Complaints about teachers in Scotland soar

Fitness-to-teach process to be cut ‘from years to months’ so watchdog can cope with rising caseload – and to address concerns about teacher stress

Emma Seith

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The number of complaints that Scotland’s teaching watchdog is dealing with has rocketed over the past few years, with an increasing number coming from members of the public, TESS can reveal.

In three years, conduct cases – which make up the bulk of the fitness-to-teach cases and can involve anything from teachers helping pupils to cheat in exams to teachers’ sexually inappropriate behaviour – have almost doubled from 64 to 122.

Complaints from members of the public about teachers have risen over the same period, from 30 to 52.

And the General Teaching Council for Scotland, which has the responsibility for regulating teachers’ professional conduct and competence, has projected that conduct cases will continue to rise by 10 per cent each year until 2019-20.

Ken Muir, the body’s chief executive, said that the increase in complaints was in line with other regulatory bodies and was not about more teachers behaving badly. Societal changes are to blame, he added.

We live in a litigious society, Mr Muir said, and the rise of electronic communication has made it easier to make complaints to regulatory bodies, like GTCS.

'We live in a litigious society'

The rise in the use of social media, meanwhile, has also led to a whole new kind of case coming before the council.

Mr Muir said: “We live in an increasingly litigious society. People are looking for some form of outcome or justice when they have a complaint, which makes them more likely to pursue a complaint with a body like ourselves than five or 10 years ago.”

Now, to cope with its increasing caseload and also to address concerns about the stress and anxiety caused by the time it takes to conclude complaints against teachers, the GTCS has published plans to cut its fitness-to-teach processes “from years to months”.

Currently, it can take anything up to two years for the GTCS to decide whether a teacher should face sanction, but the body hopes to introduce changes next year that will reduce this period to as little as three months.

These plans were welcomed by Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS. Assistant secretary Drew Morrice said: “It has been a significant frustration to the union that some cases have taken many years to be processed, so we are glad that they are looking at this. For some people the time it takes to get an outcome can be extremely stressful.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 28 October edition of TESS. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTESS magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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