professional rather than friendly. She told the Panel that if colleagues asked if she wanted help with something it was cast back at her by the then Head Teacher that ‘someone had to help me’ as opposed to help being offered.

Local Authority Witness A told the Panel that there was never any question that the Teacher was anything but kind and caring; she had a good relationship with her pupils. There was an issue with lack of communication about progress and some parents had concerns about her organisation in the classroom. Local Authority Witness B reiterated that there were no concerns about the Teacher’s personal character. She told the Panel that the Teacher was offered informal support. It was unfortunate that the Teacher had resigned before it could be effective. She was unable to comment on parental comments.

The Teacher told the Panel that she was not aware that informal support from Local Authority Witness B was being written up as a formal chronology. She questioned how it could be informal if presented as a formal document to the Panel.

With regard to SFR 3.2.1, Local Authority Witness A told the Panel that the Teacher’s classroom was untidy and cluttered with things not put away overnight. The Teacher referred the Panel to numerous photographs of the classroom over time in which the classroom looked tidy.

Asked to respond to the Teacher’s feelings of victimisation and bullying, Local Authority Witness A told the Panel that she had always fully supported the Teacher and she would be disappointed if that was how her support had been perceived by the Teacher. Local Authority Witness B explained to the Panel that she had offered the Teacher informal support and was the Teacher’s biggest cheerleader. She told the Panel that the chronology had been written retrospectively from notes in her other role. She had wanted the Teacher to stay at the school and was shocked when she left. Local Authority Witness A told the Panel that one of the school’s strengths was its collegiate approach and that it had a warm and welcoming ethos.

The Teacher clarified that the bullying and victimisation had come from the then Head Teacher and that she had got on well with both Local Authority Witness A and Local Authority Witness B.

Asked how she had kept up to date since leaving the school, the Teacher explained that matters had been more difficult due to the constraints of Covid-19. She had cared for her son and his learning and assisted with the learning of a friend’s child. She had accessed YouTube learning channels; she had completed a GIRFEC course, an autism course, ‘Removing Barriers from Learning’ in addition to first aid. She had done professional reading about planning, recovery curriculum and accessed resources on the national hub.

In respect of her medical background, the Teacher told the Panel that it was not so much her medical condition but rather the exacerbation of it during her time at the school that had the most impact on her. She had family concerns which didn’t help but it was her feelings of victimisation and bullying by the then Head Teacher which had the most effect. Her new medication had greatly improved matters and she felt much better able to manage matters now.

Asked what conditions were envisaged by the Local Authority in respect of the Teacher’s registration, Local Authority Witness A told the Panel the Teacher would require to be fully supported personally and professionally but was unable to say what conditions would look like. She told the Panel that had the local competence process been allowed to finish, she considered that the Teacher was likely to have ultimately met the standards. Local Authority Witness B agreed that the Teacher was likely to rise to the challenge of any conditions.

The Teacher confirmed that she would welcome any conditions deemed appropriate to allow her to return to the classroom.

Findings in Fact

The Panel had regard to the Professional Competence Cases Practice Statement and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and Servicing Officer where required. It had in mind that the standard of proof required is that used in civil proceedings, namely the balance of probabilities and that it must base its decision on the evidence before it. Accordingly, the Panel carefully considered all the oral and written evidence presented at the hearing, along with the submissions made by the Teacher during the hearing, in making its findings in fact below. 

The Panel first considered the credibility and reliability of the witnesses it had heard from. The Panel was assisted by all who gave evidence before it. It considered that all witnesses were doing their best to give honest and accurate accounts of their recollections given the passage of time. The Panel considered that all witnesses were giving their evidence from proper professional perspectives and not any improper personal motivations. Parties’ evidence was largely consistent in all material respects. The Panel was satisfied that all of the witnesses were credible and reliable.

Although there had been partial admissions by the Teacher in respect of SFR 2.1.3 and 3.1.5 the Panel reminded itself that it was a matter for it whether or not the Teacher had met these standards.

SFR 2.1.3 – ‘Have knowledge and understanding of planning coherent and progressive teaching programmes’

The Panel noted that the bulk of the Local Authority evidence did not relate to the Teacher’s knowledge and understanding of planning but rather to her execution in that plans were often submitted late. The Panel noted particularly that the Local Authority had stated that the Teacher had met SFR 3.1.1. The Panel noted that there were two positive formal observations of the Teacher’s class which had commented that the classes were well planned and well organised. There was no evidence that the quality of her planning was raised with the Teacher. The Panel considered that there was insufficient persuasive evidence that the Teacher fell short of this standard. The Panel concluded that the Teacher met standard 2.1.3.

SFR 3.1.2 – ‘Communicate effectively and interact productively with learners, individually and collectively’

The Panel considered that there was an overall lack of evidence that the Teacher had not met this standard. Although there was mention of statistical analysis, no evidence was produced and in particular there was no evidence related to benchmarking presented to the Panel. It was not clear to the Teacher that she was being monitored in this area. There was no forensic approach, such as identifying any issues, noting discussions which had taken place with the Teacher and setting out an action plan for improvement. There were no signed notes demonstrating issues had been raised with her. The Panel considered that notes should have been contemporaneous and shared with the Teacher rather than backdated. The Panel considered that there was a lack of evidence to satisfy it that this standard was not being met. Ultimately, the Panel concluded that the Teacher met standard 3.1.2.

3.1.4 – ‘Have high expectations of all learners’

Although there was some evidence of poor-quality work in some jotters and some evidence from casual walk-bys that the class had been disengaged and not challenged, the Panel considered that it was not appropriate to make conclusions from this limited evidence. Such informal observations may be a trigger for starting a formal process but insufficient in themselves to evidence a failure to meet the standard. The Teacher in her oral and written evidence had given uncontradicted examples of her high expectation of learners and how she had sought to challenge their learning and those pupils were being pushed to achieve their potential. One observation commented on effective planning and differentiation. There was no evidence of concerns being raised and discussed with the Teacher. No statistical evidence was produced. The Panel considered that there was a lack of evidence to satisfy it that this standard was not being met. Ultimately, the Panel concluded that the Teacher met standard 3.1.4.

SFR 3.1.5 – ‘Work effectively in partnership in order to promote learning and wellbeing’

The Panel noted that evidence from both the Local Authority and the Teacher was that overall her relationships were good. It noted that the Teacher was said not to have participated in professional dialogue meetings. There were some parental concerns including one from a Primary 1 parent whom the Teacher did not teach. Although there were said to be concerns from classroom assistants, these were not evidenced. The Panel considered that if her communication with pupils did not meet the standard, that would be easily evidenced but no sufficient evidence was placed before the Panel. The Panel noted that the Teacher had said that her personal circumstances had led to a deterioration of relationship particularly with the then Head Teacher. Despite the partial admissions from the Teacher, the Panel ultimately concluded that there was insufficient evidence to persuade the Panel either way in respect of this standard.

3.2.1 – ‘Create a safe, caring and purposeful learning environment’

There were no concerns at all about the health and safety of pupils. The pupils were well looked after. Although the classroom was said to be cluttered and untidy at times, the only photos available to the Panel did not evidence this. There was nothing to suggest that the classroom was unsafe or that learning could not take place there. The Panel considered that there was a lack evidence to satisfy it that this standard was not met. Ultimately it concluded that SFR 3.2.1 had been met.

Accordingly, the Panel determined that the Teacher had met the SFR in relation to all the Standards for Full Registration.

As the Teacher was not found to have fell short of any of the standards, there was no need to proceed with the remaining stages of the hearing and this determination marked the end of proceedings.