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.
The Investigating Committee stage of the process (the initial screening stage) is held completely in private.
Fitness to Teach inquiries are generally held in public (as per the Teaching Council Acts) with the public and media permitted to attend. The legislation does, however, provide for inquiries to be held in private in certain circumstances.
At the conclusion of a fitness to teach inquiry, Part 5 of the Act also provides for the possible imposition of sanctions, if a finding is made against the teacher.
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.
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 However, details of individuals involved in the proceedings will not be published in advance of hearings.
Inquiries that proceed by way of an Examination of Documents & Written Submissions, and not as an oral hearing, take place in private. If the Teaching Council deems it to be in the public interest, details of findings and sanctions in these cases can be published on the Council website.
The Completion of an Oral Hearing
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. If the inquiry proceeded in public, the Panel may proceed to announce their decision in public, and will hear submissions on sanction. The Panel will then deliberate in private session and decide on any sanction. If the inquiry proceeded in public, the Panel may proceed to announce their sanction decision in public.
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 apply to the High Court for annulment of the decision. In the event that no application is made by the teacher, 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, regardless of whether the inquiry proceeded in public or private (including inquiries by Examination of Documents & Written Submissions). 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.