Teacher provided reference without permission

12th July 2013 at 01:00
She also misled about being in a senior role, but was `pressured' by former colleague, GTCS panel told

An English and Latin teacher has escaped without punishment after claiming falsely to hold a promoted post and providing job references for a former colleague without running it past her bosses.

Lydia Watt was employed by Bathgate-based Moore House Care and Education when, in November 2011, she provided references for "Teacher A" to a recruitment agency and North Lanarkshire Council, the General Teaching Council for Scotland has found. Mrs Watt has no authority to do so and did not refer the matter to senior management, a fitness-to-teach panel found last week.

Mrs Watt presented herself as head of English when she actually held a basic-grade post. She provided the references knowing that Teacher A had previously been suspended by Moore House, in West Lothian, which caters for secondary-age children with additional needs.

Teacher A was employed subsequently by North Lanarkshire Council, but the panel found that this was not entirely as a result of Mrs Watt's reference.

Mrs Watt said she had not been aware of a Moore House policy barring her from providing a professional reference. The panel stated that she should have known that only personal references were valid without clearance from senior management.

It found, too, that the post "head of English" did not exist at Moore House. Mrs Watt claimed that she fulfilled many duties expected in such a role, but the panel disagreed.

Mrs Watt said she had confidence in Teacher A's ability, but that she had been "pressured" by him to provide a reference.

She accepted that she had not adequately considered the reference's content. Teacher A had prepared and emailed them; she had simply cut and pasted them into her work email.

The panel stated that, while she had acted dishonestly in presenting herself as head of English, she did so amid personal pressure and "adverse organisational pressure" at work.

It noted the transcript of a June 2012 disciplinary hearing: if she had been in a "normal state of mind", she was sure she would have discussed the situation. But "she just wanted to get rid of (Teacher A) and stop it and she did not perceive any danger to either the school or to anyone else".

The panel heard that she was held in high regard as a teacher. Mrs Watt, who had experience of teaching in the United States and South Africa, had family problems around her daughter's health and immigration procedures.

The panel found that her actions fell short of the standard expected, and that her fitness to teach was impaired.

It accepted that she had shown "genuine remorse" and had "suffered significantly". She had resigned from her job and was no longer working.

Given such circumstances, and that the incident was isolated, the panel deemed it appropriate to make no order against Mrs Watt.

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

Photo credit: Alamy

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