Fate of suspended Thurso teacher hangs in balance as watchdog finds her fitness to teach was impaired
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By Duncan Gorman, Deadline News
A teacher who was found guilty of kissing a pupil broke down in tears after a teaching watchdog deemed her fitness to teach was impaired.
Ashley McConnell has been fighting to get back in the classroom after being found to have kissed a 17-year-old pupil at Skinandi's nightclub in Thurso in March 2018.
The married physics teacher, who taught at Thurso High School, kissed, danced flirtatiously and held hands with the teen during the night in question.
The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) has been investigating the incident to decide whether Miss McConnell should be allowed to remain on the register.
Her fate is yet to be decided, however.
After hearing seven days of evidence, the teaching watchdog ruled on Friday that Miss McConnell's fitness to teach was impaired.
The panel's presenting officer Jennifer MacPhee believes Miss McConnell did not act as a role model after "entering the nightclub in an inebriated state".
She suggested to the regulatory body that it would be suitable for them to strike the mum-of-two off the teaching register.
However, Ms McPhee also considered that a suitable conditional registration order may suffice, meaning Miss McConnell would be able to teach again if she followed conditions put in place.
Following the advice, the GTCS panel will now have to decide the outcome for Miss McConnell's future in the teaching industry.
Ms MacPhee said: “The teacher has reflected on the matter and shown genuine remorse.
“This has been an isolated incident. The teacher has shown sufficient insight.
“It may be appropriate to remove the teacher as the conduct is incompatible with that of a registered teacher.”
Earlier at the hearing, Ms McPhee argued that teachers should know when to draw the line regarding personal relationships with pupils.
She said: “It is not appropriate, a teacher is a role model. You must appreciate fully that the onus is on you, the teacher. You did not do this when you entered the nightclub in an inebriated state.”
Miss McConnell’s lawyer, Louise Bain, argued that a removal order would be excessive.
She said: “I submit this was an isolated incident. Her lack of faculties at the time show her actions were not deliberate.
“The teacher's practice has never been questioned. She was committed to her role.
“I would submit that Miss McConnell would be open to undertaking therapy.
“The teacher is dedicated to the role and has kept up to date with the role through tutoring.
“If the panel decides to remove Miss McConnell from the register I would submit that this is disproportionate and that the panel should be satisfied by a lesser action.”
Miss McConnell, who was 30 at the time, told the GTCS that she had drunk an excessive amount of alcohol on the night in question and could not remember everything.
She admitted holding hands with the Thurso High School boy and also telling other pupils on that evening to "f*** off" after they questioned her behaviour.
The GTCS found there was not enough evidence to prove allegations that Miss McConnell touched the pupil on the bottom or groin area.
The final outcome of the case will be announced within the next 28 days.