The function of the Inspectorate is to support and advise recognised schools, centres for education and teachers in matters relating to the provision of education. They shall visit recognised schools and centres on the initiative of the Inspectorate following consultation with the board patron, parents of the students and teachers as appropriate to any of the following:
- evaluate the organisation and operation of the schools and centres and the quality and effectiveness of the education provided, including quality of teaching and effectiveness of individual teachers;
- evaluate educational standards, assess implementation and effectiveness of any programmes of education, provides for individuals with a disability or special education needs, stress the implementation of regulations, report to the Minister and the board, patron’s, parents and students as appropriate and as prescribed. These matters or on other matters relating to the activities of the schools etc.
The Inspectors may conduct assessments of the educational needs of children’s in recognised schools, advise students, parents and schools as appropriate in relation to the education and development of students.
They shall advise teachers and board in respect of the performance of their duties and include in particular assist teachers in employing improved methods of teaching and conducting classes. They shall advise parents and parents associations.
Primary schools are generally inspected on a cyclical basis. Individual teachers are inspected in accordance with the rules for national schools. Inspectors must grow in relation to probationary teachers.
Inspectorate is also involved in curriculum development, implementation of initiatives, career development of teachers, advice and support of schools boards, teachers and parents, advice and support on buildings.
The Inspectorate is a division of the Department of Education.
The Education Act provides procedures in respect of suspension and dismissal of teachers by the board of management. Different provisions, procedures apply to matters relating to competence and those relating to conduct.
Procedures are designed to comply with principles of constitutional justice. Circumstances may warrant that the teacher be suspended on full pay. The grounds of complaint are advised in writing to the teacher and copies of relevant documentation are to be furnished. Full details of the complaint and allegations must be set out.
The teacher must have access to his or her personal file. The teacher must be given the opportunity to give a full response to the allegations and complaints made.
The teacher may avail of representation. There is a right to examine and challenge evidence put forward and witnesses making or supporting the complaint. There must be a fair and impartial examination of the issues in question, taking account of the allegations and responses and representations made for and on behalf of the teacher.
The duty, board of management must act fairly and reasonably and in a confidential manner protecting the dignity of the teacher and confidentiality. Where the disciplinary sanction is imposed, it must be proportionate to the matter concerned. Reasonable and appropriate support and training are to be provided.
Competence; Initial stages
The procedures in relation to professional competence involve five stages. There is a provision for an informal stage, largely involving the principal and informal guidance and direction.
If the principal is concerned that the teacher may have issues of professional competence with work, the teacher is advised orally of the nature and extent of the concerns, the relevant documents are furnished, be given a copy of the agreed procedures.
A principal should seek to explore the issues and causes, agree to the steps to be taken. The teacher may be advised to take advantage of, avail of internal or external supports. The purpose is to ensure that through dialogue, the issues are resolved and the matter agreed upon so that no further action is necessary.
Where the teacher fails to engage with the process or there continues to be concerns of competence, the principal is to advise the board, provide a written report.
The teacher may invoke the external review at that stage. Alternatively, the teacher may respond and be given an opportunity to address the board of management in relation to the matter if he wishes. The board may then decide on how to proceed.
Where the board is of the view that there are sufficient grounds, it will charge the principal with finding the required improvement plan. The plan is to specify in writing the shortfalls and the required improvement.
It shall set out supports and training available. The necessary remediation is to take place, generally takes place within a time frame laid out in the plan.
Where the principal reports that the required improvement has taken place, the board will inform the teacher in writing and the process would be concluded. If it has not taken place, the board will consider the matter further, if not, the teacher is given the opportunity for an oral and written response to the principal’s report.
The board may decide that sufficient progress has been made, that the improvement plan should be modified and that the improvement is not being brought about.
Where the board of management decide that the required improvement has not taken place, or if the teacher elects at the outset, they request the Chief Inspector to arrange a review of the work. This is to include details of the works, nature of support offered and the extent to which the reports are being availed of.
The Chief Inspector is to satisfy himself as to the appropriate support being offered. He may seek further information from the teacher in the school. Chief Inspector may appoint a person now to conduct the review as appears appropriate. The review may involve a series of visits by members of the inspectorate.
The person designed will make a report to the Chief Inspector who makes this available to the board of management and the teacher. The teacher must be given an opportunity to respond. The Board needs to consider the report of the Chief Inspector and the response of the teacher. It may take no further action and may decide to proceed to a disciplinary hearing.
Hearing & Appeal
Stage Four involves a disciplinary hearing. The teacher may be represented by a colleague or a trade union representative. At least seven days notice of the meeting must be given. The teacher must be given an opportunity to put his case in full and challenge evidence.
The board of management makes a judgment on the matter. It takes account of the conclusions of the report of the Chief Inspector and other evidence and the teacher’s representations.
The disciplinary action may involve one of the following sanctions: final written censure, deferral of an increment, withdrawal of an increment, suspension with pay, suspension without pay for a limited period, dismissal.
The teacher may appeal against the board’s action to an independent panel appointed by the board of management. The Board of management is to inform the Department of Education, the nature of the action to comply with Teaching Council requirements.
A separate procedure applies in respect of disciplinary matters. The procedure applies to teachers in primary, secondary, community and comprehensive schools. It involves an informal stage, verbal warning, written warning, final written warning. Sanction including withdrawal of an increment, suspension with or without pay, demotion or dismissal. Management makes that relevant decision.
The Teacher’s Disciplinary Appeal Panel is comprised of an independent chairman from a panel nominated by the Minister for Education, representatives of the recognised management body, nominee of the relevant teacher union.
The panel may review the decision and disciplinary procedures on the basis that the relevant procedures were not adhered to, relevant facts were not ascertained, the teacher was not afforded a reasonable opportunity to answer the allegation, the sanction is disproportionate to the misconduct or underperformance.
There are separate suspension and discipline procedures in respect of principals. Similar principles underlie the process. There are different procedures in respect of conduct related disciplinary matters and competence matters.
In relation to competence, there is a multi-stage procedure. The first stage involves an informal stage between the chairperson and the principal. The formal process involves the chairman reporting to the board. The principal may invoke stage three, external review procedure, at this stage or it may proceed between the principal and the board. The chairperson takes the principal role.
The discretion for external review involves reference to the Chief Inspector and appointee. If the matter proceeds further, there is a hearing before the board. The principal may be represented by a trade union representative or colleague. The potential sanctions in the event that the matter was upheld include deferral of increments, withdrawal of increments, suspension, with or without pay, and dismissal.
There is a similar provision in respect of discipline as in respect of a teacher. Once again, the chairperson is the principal party in the early stages.
There is a provision for a disciplinary appeal panel. It is to comprise, independent chairperson for a panel nominated by the Minister, representative of a recognised management body and nominee of a relevant teacher’s union.
Complaints by Parents
The Department of Education publishes procedures for dealing with complaints by parents and guardians in respect of teachers. They may deal with matters of competence and conduct. Complaints which are frivolous and vexatious or are irrelevant to the school are ineligible.
There is a multistage procedure involving provision for natural justice. Complaints are to be made to the class teacher in the first instance. The matter may then be escalated to the principal and ultimately to the chairperson of the board of management. The chairperson may refer the matter to the board.
Disputes with Board
There is a grievance procedure agreed between the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and the principal management body. Its purpose is to provide a mechanism for the resolution of grievances in a national school which a teacher or a principal teacher may have against the board of management in respect of the exercise of its functions to the chairperson or principal teacher.
It is to relate generally to breaches of school rules, policies, procedures or practices. It will not deal with matters covered by specific legislation such as anti-discrimination legislation and matters which are more appropriate to industrial relations type bodies.
There is a multistage procedure. There is provision for appeal of the board of management’s decision to an independent Tribunal. The chairperson of the board is to notify the patron, the general secretary of the INTO and invite these parties to select an agreed independent person to act as chairperson of the Tribunal and each to appoint a person who is not associated with the matter.