GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Panel Consideration

10 December 2019

 Teacher Redacted
 Registration Number Redacted
 Registration category Redacted
 Panel Tony Bragg, Pauline McClellan and Paul Walker
 Legal Assessor Gareth Jones
 Servicing Officer Neha Bhatnagar
 Teacher's representative Not Represented

Definitions

Any reference in this outcome 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 Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them;
  • the ‘Register’ means the GTCS Register of teachers; or
  • ‘COPAC’ means the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Notification of Meeting

The Panel had before it a copy of the notice of the meeting dated 30 October 2019. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had been provided with the notice in accordance with rules 1.6 and 2.3.1. Accordingly, the Panel proceeded to consider the case against the Teacher.

Allegation(s)

  1. Between October 2017 and February 2018, whilst employed by [redacted] at [redacted], you did form an inappropriate relationship with a pupil of the same school and did fail to maintain an appropriate professional distance from him in that you did:
    1. Exchange text messages of a personal nature including using kisses and love heart emojis with Pupil A;
    2. Meet with Pupil A outside school hours to go for a walk at [redacted];
    3. Meet with Pupil A at your flat on between five and eight occasions;
    4. Cuddle and kiss Pupil A at your flat; and
    5. Obtain information from Pupil A regarding personal difficulties he was having which you did not communicate to his guidance teacher.

Information Available to the Panel

  1. Final Investigation Report, dated 30 October 2019, with the following appendices:
    1. [redacted] Investigation Report and appendices thereto
    2. Response from Teacher to Notice of Investigation and appendices thereto
    3. Letter issued to Pupil A requesting his engagement with GTCS process dated 6 February 2019
    4. Response from father of Pupil A, dated 6 February 2019
    5. Signed statement of [redacted], dated 28 March 2019
    6. Signed statement of [redacted], dated 9 May 2019
    7. Signed statement of [redacted], dated 10 September 2019
    8. Signed statement of [redacted], 19 September 2019
  2. Response from Teacher to Interim Report dated 16 October 2019 and accompanying documents.

P1. Notice of Investigation, dated 3 October 2018
P2. Notice of Panel Consideration, dated 30 October 2019
P3. Notice of Panel Consideration cover email and delivery receipt, dated 30 October 2019

Teacher’s response to the allegations

The Teacher admitted all of the allegations in a written response dated 15 October 2019. In the same response she referred to other information provided by her during the investigation in which she outlined the circumstances of her involvement with Pupil A.

In her response to the Notice of Investigation the Teacher accepted that she failed to maintain a professional distance from Pupil A in that she communicated with him outside of school; went for a walk with him; allowed him into her home and on occasion hugged and kissed him. The Teacher however maintained that her friendship with Pupil A was not sexual but developed at a time when [redacted] and she was struggling to cope with her own [redacted] health.

In the same response the Teacher said that she chose to resign from [redacted] because she recognised that her behaviour was inappropriate and that she needed time away from teaching for her own wellbeing. She said that she is fully aware of the GTCS code of conduct and its importance and advised that she has begun to [redacted] in order to reflect on her actions with a view to ensuring that her [redacted] health does not impinge on her decision-making in the future. She also regularly attends her GP practice so that her [redacted] health can be monitored.

Along with her most recent response dated 15 October 2019, the Teacher provided some medical notes, which detail her continued treatment for [redacted]. She also provided evidence to show that she has completed a [redacted] training course, which she hopes will enable her to better support people with [redacted] difficulties in the future.

In addition to providing some medical evidence, the Teacher provided a positive academic reference, which confirms, amongst other things that she is now studying at [redacted]. She also provided a number of commendations from pupils and teachers that she has taught and mentored.

In highlighting the effect the GTCS investigation has had on her personally, the Teacher provided screenshots of journalist’s attempts to contact her in 2018. She said that she and her family were subjected to repeated intrusions into their private lives and she expressed her deep regret on learning that Pupil A and his family have had to deal with similar incidents.

Finally, the Teacher confirmed that she is not currently planning on returning to teaching but may do so in the future, as she feels she still has a lot to offer the profession, and knows that she is capable of having a positive impact on the lives of young people.

Decision

The Panel considered all of the information available to it, as set out above. In deciding how to proceed the Panel had regard to rule 2.3.2 (a) to (f), and to the factors set out in the GTCS Panel Consideration Practice Statement.

Having carefully reviewed all of the evidence and the Teacher’s full admissions to the allegations, the Panel felt able to make a proper assessment of the case without seeking additional information or referring the case for a full hearing. The Panel therefore proceeded to carry out an assessment of the Teacher’s fitness to teach and of what consent order may be appropriate to issue. In doing so the Panel had careful regard to the relevant considerations set out in the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance.

As a starting point the Panel considered whether the Teacher’s conduct, as reflected in the allegations, fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.

It was clear that the Teacher had failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries by forming a mutually supportive friendship with a pupil whom she had previously taught. They engaged in the behaviour described in the allegations over a number of months. Furthermore, the Teacher was in a position of trust and her actions clearly had the potential to affect the public’s confidence in her as a teacher, as well as to cause damage to the reputation of the teaching profession. By her actions the Panel considered that the Teacher had breached parts 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 of COPAC and that consequently, she had fallen short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.

Having determined that the Teacher had fallen short of the standards expected, the Panel next considered whether she is currently impaired to teach or currently unfit to teach. In deciding that issue the Panel not only had regard to the seriousness of the allegations but also carefully considered whether the Teacher’s conduct is remediable, whether it has been remedied, and the likelihood of the conduct being repeated.

The Panel considered that the Teacher’s conduct is remediable. Her involvement with Pupil A occurred at a time when she was struggling with the demands of her job and with her own [redacted] health. The Panel considered that these underlying issues could be addressed over time with appropriate support.

There was also some evidence before the Panel to show that the Teacher had taken steps towards remediation. She had made admissions and expressed remorse for her actions. She appeared to be engaging with her GP and with [redacted] in order to monitor her own [redacted] health and develop [redacted]. She had also completed [redacted] first aid training so as to have better awareness of [redacted] issues. The Panel considered that these were positive steps in reducing the likelihood of conduct of a similar nature being repeated.

However the Panel still had concerns about the Teacher’s current circumstances. It was apparent from the limited medical evidence provided, that she continues to suffer with [redacted], the root cause of which is not entirely clear. Bearing in mind that the Teacher cites her [redacted] health as a major contributing factor to her poor decision-making at the relevant time, the Panel could not be satisfied that there is no risk of repetition.

The Panel also noted that during the investigation stage the Teacher deflected responsibility to some extent by suggesting to [redacted] that it might want to review its social media policy. The Panel considered that the policy is clear and that in any event, the Teacher ought to have known not to behave in the way that she did.

Furthermore, whilst the Panel accepted that there was no sexual relationship between the Teacher and Pupil A, the Panel considered that the allegations are still very serious. They occurred over a number of months and involved a vulnerable pupil who was [redacted]. The Teacher’s conduct had also indirectly caused distress to Pupil A because of the unwelcome attention that he and his family received from the press.

Having regard to all of the circumstances in the round, the Panel was satisfied that the Teacher’s conduct did fall significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that she is currently unfit to teach.

The Panel also considered that it is in the public interest to make a finding that the Teacher is currently unfit to teach. In reaching that conclusion the Panel reminded itself that the public interest includes: the need to protect members of the public (in particular children and young people); the need to maintain the public’s confidence in Teachers and the integrity of the teaching profession; the need to maintain public confidence in the GTCS as a professional regulator; and the need to declare and uphold proper teaching standards. Given the nature and seriousness of the allegations, the Panel considered that the public interest considerations in the Teacher’s case are high.

However, whilst the Panel was satisfied that removal is appropriate, given that the Teacher has taken positive steps towards remediation and is going through a period of self-reflection, the Panel considered that the length of time that she should be prohibited from making a registration application could be restricted to a period of 6 months.

The Panel therefore decided to issue a removal with consent order, which would result in the Teacher’s name being removed from the register and her being prohibited from making a registration application for a period of 6 months.