Teachers may go unpaid over lack of Garda vetting

Hundreds of teachers could be at risk of going unpaid because their failure to apply for Garda vetting means they will not be able to renew their professional registration.

The Teaching Council has issued the stark warning as more than 10% of the almost 6,700 teachers it has been writing to since January have failed to apply.

The retrospective vetting requirement for around 33,000 people on the Teaching Council register is being phased in throughout 2017. Those who have been sent letters, emails, and text messages from the start of the year are all due to have their registration renewed at the end of the month.

But failure to be registered with the council means that payment by the Department of Education or an education and training board (ETB) cannot be paid.

Of the 6,677 teachers told in January they must apply for retrospective vetting ahead of their March 28 registration renewal date, 711, or 11%, had not applied by the end of last week.

Around 600 teachers began the process by making an application in the previous fortnight, and a similar number had fully completed the vetting process in the same period.

A further 425 (6%) had yet to complete the second stage of the vetting application process by late last week.

Teaching Council director Tomás Ó Ruairc said it has a legal responsibility to have regard for the welfare of children and vulnerable adults in all aspects of its work. “We take this responsibility very seriously, and so do teachers. That is why it is essential that they comply with the request from the council within the set timeframes. This is a serious legal process,” he said.

The requirement for vetting applies to teachers who may previously have been vetted by another organisation, including an ETB by which they may currently or previously have been employed. The council has decided that a vetting disclosure be sought for registration renewals of all those teachers for whom it has not received one before.

As the agency responsible for administering the vetting of teachers, all applications from members of the profession are filtered through the Teaching Council. While a teacher must have applied to be vetted, for registration to be renewed, they do not have to have completed the vetting process.

Further groups of teachers from among the 33,000 never vetted through the council before are being contacted on a phased basis for the rest of the year. The other 60,000-plus registered teachers have already satisfied vetting requirements, as Garda vetting became mandatory for first-time registration for those entering the profession a number of years ago.

The delayed engagement with retrospective vetting reflects past difficulties faced by the council. The implementation of rules stipulating that only qualified teachers could be paid to work in schools had to be delayed several times due to the slow rate at which tens of thousands of teachers applied for registration.

Since that section of the 2006 Teaching Council Act took effect in 2013, only people registered with the Teaching Council can be paid for teaching work in State-funded primary and second-level schools.

In exceptional circumstances, a non-registered person may be hired, only after a school exhausts efforts to find a registered teacher, and only for a limited period.

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