New powers granted to sanction underperforming teachers

An official watchdog is being handed ramped up powers to deal with teachers who are underperforming or found guilty of misconduct.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said the new powers will put teaching on a par with other regulated professions.

“The vast majority of teachers in our classrooms perform well,” he said. “But for the small minority who do not, I believe that the Teaching Council will now have at its disposal the right tools to deal with cases of serious misconduct and to improve and assist poorly performing teachers.”

The planned law changes, which have to be rubber-stamped by the Oireachtas, will allow the teaching watchdog to impose sanctions even if a teacher is not deemed “unfit to teach”.

The new powers will also allow the Teaching Council to investigate allegations from parents of misconduct and underperformance in schools.

Teachers will be able to appeal any decisions in the High Court.

“The new sanctions available to the Teaching Council are more in line with those available to other professional regulators such as the Medical Council or An Bord Altranais,” said Mr Quinn, who has yet to publish the proposals.

“The operation by the Council of robust fitness to teach procedures is important for the public and teachers so that they have full confidence in the teaching profession.

“This is a further positive step in the full professionalisation of teaching.”

The Teachers Union of Ireland has warned that the new legislation must also protect teachers.

“Those measures must also give due process to the teachers,” said TUI general secretary John MacGabhann.

“A decision, for example, in an extreme case, to dismiss a teacher, or further beyond that, to de-register a teacher, has huge consequences on somebody in terms of their ability to earn an income.”

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