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Law Column: Making a complaint about a teacher

Q: I want to make a complaint about my child’s Teacher and I have heard about the Teaching Council recently in the media. What is the Teaching Council and how do I go about making a complaint to them?

A: The Teaching Council is the regulatory body for Teachers in Ireland. It is tasked with investigating complaints and where necessary, holding public inquiries in respect of more serious complaints made against Teachers. 

Any person can make a complaint about a registered Teacher including, parents, students or indeed other Teachers. The Teaching Council will generally only investigate complaints where the event took place on or after 25th July 2016 and it can only consider complaints against registered Teachers.

The range of complaints that the Teaching Council can consider include complaints regarding:

  • Behaviour that constitutes professional misconduct 
  • Poor professional performance 
  • Engaging in conduct contrary to the Code of Professional Conduct 
  • The Teacher is medically unfit to teach 
  • The Teacher has been convicted of a certain offence 

Complaints can be made by completing the complaint form which can be downloaded online at www.teachingcouncil.ie. 

Once submitted, the complaint is first reviewed by the Director of the Teaching Council who may refer it to the Investigating Committee. The Director will refuse the complaint if it is not completed properly or accompanied by the relevant documentation. Therefore, it is vital to take the time to complete all aspects of the form carefully.

If the Director refers the complaint to the Investigating Committee, they will send a copy of the complaint to the Teacher involved who will be given an opportunity to respond to the complaint in writing.

Once the Investigating Committee has looked into the complaint it can either:

  • Refer all or part of the complaint to the Disciplinary Committee for an inquiry (this will only occur if the complaint is of a serious nature) or;
  • Decide no further action is required (there is no right to appeal the decision of the Investigating Committee) The Investigating Committee generally aims to have a decision made within six to nine months of receiving a complaint.

If an inquiry is subsequently held by the Disciplinary Committee, it will take the form of an oral hearing. The hearing will be held in public unless the Committee finds it would be inappropriate to do so on the basis of the potential disclosure of personal matters.

If the Disciplinary Committee finds that the complaint is proven, it can impose a range of sanctions on a Teacher including the placing of conditions on the Teacher’s registration, suspend the Teacher for a period of time or remove the Teacher from the register.

Whilst the Teaching Council is an avenue of recourse for parents and students, it is important that the school’s internal procedures regarding complaints against Teachers are first exhausted as in most cases, the Teaching Council will not investigate a complaint unless it can be shown that efforts were made to resolve the matter at local level with the school Principal and/or the Board of Management.

Amy Connolly is an Apprentice Solicitor in Cantillons Solicitors of 38/39 South Mall, Cork an award-winning law firm practising in all areas of litigation. Since the firm was founded in 1980, they have been involved in precedent making cases, amongst them Best V. Wellcome, Louise O’ Keeffe v. Ireland and most recently Costello V. HSE, a medical negligence claim in which they achieved damages of €17.8 million, the highest ever award in Irish personal injury litigation to date. Cantillons Solicitors received the award of Munster Law Firm of the Year (Over 5 Solicitors) at the AIB Irish Law Awards 2016.

*This weekly column is a readers’ service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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