Part 5 of the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015 (“the Act”) provides for the consideration and investigation of complaints relating to registered teachers, by the Teaching Council’s Investigating Committee. It provides for the holding of inquiries/hearings by Panels of the Disciplinary Committee, where necessary.
Part 5 of the Act also provides for the possible imposition of sanctions, if a finding is made at the conclusion of an inquiry.
Publication of information only arises when a complaint is referred by the Investigating Committee to the Disciplinary Committee for an inquiry. If a complaint is not referred to the Disciplinary Committee for an inquiry, no information is published. The Investigating Committee stage of the process (the screening stage), is held completely in private, as is the case with other Irish regulators.
Fitness to Teach Inquiries
If the Investigating Committee refers a complaint to the Disciplinary Committee, an inquiry will take place before a Panel of the Disciplinary Committee. A panel consists of not less than 3 and not more than 5 members of the Disciplinary Committee. Please note that an inquiry could take the form of either an oral hearing, or an examination of documents and written submissions. If an oral hearing takes place, the Act states that it will proceed in public unless:
a) An application is made by the teacher, or a witness, which may include the complainant, to hold all, or part, of the inquiry otherwise than in public, and
b) The Panel of the Disciplinary Committee is satisfied that it would be appropriate in the circumstances to hold all or part of the oral hearing otherwise than in public.
Members of the public and media can attend public hearings. A calendar of public hearings will be published on the Teaching Council website www.teachingcouncil.ie from time to time. However, details of individuals involved in inquiries will not be published in advance of hearings.
Inquiries that proceed by way of an examination of documents and written submissions, and not as an oral hearing, take place in private.
The Completion of an Inquiry
After considering all of the evidence at the inquiry, the Panel shall deliberate in private session and prepare a report which will contain details of whether the allegation(s) have been found to be proven. The Panel will communicate their decision to the registered teacher, and to the Director of the Teaching Council, either in private sitting or in writing. The Act does not permit the Panel’s findings to be announced to the public at the immediate conclusion of a public oral hearing. If the Panel decides to dismiss the complaint, the Panel may, on a case by case basis, decide to announce this at the conclusion of a public oral hearing.
After an inquiry concludes, the Panel will consider whether a sanction should be imposed on the registered teacher.
If it is decided to impose one of the more serious sanctions (i.e. conditions attached to a teacher’s registration, a suspension from the register for a period not exceeding 2 years, or removal from the register), the teacher has 21 days to appeal to the High Court. In the event that the decision is not appealed, the Council will apply to the High Court for confirmation of the decision.
Under the Act, it is a matter for the Teaching Council to decide if it is in the public interest to publish the finding, or findings, of the Panel and/or any sanction decided on by the Panel. If the Council decides that it is in the public interest to publish, details will be placed on the Council’s website.
The Teaching Council does not comment on individual cases.
The Council will, at all times, comply with its reporting obligations to bodies, including An Garda Síochána and Tusla (The Child and Family Agency), regarding the protection of children and vulnerable persons.