Friday 17 January 2020

150 complaints lodged against teachers but only two go to hearing

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

There have been 150 complaints against teachers under the recent law allowing for the investigation of allegations of professional misconduct or serious under-performance.

However, most of them were either ineligible, withdrawn or did not meet the threshold for an inquiry provided for in fitness to teach legislation.

More than two in three of the complaints (103) have been lodged by parents, with one from a school and the remainder from students, colleagues or third parties.

Since 2016, the Teaching Council, the professional standards body for teachers, has had power to investigate complaints and conduct inquiries usually in the form of an oral hearing, with sanctions that include being struck off the register.

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So far, only two cases have gone to oral hearing, although a further five have been referred for inquiry.

On top of those seven, there are another 25 complaints under active consideration.

A complaint that is considered vexatious will be rejected, but none of the 150 has fallen into that category, according to the Teaching Council.

Once a complaint has been taken on board, there are a number of stages through which it may pass, starting with the Teaching Council investigation committee.

Some 76 of the complaints did not get through the investigation stage.

A factor in the investigation committee's screening process is whether other procedures to deal with issues of professional misconduct and competence have been exhausted and, if not, it may go no further.

Other reasons for complaints not progressing include withdrawal or because they fell outside the remit of the legislation.

The investigation committee decides whether a case should be referred to the disciplinary committee for an inquiry and 42 cases that were investigated were not referred.

If a complaint makes it to the disciplinary committee, it arranges an inquiry.

Although the inquiry is generally expected to be an oral hearing, legislation allows for it to take the form of a review of documents and submissions, particularly in cases where facts are not disputed.

It is understood that at least one of the seven cases referred for inquiry is being dealt with in this manner.

In the first case to go to oral hearing, a teacher who taped over the mouths of pupils was removed from the register with the proviso that she could not apply to be restored for at least a year.

The second case involved a teacher who was drinking with a student in his residence, with the student ending up on the motorway late at night in a distressed state.

The teacher gave undertakings they would not repeat the conduct.

Irish Independent

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