More than 42,000 teachers have yet to undergo Garda vetting, but plans to bridge the gap could be restricted by Government staffing restrictions on the body responsible.
The Teaching Council is subject to the same recruitment ban as the public service, even though it is funded by teachers’ registration fees.
The anomaly could also limit the council’s ability to use its imminent powers to investigate complaints and take sanctions against under-performing and misbehaving teachers. It administers the vetting of 6,000 teachers starting their careers every year. However, more than half the 73,000 teachers on its register are not vetted, as most of those working before the council was established in 2006 have not been legally required to be vetted.
Legal changes are in train that could make Garda vetting a requirement for all teachers when renewing their annual registration. But the planned three-year timeframe to have all remaining 42,600 teachers vetted is dependent on additional staffing, as the Teaching Council only has 28 of the 48-full-time staff the process would require.
A spokesperson said difficulties in securing its full staffing level are a particular anomaly in the context of the council’s status as a self-financing body. The council will soon have significant extra legal functions in the areas of mandatory registration, induction and probation of new teachers, and its workload will also be added to by changes to teacher training courses for which it is the accrediting body.
“The council’s functions in relation to fitness-to-teach and continuing professional development are also expected to be commenced in the near future, along with a wider role in vetting of longer-serving teachers,” the spokesperson said.
“All of these will have human resource implications and the council is anxious that these would be addressed without delay, so that it is appropriately equipped to fulfil its mandate as the professional standards body for teaching.”
The council said Education Minister Ruairi Quinn supports its case for additional staffing which has been sent to Brendan Howlin’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
But a DPER spokesperson said the council is not self-financing, because the State loses out on €37 for every teacher registered through income tax relief on the annual €90 registration fee. She said it comes under the Department of Education employee control framework, limiting numbers across the sector to nearly 95,000, because the Exchequer pays the pension costs of all Teaching Council staff.
A Department of Education spokesperson said officials are in ongoing discussions with the DPER on the question of Teaching Council staffing and is also anxious to have vetting extended.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said it fully supports the extension of vetting to all teachers.
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