Information for Employers

Information for EmployersPlease click here to access the information booklet - Complaints about registered teacher- Information for Employers

This booklet tells you when to inform the Teaching Council of a complaint about a registered teacher. We have included a glossary to help you understand important terms.

Why does the Teaching Council look into complaints about teachers?

As the regulator for the teaching profession, we are legally required to look into complaints about teachers registered with us. This is set out in Part 5 of the Teaching Council Acts, 2001-2015.

Who can complain?

Any person including members of the public, employers and other teachers, may make a complaint about a teacher registered with the Teaching Council using this complaint form. In addition, the Teaching Council can itself make a complaint about a registered teacher.

Teachers and members of the public can check if a teacher is registered with the Teaching Council by searching the Register.

Can a complaint be submitted anonymously?

No, in order for complaints to be considered, our legislation requires that they must be presented in writing and signed. Please refer to the complaint form here.  We will tell the registered teacher if we receive a complaint about them. We will send the teacher a copy of the complaint, all documents enclosed with it and any further information we receive about the complaint during the complaint process. This will include all the documents you give us. The teacher will have an opportunity to respond to the complaint to the Teaching Council.

What types of complaints does the Teaching Council look into?

We can only consider complaints in relation to registered teachers.

We can look into complaints about:

  1. professional misconduct
  2. poor professional performance
  3. engaging in conduct contrary to the Code of Professional Conduct for Teachers
  4. being medically unfit to teach
  5. a court conviction for certain offences
  6. failing to comply with, or contravening a provision of the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015, the Education Act, 1998, the Education Welfare Act, 2000, the Education and Training Boards Act, 2013, and any regulations, rules or orders made under those Acts
  7. failing to comply with an undertaking or to take any action specified in a consent given to a panel of the Disciplinary Committee at an inquiry
  8. erroneous registration due to a false or fraudulent declaration or misrepresentation.

The grounds of complaint can be found at section 42 of the Teaching Council Acts, 2001-2015.

In addition, the Teaching Council itself may make a complaint to the Investigating Committee in certain instances arising from:

  1. information contained in a vetting disclosure received by the Council on behalf of school employers or potential employers
  2. information contained in an overseas disciplinary notification
  3. information having come to the attention of the Council whether through the media or otherwise.

The commencement date of Part 5 of the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015 was 25 July 2016. We can generally only consider complaints where the matters complained about took place on or after 25 July 2016.

For complaints relating to professional misconduct and where the events took place before 25 July 2016, the Investigating Committee can only decide to proceed to consider and investigate the complaint in exceptional circumstances. The Committee is only entitled to proceed where it believes that:

a)      The conduct complained of is conduct that, if proven, would have constituted a criminal offence at the time that it occurred, and

b)      The conduct is of such a nature as to reasonably give rise to a bona fide concern that a child or vulnerable person may be physically, sexually or emotionally exploited or abused.

 For a complaint to be referred by our Investigating Committee to our Disciplinary Committee, the complaint must be of a serious nature.

Does a complaint have to be raised with the school before it can be considered by the Teaching Council?

We cannot generally look into a complaint unless the school's disciplinary procedures (established under section 24 of the Education Act, 1998) have been exhausted (or come to an end)*. The exception to this is where there are good and sufficient reasons. Good and sufficient reasons may include where children or vulnerable persons are, or may be, at risk of harm. Our Investigating Committee will decide whether good and sufficient reasons exist to start an investigation straight away.

*Section 28 of the Education Act, 1998, requires the Minister for Education and Skills to establish grievance and other procedures for students and parents. It is referred to in the Teaching Council's fitness to teach legislation. However, this section has not been brought into operation by the Minister to date. When section 28 is brought into operation by the Minister, we will generally not be able to look into a complaint until the school's grievance procedures (established under section 28 of the Education Act 1998) have been exhausted. The exception to this is where the Investigating Committee decide there are good and sufficient reasons for conducting an investigation.

Can the complaint relate to conduct outside the course of the registered teacher's profession?

Yes, we can consider complaints about certain matters that relate to conduct outside the course of a registered teacher’s profession on grounds such as convictions for certain offences, and where the conduct is of such a serious nature as would bring the profession into disrepute.

Can the Teaching Council look into a complaint about something that happened outside of the school, while in the course of the teacher's profession?

Yes, a complaint against a registered teacher can relate to any school-related professional activity, or any activity or role undertaken in their capacity as a registered teacher.

Can the complaint relate to something that happened outside of Ireland?

Yes, we can consider complaints about certain matters that happened outside Ireland on grounds including professional misconduct, poor professional performance and convictions for certain offences.

What the Teaching Council cannot do about a complaint?

We cannot:

  1. look into complaints about anyone who is not a registered teacher
  2. pay compensation or help to make a claim for compensation
  3. ask the school or the teacher’s employer to look into a complaint
  4. ask the teacher’s employer to speak to the teacher
  5. make a teacher apologise to the complainant
  6. give legal or professional advice or representation
  7. order a teacher to do something for the complainant
  8. resolve any issues that a complainant has with a school or organisation
  9. consider a complaint before the school’s disciplinary procedures (established under section 24 of the Education Act, 1998) have been exhausted (or come to an end) unless the Investigating Committee believes that there are good and sufficient reasons.

What must the employer tell the Teaching Council?

Regulations under section 37 of the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015, have been drafted and are in the process of being finalised. These regulations set out the information to be furnished by employers in cases of dismissal or resignation in connection with a complaint against a registered teacher. When the Minister of Education and Skills consents to these regulations, you as the employer will have a legal duty to inform us when:

    a registered teacher resigns as a result of or in connection with a complaint about him or her and/or as a result of, or in connection with disciplinary procedures; or

  a registered teacher is dismissed.

 Once the regulations are consented to by the Minister, the Professional Standards section of www.teachingcouncil.ie will be updated with all relevant information for employers.

Please note that these regulations are not yet in operation.

Can the employer make a discretionary referral?

If you have concerns about a teacher's suitability to teach, you should tell us. You can make a referral to us at any time if you are concerned about a teacher, even if the teacher remains in employment.  If you are simply informing us of your concerns about a teacher and do not want to make a formal complaint, the Teaching Council itself may make a formal complaint to the Investigating Committee. It is likely that your input will be needed during the complaint and inquiry process.

However, we cannot generally look into a complaint unless the school's disciplinary procedures (established under section 24 of the Education Act, 1998) have been exhausted (or come to an end). The exception to this is where there are good and sufficient reasons.

Good and sufficient reasons may include where children or vulnerable persons are, or may be, at risk of harm. Our Investigating Committee will decide whether good and sufficient reasons exist to start an investigation straight away.

What if there is a risk of harm to children or vulnerable persons?

If you are concerned that children or vulnerable persons are, or may be, at risk of harm, you should inform:

  • the school, where appropriate
  • TUSLA , the Child and Family Agency
  • the Gardaí, where appropriate.

You may also wish to submit a complaint to the Teaching Council.

What happens after I inform the Teaching Council about a complaint?

We can only consider a complaint if somebody makes a formal complaint. If you wish to make a formal complaint you can do so by downloading and completing our complaint form here. Please download and save the complaint form first, then type the details on the complaint form, and print and sign it. If you are simply informing us of your concerns about a teacher and do not want to make a formal complaint, the Teaching Council itself may make a formal complaint to the Investigating Committee. It is likely that your input will be needed during the complaint and inquiry process.

We will notify the teacher and send them a copy of the complaint, all documents enclosed with it and any further information we receive about the complaint during the complaint process. This will include all the documents you give us. The teacher will have an opportunity to respond to the complaint in writing to the Teaching Council.

About the complaint process

When we receive a complaint, it goes first to the Director of the Teaching Council and the relevant staff. The Director will review the complaint and can:

  1. refuse the complaint if it is not in writing, signed, and accompanied by relevant documents and information
  2. refuse the complaint if they consider it to be frivolous, vexatious, made in bad faith or an abuse of process
  3. refer the complaint to the Investigating Committee which will consider the complaint.

If the Director refuses the complaint, the complainant can appeal the Director’s decision to the Investigating Committee.

How does the Investigating Committee look into the complaint?

The Investigating Committee will send copies of the complaint and all documents it receives in relation to the complaint to the teacher. The committee may ask the teacher to respond to the complaint in writing.

The Investigating Committee may ask the person who made the complaint to send in more information, or it might ask the teacher, school, or any other relevant person, for information.

The Investigating Committee may also seek expert advice or help.

If the complaint suggests that the teacher might not be medically fit to teach, the Investigating Committee might ask the teacher to undergo a medical examination.

You can find more information about the school's role during the consideration of a complaint in additional information below.

Are there any reasons why the Investigating Committee would not look into the complaint?

The Investigating Committee will not look into the complaint if:

  1. the teacher is not registered with the Teaching Council
  2. the Investigating Committee believes that the complaint does not relate to the teacher's fitness to teach
  3. your school’s disciplinary procedures (established under section 24 of the Education Act, 1998) have not been exhausted (or come to an end) unless there are good and sufficient reasons
  4. the matters complained about took place before 25 July 2016. In these cases, the Investigating Committee may still look into the complaint in certain circumstances as set out in the types of complaint above.

If the Investigating Committee decides not to look into the complaint, the complaint process is at an end. It is not possible to appeal the decision of the Investigating Committee

What happens after the Investigating Committee has looked into the complaint?

The Investigating Committee can either:

  • refer all or part of the complaint to the Disciplinary Committee for an inquiry

or

  • decide that no further action is required.

If the Investigating Committee decides that no further action is required, the complaint process is at an end. It is not possible to appeal the decision of the Investigating Committee. For a complaint to be referred by the Investigating Committee to the Disciplinary Committee, the complaint must be of a serious nature.

How long will it take the Teaching Council to consider the complaint?

Each complaint will vary but we aim to have a decision made by the Investigating Committee within six to nine months of the date that we receive a complaint. If the Investigating Committee decides to refer the complaint to the Disciplinary Committee for an inquiry, we aim to hold the inquiry within six months of the date of this referral.

There may be reasons outside our control which lead to delays in investigating complaints. For example, a complaint could be the subject of an investigation by An Garda Síochána, and the Investigating Committee may decide to pause its’ own investigation until the conclusion of the Garda investigation, which may take some time.

About the inquiry process

What is an inquiry?

In most cases, an inquiry will take the form of an oral hearing before a panel of the Disciplinary Committee. It is similar to a hearing before a court or tribunal. Witnesses give evidence under oath.

Will the oral hearing be held in public or private?

Hearings take place in public unless the teacher or a witness about whom personal matters may be disclosed requests the panel to hold the hearing or part of the hearing in private, and the panel is satisfied that it would be appropriate to do so. If a hearing is held in public, the panel may keep the teacher’s identity or the identity of the other people involved, confidential.

The teacher who is the subject of the inquiry, can ask that the inquiry take place by an examination of the relevant documents and written submissions instead of as an oral hearing. In addition, at the request of, or with the consent of a registered teacher the panel of the Disciplinary Committee can ask the teacher to consent to the inquiry taking place by an examination of the relevant documents and written submissions.

An inquiry by examination of relevant documents and written submissions takes place in private with no parties present. The panel of the Disciplinary Committee will decide which approach is suitable. In most cases, an oral hearing will take place, especially where facts are disputed or are at issue.

If an oral hearing takes place, what is the role of the school or employer?

We may ask a representative of the school to give evidence as a witness. For more information in relation to the role of a witness and what to expect at a hearing, please see our Witness information booklet.

How is the hearing prepared?

The Director of the Teaching Council will be responsible for preparing and presenting the evidence to the panel at the hearing. The Director is required to prove the complaint at the hearing. The Director will usually get solicitors to help. The Director and solicitors will gather evidence such as reports, correspondence and written witness statements.

The panel of the Disciplinary Committee which considers a complaint will decide whether the complaint is proven and on which grounds (for example, professional misconduct, poor professional performance, being medically unfit to teach, and so on). Usually, complaints have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at inquiry.

Where will the oral hearing take place?

Most hearings take place at the Teaching Council offices at Block A, Maynooth Business Campus, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Occasionally, hearings may be held elsewhere. Before the hearing, we will write to relevant persons with the location, date and time that they should attend.

Who will be present in the hearing room?

The panel of the Disciplinary Committee – this will include three to five people, who are members of the Disciplinary Committee. One member of the panel will act as Chairperson.

The Legal Assessor – this is a barrister who will sit with the panel and advise them about legal or procedural issues. The Legal Assessor does not decide whether the complaint has been proven. This is a matter for the panel only.

The Director’s legal representatives – these may include solicitors or barristers who will present the case on behalf of the Director.

The Teaching Council staff – these will include relevant staff of the Teaching Council.

The registered teacher

The teacher’s representatives – these may include legal, union or other representatives who may act and speak on the teacher’s behalf. They will put the teacher’s position to the panel and will question the witnesses about their evidence. If the teacher does not have representatives they may defend their own case.

The stenographer – this person records all the evidence given at the hearing.

The public – If the inquiry is held in public, there may be members of the public including journalists present to watch and listen to the proceedings. They usually sit at the back of the hearing room.

The teacher's registration

How is the teacher's registration affected by a complaint?

The teacher’s registration generally does not change when we receive a complaint. It may change if the complaint is proven at an inquiry.

However, please note the following:

We can ask the High Court to suspend the teacher's registration under section 47 of the Teaching Council Acts, 2001-2015 for a period of time. This would usually be until we have finished looking into the complaint.

We can make this section 47 application if we consider it is in the public interest to do so. These applications are rare and generally only happen where there is a real concern for the safety of the public. It is the High Court that makes the decision to grant an order. If we get a High Court order, we will notify you immediately. Depending on the terms of the order, the teacher may have to stop working completely or may have to stop working in a specific manner or in a specific role for a period of time. The High Court shall include in any order a direction as to whether the teacher shall continue to be paid while the order is in place.

What could happen to the registered teacher?

The panel of the Disciplinary Committee that holds the inquiry will decide whether the complaint is proven.

If the complaint is proven at an inquiry, the panel will have to decide whether to impose a sanction. The panel could decide to:

a)      advise, admonish or censure the teacher

b)      place conditions on the teacher’s registration

c)       suspend the teacher from the register for a specified period of time (up to two years)

This would mean that the teacher would not be able to teach in a position funded by the Department of Education and Skills for the time that he or she is suspended from the register.

d)      remove the teacher from the register and not allow him or her to apply to be restored to the Register of Teachers for a specified period of time.

As an unregistered teacher, the teacher would then not be able to teach in a position funded by the Department of Education and Skills.

Can the teacher appeal the decision?

If the panel decides to impose one of the sanctions at b) to d) above (conditions, suspension, removal), the teacher can appeal the decision to the High Court within 21 days of being notified of the decision. Appeals to the High Court are held in public. If the teacher does not appeal, we must apply to the High Court for confirmation of the decision.

Additional information

What advice does the Teaching Council give a teacher when a complaint is received?

We advise the teacher to seek legal advice or the help of a colleague, union representative or other representative. We cannot give a teacher advice in relation to the complaint and we will not reimburse the teacher for the cost of any representation. This is a matter for the teacher.

Is the school's input needed during the complaint and inquiry process?

We may ask the school to provide information or produce documents, which may include any disciplinary files retained. In addition, we may need a representative of the school to attend a hearing to give evidence. If needed, we can issue a production summons to compel the production of documents and a witness summons to compel a representative of the school to attend the hearing to give evidence.

Will I be kept informed about a complaint?

We will tell you about a complaint as soon as possible if we believe there is a reasonable concern that children or vulnerable persons are, or may be, at risk of harm.

The Investigating Committee may look for information from you as part of the consideration and investigation of the complaint.

When the Investigating Committee has finished considering the complaint, a copy of the Investigating Committee’s decision will be provided to you.

If the Investigating Committee decides to refer the complaint to the Disciplinary Committee for an inquiry, we will inform you of the outcome of the inquiry.

The teacher may decide to inform you of a complaint. That is a matter for the teacher.

Glossary of Terms

Admonish to reprimand firmly.

Censure to express severe disapproval.

Code of Conduct – the Teaching Council’s Code of Professional Conduct for Teachers contains guidance for teachers. On the date of publication of this information, the most recent version of the Code of Conduct is the version that was published in June 2012 and was updated on the commencement of Part 5 of the Teaching Council Acts, 2001-2015.

Complainant – the person who makes a complaint about a registered teacher. This can include members of the public, employers and other teachers. In addition, the Teaching Council can make a complaint about a registered teacher.

Director – the Chief Executive Officer of the Teaching Council.

Disciplinary Committee – the committee in the Teaching Council from which the panel who will hold the inquiry is formed.

Employer – the school Board of Management or the Chief Executive of the relevant Education and Training Board that is employing the teacher in question.

Evidence – what a witness says at a hearing and documents or other records that are examined during the hearing.

Frivolous of little importance or trivial.

Inquiry either a hearing similar to a hearing before a court or tribunal, or an examination of relevant documents and written submissions.

Investigating Committee the committee in the Teaching Council that considers a complaint and decides whether to refer it to the Disciplinary Committee for an inquiry.

Legal Assessor this is a barrister who will sit with the panel and advise them about legal or procedural issues.

Panel – the group of three to five people who hold the inquiry and decide whether the case is proven.

Poor professional performance – a failure to meet the standards of competence (whether in knowledge, skill, or the application of knowledge and skill or both) that can be reasonably expected of teachers

Professional misconduct disgraceful or dishonourable conduct either in the course of the teacher’s profession, or otherwise than in the course of the teacher’s profession if the conduct is of such a serious nature as would bring the profession of teaching into disrepute.

Sanction the type of penalty that the Teaching Council can place on a teacher.

Stenographer the person who records all the evidence given at the hearing.

Vexatious a complaint made by someone who may not be acting in good faith, without sufficient cause, and made to cause annoyance to the teacher complained about.

Vulnerable person a person other than a child who:

  • is suffering from a disorder of the mind, whether as a result of mental illness or dementia, or
  • has an intellectual disability, or
  • is suffering from a physical impairment whether as a result of injury, illness or age, or
  • has a physical disability which is of such a nature or degree:
  • as to restrict the capacity of the person to guard himself or herself against harm by another person, or
  • that results in the person requiring assistance with the activities of daily living including dressing, eating, walking, washing and bathing.