GTCS issues a reprimand to one of its own

21st September 2012 at 01:00
Fitness to teach of member who objected to his `witch hunt' case is found to be impaired

A teacher who arrived at a disciplinary hearing wearing a pointed hat and carrying a broomstick in protest at "witch hunt" proceedings has been reprimanded by the very regulatory body of which he was a leading member.

Modern languages teacher James Forbes' fitness to teach was found to be impaired by a General Teaching Council for Scotland hearing in Edinburgh this week; the resulting reprimand will remain on his record for two years.

Mr Forbes, who teaches at Lasswade High School Centre in Midlothian and is vice-president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, is also a GTCS elected member.

He was suspended from the council pending the outcome of the hearing. His suspension will be referred to the GTCS appeals board.

The case arose when Mr Forbes was involved in a confrontation with the organisation's convener, David Drever, at a GTCS public meeting in June 2010. Two other council members present, Thomas Kirk, representing the Association of Directors of Social Work in Scotland, and secondary head George Wynne, objected to Mr Forbes' comments and submitted a complaint, although Mr Drever himself did not consider the behaviour merited action.

The hearing this week found three charges of professional misconduct to be proven: that Mr Forbes used "an aggressive tone" when addressing Mr Drever; that he failed to "engage in a reasonable manner" with the GTCS by refusing official correspondence and refusing to attend meetings to hear the complaints against him; and that he used language of an "inappropriate nature" in an email to the GTCS referring to Mr Kirk and Mr Wynne.

Fitness to teach panels would hear "far more serious cases" than that of Mr Forbes, GTCS solicitor Niall McLean acknowledged.

Nevertheless, Mr Forbes had failed to behave in a "reasonable manner", had "persistently refused to cooperate" with the GTCS and had shown "no genuine remorse" for his behaviour, he said.

Under the 2008 GTCS code of professionalism and conduct, which was in place at the time of the initial incident, Mr Forbes' behaviour fell short of that expected of a registered teacher in terms of his lack of professionalism and his treatment of colleagues, said Mr McLean.

There was "an enormous variation" between the circumstances that usually led to a teacher appearing before the fitness to teach panel and the complaint against Mr Forbes, said Jim Docherty, Mr Forbes' representative and recently retired depute general secretary of the SSTA.

Mr Docherty suggested that had the incident happened at a bowling club, no action would have resulted. The matter did not involve an abuse of trust or cause harm to a child, he pointed out.

The panel, however, found: "The respondent's behaviour and attitude toward GTCS and indeed to the panel required that a reprimand be noted."

emma.seith@tess.co.uk.

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