Posted by Sally O'Brien, on 22/01/2015. Tags: Education And Politics
The Minister for Education, Jan O'Sullivan yesterday confirmed that the Government has approved the Teaching Council Amendment Bill which will be published in the coming days.
The Minister went onto advise that during the passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas, she intends to introduce an amendment to the Bill to provide for 'Fitness to teach' hearings on teacher misconduct, poor performance and complaints to be held in public as the default position.
The Minister's proposed amendment is expected to draw a strong reaction from teacher unions as the Minister has rejected a recommendation from the Teaching Council that decisions about whether the hearing would be held in public or private should be made on a case-by-case basis.
The 'Fitness to teach' hearings are part of new amendments to ‘strengthen and clarify’ the existing provisions of the Teaching Council
Act. The Bill will also see new changes to ensure there is efficient Garda vetting of all new and current teachers in place.
According to an article in Irish Times today
, only 60% of the 90,000 registered teachers have been Garda vetted, and this Bill is to make sure that the remaining teachers are vetted, and periodically re-vetted, accordingly.
The Minister said
“This Bill provides a straightforward approach to vetting those teachers who have not been vetted previously. I have spoken with the Teaching Council about the need to ensure that all registered teachers are vetted, and I am aware that it is their intention to prioritise this work in the year after enactment of this legislation. The statutory vetting arrangements under the National Vetting Bureau Act (NVB Act) will, in addition to the existing check for criminal offences, also include a check for any relevant "soft information”.
According to the departmental press release
: "Soft information" referred to as "specified information" in the NVB Act, is information other than criminal convictions held by the Garda Síochána that leads to a bona-fide belief that a person poses a threat to children or vulnerable persons.”
The fitness-to-teach hearings will be by ‘default’ held in public except when there is a ‘child protection issue’ where they will be then held in private.
The Minister concluded by saying: “Overall, I consider that the changes now being brought forward will make a very significant contribution to safeguarding children in our schools and to upholding the high standards of teaching that students, and society, expect and deserve.”