The country’s first fitness-to-teach inquiry is due to commence at the Teaching Council today.
The details of the teacher involved and the allegations involved are not known, but the public and media may attend the two-day hearing at the council’s offices in Maynooth, Co Kildare. It has already been decided that the identities of the teacher, their school, and any witnesses cannot be made public.
The council was set up in 2006, but the fitness-to-teach complaints process was only given legal status by Education Minister Richard Bruton a year ago.
It allows for anyone to make a complaint about one of the country’s 98,000 registered teachers on any number of grounds.
They can relate to professional misconduct, conduct in breach of the Teaching Council’s code of professional conduct, poor professional performance, or a registered teacher being medically unfit to teach, or having a conviction for an indictable offence.
An inquiry is only held after a complaint is first considered by the Teaching Council’s director, and then in more detail by its 11-member investigating committee to decide if a case warrants further action.
A panel of three or five members of the council’s disciplinary committee, a majority to be teachers, will hear cases.
Where complaints are proven, potential sanctions range from written censure to removal from the register of teachers, effectively withdrawing the ability to work in a publicly funded school.
More serious sanctions include attaching conditions to registration, suspension from the register for up to two years, or removal from it for a set period.
These more serious sanctions require approval by the High Court, which may also hear a teacher’s appeal.
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