Blog: The conduct of teachers
Melissa Gowan, partner at Cantillons Solicitors in Cork, writes on the new statutory complaints process for Irish teachers.
Last week saw the welcome and long awaited announcement by Richard Bruton the Minister for Education of a formal process to make complaints about the conduct of teachers. This comes about over a decade after the Legislation was first signed in to Law.
Parents, students or other teachers can now make a complaint about any registered teacher to the Teaching Council which is the regulatory body for teachers. The process is similar to the disciplinary procedures in place for the medical and nursing professions.
Complaints will continue to be dealt with at school level initially and prior to being considered by the Teaching Council’s investigating committee.
The range of sanctions for those teachers found to have breached the code of conduct range from a written warning to removal from the Teaching Register. Those upon whom the more serious sanctions are imposed have a right of appeal to the High Court.
One of the most welcome aspects of the new process is that hearings can be held in public. Under the new rules a private hearing may also be granted if a teacher or a witness can show “reasonable and sufficient cause”. The process will involve the hearing of sworn oral evidence.
The aim is that the Teaching Council’s approach will put in place procedures that make it easy for parents, students and teachers to use this system.
The Teaching Council is made up of 37 members and with 22 reserved for teachers and only 2 for parents the obvious question is whether students and parents can trust the Council to be impartial. We at Cantillons believe that only time will tell. The first hearings before the Council are expected within the next 9 to 12 months.
In the meantime we can look to our neighbours in Scotland who have had fitness to teach measures in place since the mid 1960s. Scotland has a similar number of teachers and their Council commands respect from both the public and the teaching profession.
The newly introduced measures are aimed at not only improving teaching but helping the profession become more open, accountable and to allow greater access to information.
- Melissa Gowan is a partner at Cantillons Solicitors. You can view her profile here.