SCOTLAND’S schools watchdog is driving some teachers towards suicide by bringing too many low-level complaints, a top union leader has warned.
Seamus Searson accused the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) of “looking for work to do” by taking action against teachers which should be dealt with by their employers alone.
Mr Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) said the watchdog should normally only bring proceedings in cases where teachers have been sacked.
In the past two weeks, a teacher has been publicly reprimanded by the GTCS for throwing a poly-pocket at a pupil’s head. Another teacher was charged with “breaking protocol” by collecting a vulnerable boy in her car, only for the case to be dismissed after a full public hearing.
Teachers who break the profession’s strict rules currently face a form of double jeopardy because they can be disciplined by their council employers and then have their fitness to teach tried in public by the GTCS.
Mr Searson believes that in most cases, the GTCS should only charge teachers who have already been sacked.
He said: “One of our concerns with the GTCS is that they are pushing cases that shouldn’t be pushed.
“They have in the past been looking for work to do. Anyone that makes a complaint, they look into it.
“Even if a case has been investigated by its relevant council and closed, they still look into it.”
He added: “In England, they don’t touch cases until they’ve dismissed a teacher.
“No local authority will put pupils at risk. What they’re doing [the GTCS] is effectively the same job as employers.”
Mr Searson warned that the stakes were high. “All their teaching career is based on confidence,” he said. “And if their confidence is knocked it makes it unbearable.
“We’ve dealt with members that have been left suicidal because of complaints.
“The GTCS should be a check off for teachers sacked by the council to see if it was the right decision.
“We are very supportive of the GTCS but they’re putting people through stress over cases. Low level disciplinaries can be seen by the school or council as a low level matter but then when it goes to the GTCS then it gets made public.
“The time they take and the upset as well, we have to then support the teachers through this.
“Any person, any parent, anyone can write a letter but they should strike that out if it’s already been investigated.”
The large caseload faced by the GTCS has resulted in the body changing its rules to allow cases over five years old to be ditched.
Last week, a hearing dating back to allegations in 2012 was thrown out against former Edinburgh Council’s Head of Schools, David Wright. Mr Wright had faced allegations that he failed to investigate complaints and even lied to a family in a bid to protect his colleagues.
But this week a teacher from Dalkeith, Midlothian, agreed to be reprimanded by the GTCS for throwing a poly-pocket containing an apron towards a pupil resulting in it hitting him in the head.
And a GTCS panel recently spent two days investigating complaints about another teacher who broke protocol by picking up a vulnerable boy in her car after his elected contact failed to answer the 24-hour emergency phone. The case was dismissed without any action against the teacher.
The GTCS declined to comment on Mr Searson’s remarks.