The Teaching Council (the ‘Council’) is committed to conducting its business with the highest standards of honesty and integrity. This Policy expresses the Council’s commitment to (i) addressing concerns about wrongdoing that may arise (ii) providing procedures for employees from organisations outside of the Council (‘Workers’) to make reports of wrongdoing and (iii) protecting Workers who make reports under this Policy. A culture of openness and accountability is essential in order to prevent wrongdoing and to address wrongdoing if it does occur.
The aims of this Policy are:
- to encourage the reporting by a Worker of suspected relevant wrongdoings to the Director of the Council (the “Director”) where applicable, and as soon as possible, in the knowledge that reports will be taken seriously and investigated as appropriate;
- to provide guidance to Workers as to the procedure for making a report;
- to reassure Workers that genuine concerns can and should be raised, even if they turn out to be mistaken, without fear of penalisation.
For more information, please see the Teaching Council’s FAQ document which sets out the information in further detail.
Scope of this policy
It is recognised that there may be circumstances where a Worker wishes to report an issue or concern to an external organisation. This Policy applies to Workers, who are not employees of the Council, but who wish to make a protected disclosure to the Council in respect of any matters relating to:
- the regulation of the teaching profession and the professional conduct of teachers;
- the establishment, promotion, maintenance and improvement of standards of programmes of teacher education and training, teaching, knowledge, skills and competencies of teachers in recognised primary and post-primary schools, and the professional conduct of teachers; or
- the promotion of continuing education and training and professional development of teachers.
Status of this policy
This policy gives effect to and sets out the procedures for making a protected disclosure of information by a Worker to the Director pursuant to the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.
This Policy is voluntary and may be amended at any time by the Council.
Making a disclosure under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014
The Protected Disclosures Act 2014Footnote 1 (the ‘2014 Act’) designates the Director as a Prescribed Person to which a protected disclosure may be made.
A disclosure may only be made to the DirectorFootnote 2 where that disclosure relates to the regulation of the teaching profession and the professional conduct of teachers; the establishment, promotion, maintenance and improvement of standards of programmes of teacher education and training, teaching, knowledge, skills and competencies of teachers in recognised primary and post-primary schools, and the professional conduct of teachers; or the promotion of continuing education and training and professional development of teachers.
Where a Worker wishes to make a complaint or to report a concern to the Director (see footnote 2 below) under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, the concern or complaint must fall within the above subject matter.
A protected disclosure under the 2014 Act is the disclosure of relevant information if, in the reasonable belief of the Worker, it tends to show one or more “relevant wrongdoings” and the information came to the attention of the Worker in connection with any aspect of his or her employment.
In addition, where a protected disclosure is being made, the discloser must reasonably believe that the relevant wrongdoing falls within the description of matters in respect of which the Teaching Council is prescribed under the Act and that the information disclosed, and any allegation contained in it, are substantially true.
Relevant wrongdoings are the following, which have been, or are, being or are likely to be committed or occur:
- a criminal offence;
- a failure to comply with any legal obligation (other than one arising under the contract of employment of the person making the disclosure);
- a miscarriage of justice;
- the endangering of the health and safety of any individual;
- damage to the environment;
- unlawful or improper use of funds or resources of a public body or of other public money;
- an act or omission by or on behalf of a public body which is oppressive, discriminatory, grossly negligent or constitutes gross mismanagement; or
- the deliberate concealment of any of the above matters.
What is not included in this policy
This Policy should not be used to raise complaints relating to the Worker’s personal circumstances or terms and conditions of employment, such as the way the Worker is being treated at work or workplace issues affecting the Worker personally. In such cases, the Worker should refer to the appropriate grievance procedure as provided for by his or her own organisation.
If a Worker raises a protected disclosure under this Policy, the protected disclosure legislation (referred to above) provides that the Worker will not be at risk of suffering any form of penalisation as a result of the disclosure; provided the Worker has a reasonable belief that relevant wrongdoing has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur it will not matter if he/she is mistaken.
In addition, the discloser must reasonably believe that the relevant wrongdoing falls within the description of matters in respect of which the Teaching Council is prescribed under the Act and that the information disclosed, and any allegation contained in it, are substantially true.
There is no question of a Worker having to prove anything. Workers should not pursue their own investigations, however well intended, as a flawed or improper investigation could compromise the Council’s, the Inspector’s or the Director’s ability to investigate.
The Council and the Director hope that Workers will be able to report concerns openly, however, it is understood that Workers may wish to raise a concern in confidence under this Policy.
If a Worker requests that his or her identity remains protected by keeping his/her identity confidential, the Council, through the Director, will, except in exceptional circumstances, not disclose it without the Worker’s consent. If the situation arises where a resolution or further investigation of the concern is not possible without revealing the Worker’s identity, the Director will discuss with the Worker whether or how they can best proceed.
Workers are not encouraged to make disclosures anonymously as proper investigation may be more difficult or may not be possible if further information cannot be obtained from the Worker. It also leads to difficulties in establishing whether allegations are credible.
Workers, who are concerned about possible penalisation or reprisals if their identity is revealed, should come forward to the Director and appropriate measures can then be discussed and taken to preserve confidentiality
How to raise a concern
If a Worker has a concern about wrongdoing relating to the conduct or actions of a third party, to include a customer, supplier or service provider, the Council encourages the Worker to first report such concerns internally within the Worker’s organisation using its mechanisms for making protected disclosures where appropriate.
However, it is recognised that circumstances may arise where a Worker wishes to make a disclosure external to his/her own organisation without recourse to that organisation’s internal procedures for making reports. In these circumstances, where a Worker becomes aware of information and, in the reasonable belief of the Worker:
- the information tends to show one or more relevant wrongdoings, and
- the relevant wrongdoing falls within the description of matters in respect of which the person is prescribed and,
- the information disclosed, and any allegation contained in it, are substantially true,
the Worker should contact the Director (see also footnote 2) of the Teaching Council in accordance with the 2014 Act.
A disclosure made under this Policy should be in writing and include all relevant dates and other details necessary to enable a full and proper consideration and investigation of the complaint. A disclosure should also outline the reasons for the Worker’s cause of concern clearly and unambiguously. The Council urges Workers to provide full details of their identity, position and/or role and to abstain from making anonymous disclosures.
While the outcome that the Worker is seeking cannot be guaranteed, his/her concerns will be dealt with fairly and in an appropriate way. By using this Policy, Workers can help to achieve this.
Once a Worker has made a disclosure, the Director (see also footnote 2) will carry out an initial assessment to determine what action is appropriate, to include the scope of any investigation required. The Worker will be informed of the outcome of that assessment. If it is clear that the Worker’s concern does not fall within the remit of the Teaching Council’s jurisdiction or protected disclosures legislation, he/she will be informed of this promptly.
The Worker may be invited to attend additional meetings in order to provide further information. He/she is entitled to take a colleague or representative with him/her to any meeting if he/she believes additional support is required.
Investigation and outcome
Where a protected disclosure can be investigated by the Teaching Council in accordance with its legislation, the Director will aim, where appropriate, to keep the Worker informed of the progress of the investigation and its likely timescale. However, sometimes the need for confidentiality may prevent the Worker being entitled to specific details of the investigation or any actions taken as a result.
The Worker should treat any information relating to the investigation as confidential.
If the worker is not satisfied
The worker can request a review in relation to the following;
- Any decision made to disclose the identity of the discloser;
- The outcome of any assessment or investigation undertaken in respect of the protected disclosure; or;
- The outcome of any assessment or investigation in respect of any complaint.
The Teaching Council will have this review undertaken by a member of the senior management who has not been involved in the decision being reviewed. However, there is no entitlement to have more than one review in relation to the same issue.
Section 19(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2011 makes it an offence to withhold relevant information, without reasonable excuse, where an individual knows or believes the information might be of material assistance in preventing the commission by another individual of a “relevant offence” or securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any individual for a “relevant offence”.
For the purposes of the 2011 Act a relevant offence includes 130 different types of offences including but not limited to banking offences, investment of funds and other financial activities, company law offences, money laundering and terrorist activities, fraud and theft offences, bribery and corruption offences, consumer protection offences and criminal damage to property offences.
If an individual has this type of information and/or is aware, concerned or suspects that a “serious offence” or a “relevant offence” has been or is being committed, he/she is required to report same to An Garda Siochána. Before he/she makes a disclosure or report such information or a concern to An Garda Siochána, the Council would encourage the individual to seek advice in accordance with the protected disclosures policy within their own organisation or in accordance with the relevant procedures outlined in this Policy.
The Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 creates a number of criminal offences related to the protection of children and certain vulnerable adults, specifically in relation to the withholding of information relating to the commission of certain arrestable offences (including certain sexual offences) against children or vulnerable adults. Nothing in this policy is intended to replace or limit an individual’s obligation to comply with this legislation. An individual in possession of such information is required to report the information to An Garda Siochána in accordance with the legislation and the Council recommends any such individual seek their own expert legal advice in respect of the matter.
It is the responsibility of the Deputy Director to undertake continuous monitoring of this Policy and to maintain a record of concerns raised and the outcomes/or furnish a written report at the end of any investigation to the Members of the Council containing a description of the disclosure made and the outcome.
The report shall maintain the anonymity of all those involved All written records relating to a protected disclosure shall be retained for a period of 6 years.
An Annual Report will be submitted to the Members of the Council and will be published not later than 30th June in each year, in relation to the protected disclosures (if any) received by the Council in the preceding calendar year.
The Annual Report shall maintain the anonymity of all those involved and shall include information on:
- the number of protected disclosures (if any) made to the public body;
- the action (if any) taken in response to the protected disclosures, and
- such other information relating to the protected disclosures and the action taken as may be requested by the Minister from time to time
This Policy shall be reviewed within 12 months of implementation and every two years thereafter.