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GTCS may be required to change its disciplinary system

The General Teaching Council for Scotland is seeking legal advice on whether a recent Appeal Court ruling in England will require it to change its disciplinary system as it makes its transition to independence next year.

Its sister bodies in England and Wales have already had their disciplinary proceedings thrown into disarray as a result of the court ruling against a professional body that operates in a similar way to the teacher regulatory bodies south of the border.

All GTCE and GTCW incompetence and misconduct hearings have been postponed or adjourned while the bodies change their procedures to bring them into line with the Court of Appeal ruling.

In the Kaur judgment, it was ruled that the presence of senior members of the Institute of Legal Executives on disciplinary panels "gave rise to a possibility of apparent - or a perception of - bias" because the organisation appeared to be both administering and judging the case. There was no suggestion of actual bias.

But both the GTCE and the GTCW have parallels with the Institute of Legal Executives in that they have council members, who also govern the bodies, who until two weeks ago also sat on disciplinary panels.

A spokesman for the GTCS said: "The Scottish legal system is different and we are taking legal opinion on whether or not this might impact on GTCS. In the meantime, we are continuing with Fitness to Teach cases," he said.

The GTCS is currently constituted differently from both the GTCE and the GTCW and also runs its disciplinary panels in a different way. However, from April next year its status changes to that of an independent regulatory body.

"One of the changes this will bring in is the use of more non-council members on our Fitness to Teach panels," said the GTCS spokesman.

GTCS is in the process of redrafting its constitution, but it may now have to factor in a complicated legal judgment.

elizabeth.buie@tess.co.uk.

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