As 93,000 teachers come under fitness-to-teach mechanisms, here are answers to questions you might have about the process.

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July 28, 2016 by johnston00

Q&A – Who can make a complaint, and how to go about it

Who can make a complaint to the Teaching Council?

Parents, colleagues, students, or school management can refer a complaint to the Teaching Council. But so can a member of the public, even if they do not have to have any relationship with the teacher or their school.

Can I only complain if I think a teacher is not very good at their job?

No, there are a number of headings under which complaints can be made, which do include professional incompetence. This, along with professional misconduct and medical fitness, are likely to be the more common subjects of complaints. But a teacher can be subject of an investigation and possible inquiry regarding a conviction for an offence that might make them unsuitable to working with young people or vulnerable adults.

Can a complaint be about something a teacher does outside of school?

Yes, but only in relation to alleged conduct of such serious nature as to bring the profession into disrepute. The Teaching Council’s code of professional conduct includes stipulations about inappropriate communication with students, parents, or colleagues, including on social media, and about having inappropriate material or images, at school or elsewhere.

How can I go about making a complaint?

A complaint form on the Teaching Council website offers a guide to the information which should be provided. This includes details of where and when something has happened, or numerous dates if it relates to continuous behaviour or poor professional practice. You must also provide details of any complaint made to the school and how it was dealt with.

I have a concern about a teacher, but I do not want it to affect my son or daughter at school.

Can I complain without providing my own details?

No, anonymous complaints will not be considered. The law requires the Teaching Council to have all complaints in writing and signed by the person bringing a complaint.

So what happens when a complaint is made?

The Teaching Council first must ensure that it is not vexatious or frivolous. The council’s investigations committee then decides if a complaint is serious enough to sanction a fitness-to-teach inquiry, and may seek information from the person who has made the complaint, the teacher concerned, school authorities or other third parties.

Who will then conduct any inquiry?

The Teaching Council’s disciplinary committee will appoint a panel of three to five of its members to hold an inquiry. The majority will be in the teaching profession.

Will all inquiries be held in public?

It is intended that they would be, but exceptions can be made in relation to part of proceedings, in order to allow minors give evidence, or for details of medical records to be discussed. Otherwise, hearings may be conducted in public and details reported in the media.

Niall Murray – Irish Examiner

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