Teachers Defence Service

GTCS Representation

Legal Representation in General Teaching Council for Scotland Cases

Legal Representation at the GTCS

About Us

Teachers Defence Service represents teachers in General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) Professional Conduct Inquiries.

Below we summarise the main legislative provisions. It is not exhaustive. On other pages, we provide additional summary guidance on how you might prepare your defence or mitigation case. If you would like assistance with the preparation of your case, either purely advisory or to also include representation at GTCS Professional Conduct hearings, do get in touch with us. We advise teachers in GTCS matters and act as representative at Fitness to Teach hearings.

The General Teaching Council Scotland Objectives

The General Teaching Council Scotland’s overall objective is to ensure public protection and to maintain proper teaching standards.

The procedures are carried out in the public interest:

• Protecting the public (in particular, children and young people) 

• Maintaining the public’s confidence in teachers and in the integrity of the teaching profession

 • Maintaining proper teaching standards 

• Maintaining public confidence in GTCS as a professional regulator

GTCS Action Against Teachers

The GTCS will take action if a teacher’s fitness to teach is found to be impaired because of shortfalls in their conduct or professional competence. This remit can be found in the legislation at Article 18, 2 (b) of The Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011,

‘An individual is ‘unfit to teach’ for the purposes of this Order if the GTCS considers that the individual’s conduct or professional competence falls significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher (and ‘fitness to teach’ is to be construed accordingly).’ 

‘Conduct’ means ‘Relevant Conduct’ which is an act of misconduct or a criminal offence where there is, on the face of it, a realistic prospect of a finding of impairment based on that act or criminal offence. The GTCS does not deal with health matters alone. An act or omission by a teacher can lead to a finding of Relevant Conduct that contravenes the expectations of how a teacher should behave.

Case Law I

In the case of AD v General Teaching Council Scotland [2019] CSIH 18 a teacher challenged the decision of the Fitness to Teach Panel’s decision to impose an order of removal from the register, following a finding of impairment for misconduct. The Court considered that the word ‘misconduct’ was irrelevant and should not be a consideration as the wording of the Order giverning the GTCS does not mention the word ‘misconduct’ expressly. It only refers to ‘conduct’ (as set out above) that falls short of the standards expected of a registered teacher. 

Who can report a Teacher to the GTCS?

Referrals about a teacher’s fitness to teach can be received from various people such as the police, employers and the general public. Referrals about competence can only be received from employers.

Legislation and publications

The primary legislation governing the GTCS is the the Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011, ‘The Order.’ Among its general functions, the GTCS is required to keep a register of teachers (‘the register’), to establish and keep under review the standards of conduct and professional competence expected of a registered teacher, and to investigate the fitness to teach of individuals who are registered. 

The Requirements for Teachers (Scotland) Regulations 2005 sets out the requirements for the employment of teachers, ‘The Regulations.’ 

Fitness to teach investigations are governed by the Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 which set out the process of an investigation. 


The GTCS also maintains a suite of ‘Standards’ which underpin the themes of teaching values, sustainability and leadership.

There are Standards for Registration, and for career long professional learning, to help teachers to plan and develop their own professional learning needs and to ensure continuing development of professional practice for leadership and management to support the self-evaluation and professional learning of those in, or aspiring to, formal leadership roles in schools.

The Standards include the Standard for Headship, which will become a pre-requisite for all new headteachers in Scotland from 2019. To attain the Standard for Headship, teachers must successfully complete the Into Headship qualification, and Standards for lecturers in Scottish Colleges to enhance and promote professional learning. 

The GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct, sets out the standards of conduct and competence expected of registered teachers in Scotland.

GTCS Fitness to Practice Indicative Outcomes

In 2017 the GTCS published the ‘Indicative Outcomes Guidance’ to ‘support the rational and consistent determination of fitness to teach conduct cases.’  This is important reading for any teacher or lecturer facing a professional conduct case, as it discloses the elements of learning and insight a teacher might show.

Fitness to Teach – Investigation by the GTCS

Once a referral has been made the GTCS will investigate. The investigation is approached ‘neutrally.’ The GTCS investigates in order to establish what has happened, not to build a case for, or against, the teacher.

Temporary Restriction Order (TRO)

During the investigation, under Article 21 of the 2011 Order, the GTCS to may restrict an individual’s registration pending the conclusion of an investigation into any circumstances which on the face of it might cause it to remove the individual’s name from the Register by imposing a Temporary Restriction Order (TRO). A Fitness to Teach Panel will adjudicate on whether to impose a TRO. 

The effect of a TRO is set out in The Regulations. While a Teacher’s registration is marked as restricted, he/she may only be employed as a teacher by his/her existing employer and in his/her existing teaching post. In practical terms, this means that if the teacher is currently employed as a teacher in Scotland he/she may continue to be employed in that post (subject to any conditions put in place by his/her employer); if the Teacher is currently unemployed he/she will be unable to gain employment as a teacher in a Scottish local authority school. The TRO will remain in place until the conclusion of the case unless the teacher requests a review. 

Progression of Investigation

As part of the GTCS’s investigation, all information is gathered and shared with the teacher who is then asked to make a response. We can assist with drafting such a response.

At the end of the investigation process, if there is sufficient evidence to prove the allegation, a Fitness to Teach Panel considers the case and decides whether to:

  • take no further action because fitness to teach is not impaired;
  • issue a consent order; or
  • refer the case on for a full hearing

If the case is referred to a hearing the teacher will have a right to attend and be represented. Evidence from both parties will be heard. The case will be heard in 3 stages, the facts stage, the impairment stage and the disposal or sanction stage.

The GTCS has the burden of proving the case to the civil standard, the balance of probabilities.

If the facts of the case are proved and the Fitness to Teach Panel conclude that the teacher is unfit to teach, then the Panel will have to decide on the appropriate disposal. 

The Panel can decide to: 

Make No Order, 

Reprimand for up to 2 years,  

Impose a Conditional Registration Order, 

Impose a Conditional Registration Order and a Reprimand, 

Remove the Teacher from Registration – for up to 2 years before an application can be made for registration. 

Protection of Vulnerable Groups Referral

The Fitness to Teach Panel may also need to consider referral under the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 to prevent the teacher from working with vulnerable children or protected adults.

A Conditional Registration Order will be subject to review where it can be continued, revoked, amended, replaced or a teacher removed from the register. 

Any application for registration following removal or a refusal of application for registration will be heard by a Panel, the same way as a previous hearing. 

The teacher has a right to appeal the decision of a TRO or the substantive decision of the Fitness to Teach Panel under Article 24 of The Order. An appeal lies to the Court of Session which is subject to the rights of audience for lawyers in Scotland. We can advise on appeal and draft grounds, and instruct on your behalf a suitable advocate to deal with the appeal.

Any appeal should be lodged within 28 days of receiving the notice of decision. There is no appeal if the teacher was barred by virtue of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 but there is a right to appeal to GTCS’ Appeals Board within 28 days of the decision. The Appeals Board follows the rules set out in Part 5 of the 2012 Rules

Case Law II

In the case of JB v GTCS [2013] CSIH 114, the appellant had applied for registration but was refused by a Fitness to Teach Panel and prohibited from making a further application for a period of 2 years. He complained about the conduct of his hearing, but his appeal was dismissed on all grounds.

Our Services

We can provide advice and guidance, or advocacy services (including representation at hearings), if instructed, to assist you in dealing with this regulator. Our fees are competitive. Give us a call on 020 3012 0402 without obligation and in strict confidence to see how we can assist you. Or, use our Contact Form.

Teachers Defence Service

Who can represent a teacher at the General Teaching Council for Scotland?

  • Proceedings Attendance and representation1.7.1 A Teacher will be entitled to attend and be represented in hearing proceedings, whether by a legally qualified person or otherwise (and subject to any determination excluding him/her from proceedings in terms of rule 1.7.10).

Teachers Defence Service represents teachers in GTCS cases.


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Who can represent a teacher at the General Teaching Council for Scotland?

  • Proceedings Attendance and representation1.7.1 A Teacher will be entitled to attend and be represented in hearing proceedings, whether by a legally qualified person or otherwise (and subject to any determination excluding him/her from proceedings in terms of rule 1.7.10).

Teachers Defence Service represents teachers in GTCS cases.