Complaints about Scottish teachers double in three years

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The number of complaints being submitted about Scottish teachers has doubled over the past three years – and experts say online technology is partly to blame.

The number of cases heard by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) regarding teachers’ conduct has gone from 64 to 122 per year since 2013.

Complaints submitted by members of the public have risen from 30 to 52 over the same period, and the organisation’s chief executive has said that the availability of electronic forms of communication is partly responsible.

The number of complaints against teachers has doubled in three years.
The number of complaints against teachers has doubled in three years.

Social media is increasingly getting members of the profession in to trouble, most notably in the case of West Lothian teacher Isabelle Graham, who was photographed in a Travelodge bed following a post-prom night tryst with one of her students.

Teaching unions have called for the GTCS to speed up their decision making procedures to make the process less “stressful” for teachers.

Chief Executive of the GTCS Ken Muir said: “Electronic communication is one of the factors for the rise in complaints, it does make it easier to fire off a complaint, to fire off an email.

“We live in an increasingly litigious society. People are looking for some form of outcome or justice when they have a complaint, which makes them more likely to pursue a complaint with a body like ourselves now than five or 10 years ago.”

He added: “That’s not a bad thing, we are an open, transparent organisation and we exist to uphold teaching standards.”

Drew Morrice, Assistant Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland said: “It has been a significant frustration to the union that some cases have taken many years to be processed.

“For some people the time it takes to get an outcome can be extremely stressful.”

Mr Morrice added that many teachers experienced “a degree of mental breakdown” during the process.

The GCTS have announced that they hope reduce fitness-to-practice processes to three months next year.

Last month, former head teacher Gillian Rew, from Arbroath, Angus, was given a Conditional Registration Order after consuming alcohol and behaving inappropriately on a school trip over two years ago.

Rumours of her conduct, including that she put crisps between her breasts and told a boy that his body was “too sexy” circulated online in the days after the incident in September 2014.

Social media has also been blamed for Scottish exams becoming “formulaic.”

Robert Coe, a prominent assessment expert at the University of Durham has recently claimed that fear of a social media backlash is making examiners produce “overly predictable exams.”

Professor Coe said that a key reason for predictable exams becoming the norm was “the sense of public backlash that we’ll have if we ever write an interesting exam paper. You ain’t half going to get slated on social media.

“Exam boards will be very sensitive to this. The students will be complaining straight away – probably not before the exam’s finished but not many minutes after.”

 
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