Teaching watchdog under fire after deleting striking off cases from website


SCOTLAND’S teaching watchdog has been condemned after it emerged it routinely deletes public records of struck-off teachers after a year.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) has confirmed that judgements are removed from its website – even in cases where teachers have committed serious criminal offences.

The GTCS says its controversial policy is “fair and proportionate” to members of the profession.

But watchdogs that regulate professions such as doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers keep permanent online records of decisions.

Christopher Cunningham
The case of teacher Christopher Cunningham is among those routinely deleted from the public website of the GTCS

And even one of Scotland’s teaching unions has criticised the automatic deletion of records by the GTCS, saying it is not in the public interest.

The GTCS decides the fitness to teach of dozens of teachers annually. Hearings at its Edinburgh HQ are held in public and detailed written decisions, which are searchable, published online.

Among serious recent cases to “disappear” under GTCS policy is that of Christopher Cunningham, an art teacher at West Calder High School, West Lothian, who served a year in jail for having sex with two female pupils in a tent and was banned from teaching in August 2011.

Also deleted from the website is the case of Edinburgh primary teacher Colin Chisholm who was convicted of downloading indecent images of children and banned from teaching in September 2011.

The case of James McMenemy has also been deleted. He taught at Kerelaw School and Secure Unit, North Ayrshire, and was struck off in February 2012 after being found guilty of five of 15 charges against him including dragging a pupil into his office by the throat and of unlawfully restraining pupils.

Alan McKenzie, of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA), said: “I don’t know why they thought it would be in the public interest to remove historical cases.

“It doesn’t seem advantageous to the public or themselves.

“Deregistered teachers might want it but I don’t think it’s in the public interest.”

Eben Wilson, of TaxpayerScotland also criticised the decision to delete records after 12 months.

He said: “All taxpayer funded professionals have to accept that those who pay them have an interest in their behaviour.

“It’s all too easy for professional bodies to attempt to overprotect their members which can only lead to hidden issues that we will never find out about.”

A spokesman for the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors, said: “Apart from warnings, which will appear for five years, other sanctions and suspensions remain online for the period of the doctor’s registration.”

A spokesman from the Health and Care Profession Council, which regulates health, psychological and social work professionals, said: “In most cases, a summary is retained permanently on the website.”

The Nursing and Midwifery Council also confirmed that judgements are kept permanently on its website.

A GTCS spokesman said: “We believe it is fair and proportionate to keep the outcomes of hearings on our website for the period of one year.

“This is not a legal requirement; it is the agreed policy of our Council.

“Longer publication of these decisions would be disproportionate.

“Our Fitness to Teach process is forward looking and, where possible, based on rehabilitation and public protection. It is not about naming and shaming teachers.”