No hiding place at GTC hearings

8th October 2004 at 01:00
Teachers who come up before the beaks of the profession for being incompetent or breaking society's rules may no longer be entitled to anonymity at their hearings.

Changes to European human rights legislation, due to be introduced next year, are likely to mean that for the first time disciplinary meetings of the General Teaching Council for Scotland will be public.

This historic reversal would bring Scotland into line with England where virtually all hearings have been in public since the teaching council there was formed four years ago.

A spokesman for the GTCS said: "New disciplinary rules are in the final stages of preparation. Once these are approved by the Lord President of the Court of Session, GTC Scotland disciplinary hearings will be held in public, except where in the interests of justice (such as child protection considerations) proceedings should either in whole or in part be conducted in private.

"Under both sets of rules any final determination of the subcommittee is made in public."

At present, hearings are in private unless a teacher asks for the case to be held in public. In reality, all are private until the GTC removes a teacher's name from the register. Even then, only the barest details are released to the media. The council only confirms that a named teacher has been struck off but does not reveal the reasons or the school involved.

Now that is set to change. "At this time, the council is examining how similar professional regulatory bodies manage hearings in public with a view to informing GTC Scotland's practice in this area," the spokesman said.

A GTC England spokeswoman said: "There has to be some exceptional reason why hearings should be in private." It was in the public interest that meetings should be public, although teachers can request a private hearing.

It is up to the committee on the day to decide.

In England, a recent case named the head of drama at a school in Cambridge who gave her pupils marks without seeing their GCSE coursework and failed to submit any written work to the examining body. Claire Heseltine has been allowed to continue teaching.

The GTC in Scotland has investigated two cases of exam cheating in the past year without naming those involved. One involved post-16 exams and the other 5-14 national tests.

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