Education Update: Teaching Council Investigations – An Overview of the Current Position
28 September 2017
The Minister for Education and Skills formally commenced Part 5 of the Teaching Council Acts, 2001-2015, in July 2016. This allows the Teaching Council to receive complaints about registered teachers and to conduct investigations and hold inquiries, where deemed appropriate. The Teaching Council published Procedures for the Handling of a Complaint to the Investigating Committee in relation to a Registered Teacher in May 2017.
In general, the Teaching Council will not investigate a complaint about a registered teacher until the school’s own disciplinary procedures under Section 24 of the Education Act 1998 have been fully exhausted or have come to an end, with the exception of good and sufficient reasons. Good and sufficient reasons may include instances where children or vulnerable persons are, or may be, at risk of harm. The Teaching Council Investigating Committee will decide whether good and sufficient reasons exist to start an investigation immediately. However, it would appear that the restriction, i.e. not to investigate until the school’s own disciplinary procedures have been exhausted or have come to an end, is being interpreted by the Teaching Council as applying to instances where the school management has decided not to proceed with disciplinary or competency procedures.
The Teaching Council Acts also require that the Teaching Council must defer its investigations until any procedures put in place under section 28 of the Education Act 1998 regarding nationally agreed complaint procedures are exhausted. The exception to this is where the Investigating Committee of the Teaching Council decides that there are good and sufficient reasons for conducting an investigation.
Section 28 requires the Minister for Education and Skills to establish grievance and other procedures for students and parents. Schools will be aware that the Minister for Education and Skills has not introduced any agreed complaint procedures under section 28 of the Education Act 1998. In December 2016, however, the Minister published a General Scheme of an Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016, which proposed to amend section 28. The new section sets out a number of principles to guide schools on how they should engage with parents and students, including how to address complaints.
As there is no statutory complaints procedure in place, there is nothing to prevent the Teaching Council considering complaints from parents who have either not invoked or not exhausted the (non-statutory) parental complaint procedures currently in operation.
For advice on Teaching Council investigations and related matters, please contact a member of our Education team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.