THE teaching watchdog is being given new powers to tackle underperforming teachers - which could see more teachers facing sanctions.
Up until now, a teacher had to be deemed "unfit to teach" before the Teaching Council could impose drastic sanctions such as removing them from the teaching register.
But Education Minister Ruairi Quinn intends to revise existing guidelines to give the council a menu of options to also deal with teachers who are simply underperforming.
It is expected to lead to more teachers being dealt with by the Teaching Council but they will face lesser sanctions.
These new sanctions include advice, admonishment, or a censure in writing to the teacher in question. The options available to the Teaching Council will range in severity, up to and including suspension or removal from the teaching register. If a teacher is suspended or removed from the register, they will not be paid by the Department or the Education and Training Boards
A department spokeswoman told the Irish Independent: "If a teacher isn't registered, then we won't be paying them. A teacher could be suspended for up to two years."
However the sanctions imposed will be consistent with the seriousness of findings following a fitness to teach inquiry, she said.
The new powers will also allow the Teaching Council to investigate allegations from parents of misconduct and underperformance in schools.
Teachers will be able to appeal any decisions in the High Court. Mr Quinn said the legislation was a step towards the "full professionalisation of teaching", and is designed to significantly increase the powers available to the council.
"The vast majority of teachers in our classrooms perform well. But for the small minority who do not, I believe that the Teaching Council will now have at its disposal the right tools to deal with cases of serious misconduct and to improve and assist poorly performing teachers," he said.
Jim Moore, from the National Parents' Council Post-primary welcomed the move.
"If you look across the broad spectrum of professional services, the possibility of dismissal has to be part of the situation. Every organisation has difficulties with performance levels, and we welcome the acknowledgement that it is an issue.
"This is a mature approach to an issue which has certain sensitivities about it."