Teacher sacked for messages to pupils keeps career

Nicholas Torsney was sacked. Picture: Comp
Nicholas Torsney was sacked. Picture: Comp
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A PE teacher sacked for sending Facebook messages to sixth-year school pupils has escaped being struck off.

Nicholas Torsney, 27, a member of staff at James Young High School in Livingston, has instead been issued with a reprimand by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), which will remain on his record for 18 months.

The decision came after complaints Mr Torsney sent Facebook messages to pupils, believed to be over 18, at his former school, St Margaret’s Academy in Livingston.

Two of the messages were sent after the students had completed exams and effectively left school.

GTCS panel members were told the messages – sent in September 2012 and June 2013 – related to a prom night, playing golf and a ski trip, with three signed off “xx”.

Mr Torsney was sacked from St Margaret’s but after appealing was reinstated and redeployed to James Young, where he continues to teach.

He admitted sending the messages but told the GTCS hearing he believed the students had left school.

And he said he did not realise that GTCS rules on maintaining pupil-teacher boundaries remained in force until the final day of term.

A number of Mr Torsney’s colleagues from both schools attended the hearing to present evidence outlining his effectiveness as a teacher.

In their summing up, panel members said Mr Torsney’s conduct had fallen short, but not “significantly short”, of the standards expected of a teacher.

They said: “The panel considered that the majority of factors indicating that a reprimand would be an appropriate and proportionate disposal were present in this case.

“In particular, the panel noted that there had been no repetition of the conduct which formed the subject matter of the complaint.

“The panel was satisfied that the respondent had reflected on his conduct, had shown genuine remorse and insight and had taken steps to properly address matters to ensure that it is unlikely he would repeat the conduct.”

They added: “The panel was impressed by the compelling oral evidence attesting to the good character of the respondent and of his teaching performance over the period he had been teaching at James Young High School.”

GTCS staff said their reprimand meant a black mark would remain against Mr Torsney’s name in the professional register, indicating to other teachers and the public the “seriousness of the matter at issue”.

West Lothian Council leaders said they were aware of the order.

A spokesman said: “We note the outcome of the GTCS Fitness to Teach panel. It is not appropriate to discuss individual staff members.”