A person (including the Council) may make a complaint to the investigating committee in relation to a registered teacher. The committee may investigate the complaint where it concerns any of the following,
- Failure to comply with any provision of the Education Acts , Teaching Council Act, Education of Persons with Special Needs act, Education and Training Board Act.
- Behaviour constitutes professional misconduct
- Poor professional performance
- Engaged in conduct contrary to the code of professional practices established by the Teaching Council
- Registration is only due to false or fraudulent declaration or misrepresentation
- Medically unfair to teach
- Convicted in the state of an offence triable by indictment or of offence outside the state equivalent
A person making complaint must specify the conduct giving rise to the complaint. A complaint in relation to professional misconduct may be considered by the investigating committee notwithstanding that it predates the Act if it would have constituted a criminal offence at the time it occurred, the matters is of such nature as to reasonably give rise to a bona fide concern that the teacher may harm or attempt to harm a child or vulnerable person, cause them to be harmed, or put them at risk of harm or site another, do harm any of them.
The Council may make a complaint in relation to a registered teacher based on information in avetting disclosure which it has received on behalf of another organization is e.g. school or ETB. This is of the nature as to give rise to a bona fide concern above.
Fitness to Teach Inquity
The Council may hold a fitness-to-teach inquiry to investigate professional misconduct. Professional misconduct means conduct contrary to the code of professional conduct or engaging in any improper conduct which otherwise makes him her unfit to teach. The Council or any person may apply to the investigating committee for an inquiry into the fitness to teach of a register teacher in relation to
- professional misconduct
- ineligibility to register,
- medical unfitness to teach.
- breach of Education legislation.
The application must be in writing accompanied by documents as may be relevant.
The director shall act as secretary to the investigating committee and refer applications to it. The director shall refuse an application where it does not satisfy the requirements or where it is frivolous, vexatious, an abuse of process or made in bad faith. Where this occurs, he must give notice of the decision and the basis within 21 days.
The investigation committee may by notice in writing require the complainant to verify information obtained in the complaint as by information, additional information or talk to it as it may needs to be required. It may refuse to consider the complaint, it does not comply with this request
The committee may require the teacher to supply information or documents. It may require the school where the teacher is or was employed to provide information or documents which believes material. It may invite any school the teacher was employed to make submissions within 21 days of the notice issued.
The investigation committee may hold an inquiry in respect of an application which is accepted. The committee may refuse to consider an application where the application is not on one of the permitted grounds or there is insufficient material to warrant an investigation.
Where the investigating committee decides to hold an inquiry, it may request the Council to seek a vetting declaration. A copy of the disclosure received is to be provided to the teacher. It is to make submissions, information may be set out insofar as it relates to the conduct of the subject of the complaint.
Where an investigation is held, a copy of the application is given to the teacher together with the opportunity to make comments. The investigating committee shall consider the submissions. It may request further information and submissions.
The investigating committee may refer the matter to a disciplinary committee or refuse the application.Where there is a prima face case to take further action it may refer the complaint in whole or part to a disciplinary committee. Where it is of the opinion that there is no prima face case to warrant further action, it shall refuse the complaint and give reasons for the decision to the director
Where the investigating committee considers that the information gives rise to a bona fide concern and the teacher concerned is employed in a recognized school or ETB or involved in the delivery of home tuition under departmental scheme and the employer is known to the council, the director shall inform the employer of the complaint and the nature of the concern.Where the complaint has been made by the Council based on a vetting disclosure, the employer is to be informed that the complaint and the nature of the complaint.
The disciplinary committee shall hold investigations in relation to matters and complaints referred to it.
A panel consisting of between three and five members of the committee is appointed and reports its finding to the disciplinary committee. The panel shall report to the disciplinary committee which will specify the nature of the complaint, the evidence laid before it, and the panel’s findings and other matters it considers appropriate.
If the Investigating Committee refers a complaint to the Disciplinary Committee, an inquiry will take place before a Panel of the Disciplinary Committee. A panel consists of not less than 3 and not more than 5 members of the Disciplinary Committee.
The procedures of the panel are laid down in rules made by the Council. The panel has the powers of a High Court judge in relation to the hearing of the matter including the enforcement of attendance, the examination of witnesses and production of documents. It is an offence to fail to attend a panel hearing, produce documents, answer lawful questions or do anything which would be the equivalent of contempt of court.
An inquiry could take the form of either an oral hearing, or an examination of documents and written submissions. If an oral hearing takes place, the Act states that it will proceed in public unless:
- An application is made by the teacher, or a witness, which may include the complainant, to hold all, or part, of the inquiry otherwise than in public, and
- The Panel of the Disciplinary Committee is satisfied that it would be appropriate in the circumstances to hold all or part of the oral hearing otherwise than in public.
Members of the public and media can attend public hearings. A calendar of public hearings will be published on the Teaching Council website www.teachingcouncil.ie from time to time. However, details of individuals involved in inquiries will not be published in advance of hearings.
Inquiries that proceed by way of an examination of documents and written submissions, and not as an oral hearing, take place in private.
After considering all of the evidence at the inquiry, the Panel shall deliberate in private session and prepare a report which will contain details of whether the allegation(s) have been found to be proven. The Panel will communicate their decision to the registered teacher, and to the Director of the Teaching Council, either in private sitting or in writing.
The disciplinary panel may dismiss the complaint where it makes no finding against the teacher. Where the inquiry is conducted in relation to a complaint and the panel is satisfied there is a risk that a person may harm or tend to cause harm or cause harm or put a child at risk or vulnerable person, the panel shall provide a report specifying the nature of the information disclosed in the vetting disclosure and all evidence laid before the panel assessment inclusion in relation to the risk.
The Act does not permit the Panel’s findings to be announced to the public at the immediate conclusion of a public oral hearing. If the Panel decides to dismiss the complaint, the Panel may, on a case by case basis, decide to announce this at the conclusion of a public oral hearing.
Under the Act, it is a matter for the Teaching Council to decide if it is in the public interest to publish the finding, or findings, of the Panel and/or any sanction decided on by the Panel. If the Council decides that it is in the public interest to publish, details will be placed on the Council’s website. The Teaching Council does not comment on individual cases.
Where a finding of unfitness to practice has been reached by a panel, following consideration of the report of the inquiry by the panel, the disciplinary committee may cause a number of sanctions
- order the teacher be removed and not be eligible for restoration for a period
- that he shall be suspended,
- that he shall be retained on the register subject to conditions including those regarding attendance of a professional development course.
- advise, admonish or censure the teacher in writing.
The decision is communicated to the parties concerned within 21 days.
If it is decided to impose one of the more serious sanctions (i.e. conditions attached to a teacher’s registration, a suspension from the register for a period not exceeding 2 years, or removal from the register), the teacher has 21 days to appeal to the High Court. In the event that the decision is not appealed, the Council will apply to the High Court for confirmation of the decision.
The teacher may apply to the High Court which may confirm or annul the decision, other than a decision to advise admonish or censure . The Council may make an application to the High Court for an order seeking suspension of registration of a teacher. This may be made in a summary manner.
Where the High Court orders that a teacher’s registration shall be suspended, it shall direct whether he shall continue to be paid subsequent to terms and conditions as is appropriate. Money is paid by the Oireachtas.
Where following an appeal to the High Court the teacher is suspended or removed from the register and leave is granted to appeal for the Court of Appeal, High Court or Court of Appeal shall where the teacher is employed in a recognized school make a direction as to whether the teacher shall continue to be paid terms and apply conditions as it considers appropriate.