Under-performing teachers could be blocked from working again

New powers to sanction bad teachers and stop some from working again are to come into effect under plans by Ruairi Quinn, the education minister.

In a long-awaited move, the Teaching Council will be allowed establish fitness-to-teach inquiries to investigate complaints that a teacher:

* Does not meet professional teaching standards;

* Has not complied with education law or regulations;

* Has been registered based on false or fraudulent information;

* Is medically unfit to teach.

Under procedures in place since 2009, any school can fire a teacher for under-performance.

Department of Education inspectors have been called in to assess the work of two teachers where interventions at school level have not worked, and one teacher has since resigned.

But part of the 2001 Teaching Council Act must be given effect by Mr Quinn before the council has powers to remove a teacher’s ability to work in state-funded schools.

The move to make it mandatory for a teacher to be on the council’s register should take place during the next school year, along with legal changes to allow schools hire an unqualified person for substitute work in limited circumstances.

Seán Ó Foghlú, the Department of Education secretary general, told the Oireachtas Education Committee that, as soon as possible after that, the minister will commence the part of the Teaching Council Act dealing with procedures to sanction.

While removing a teacher from the register would be the ultimate sanction, the council could also suspend a teacher from it, or attach conditions to continued registration. This would follow deliberation by its investigating committee and a disciplinary committee holding a fitness-to-teach hearing.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames said the general public believes it is impossible to fire a teacher.

But department assistant secretary general Martin Hanevy said a school can take actions, including withdrawal of salary increments or firing a teacher.

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