Sunday 25 September 2016

Teachers shape children's lives - so they must be fit for the role

Published 25/07/2016 | 02:30

Teaching Council director Tomás O'Ruairc
Teaching Council director Tomás O'Ruairc

A teacher in Scotland was recently struck off the register for two years after complaints from pupils and parents, including that her classes were "boring".

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But there was a bit more to it than that, and the process that led up to her disciplinary hearing included other teachers observing her work over a two-year period.

Her peers were less than impressed and among their criticism was that she spent three lessons reading a novel to one class without allowing pupils to ask questions. The teacher involved is now working in a private school abroad.

It will take teachers in Ireland a while to get used to a new regime of public disciplinary hearings, which, in turn will allow for a person to be struck off the register in the most serious case of professional misconduct or underperformance.

But it is a good day for Irish education, teachers included. As Teaching Council director Tomás O'Ruairc says, it is about improving teaching and not punishing teachers.

Teachers are held in high esteem in Ireland and overwhelmingly enjoy the trust of parents who dispatch almost one million children into their care every day.

But like all walks of life, there will be within their midst those whom, for one reason or another, should not be in that role.

The Teaching Council is an independent body, funded by teachers. Importantly, hearings will take place in public, except in exceptional circumstances, such as when issues of child protection are involved.

Public hearings are not what the Teaching Council initially proposed. It recommended that decisions on whether they be held in public or private should be made on a case-by-case basis.

However, previous education minister Jan O'Sullivan rightly decided that level of transparency was important to instil confidence in the system.

And so, as much as teachers may come under scrutiny through this new process, so too will the Teaching Council and the responsibility entrusted to it to uphold high professional standards. The public will be the judges.

Irish Independent

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