Making a Complaint

English Complainant Information bookletPlease click here to access the Information booklet- How to make a complaint about a registered teacher.

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.

You can make a complaint by completing the Teaching Council's complaint formPlease download and save the form first, then complete, print and sign it. Depending on your web-browser, a preview of the form may not always be visible. If you see a 'Please wait ....' message, please see this solution.

If you are completing the complaint form by hand, please write neatly and clearly.

You must sign the completed form and post it to:

Professional Standards

The Teaching Council

Block A, Maynooth Business Campus

Maynooth

Co. Kildare

W23 Y7X0

Who can make a complaint about a registered teacher?

Any person, including members of the public, employers and other teachers may make a complaint about a registered teacher.  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.

Should I complain to the school or to the Teaching Council?

In general, you should first bring your complaint to the teacher’s school before you consider making a complaint to the Teaching Council. In most cases we cannot look into a complaint until the school’s disciplinary procedures (established under section 24 of the Education Act, 1998) have been exhausted (or come to an end)*, unless there are good and sufficient reasons. It is up to the Council's Investigating Committee to decide whether 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.

 * 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 and is therefore not referred to in this information. 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.

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 on a number of grounds including:

  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 Council's Disciplinary Committee at an inquiry
  8. erroneous registration due to a false or fraudulent declaration or misrepresentation.

You can find the list of grounds of complaint at section 42(1) of the Teaching Council Acts, 2001-2015.

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 25July 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.

Can I submit an anonymous complaint?

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 above.

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, the subject of the complaint, 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. the teacher’s 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 above.

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.

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 the Director considers it to be frivolous, vexatious, made in bad faith or an abuse of process, or
  3. refer your complaint to the Investigating Committee, which will consider your complaint.

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

How does the Investigating Committee look into my complaint?

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

The Investigating Committee might ask you to send in more information or it might ask the teacher or school, or any other relevant person, to send in information. The Investigating Committee might also seek expert advice or help.

If your complaint suggests that the teacher might not be medically fit to teach, the Investigating Committee might ask the teacher to consent to undergo a medical examination. Investigating Committee meetings take place in private. You will not be permitted to attend the meetings.

All correspondence and documentation issued to you while the complaint is being considered by the Investigating Committee should be treated as strictly private and confidential.

Will the teacher see my complaint?

Yes, we will notify the teacher when we receive a complaint about him or her. We will also send a copy of your complaint form and any documents enclosed with it, together with any further information you send to us during the complaint process, to the teacher. This is to enable the teacher to respond to your complaint.

Will the teacher’s school or employer see my complaint?

Our Investigating Committee will, as soon as possible, notify the teacher’s employer if there is a concern that children or vulnerable persons are, or may be, at risk of harm.

In addition, the Investigating Committee may look for information from the teacher’s school or employer as part of the investigation of your complaint. Therefore, it is likely that the teacher’s employer will become aware of your complaint.

At the conclusion of the consideration of the complaint by the Investigating Committee, a copy of the Investigating Committee’s decision will be provided to the employer.

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

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

The Investigating Committee can either:

  • refer all or part of your 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.

Will I be informed of the outcome of my complaint?

Yes, we will inform you of the outcome of your complaint.             

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 your 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. We will keep you updated while your complaint is being considered.

What can the Teaching Council not do with my complaint?

We cannot:

  1. look into complaints about anyone who is not a registered teacher
  2. pay you compensation or help you to make a claim for compensation
  3. ask the school or the teacher’s employer to look into your complaint
  4. ask the teacher’s employer to speak to the teacher
  5. make a teacher apologise to you
  6. give legal or professional advice or representation to you
  7. order a teacher to do something for you
  8. resolve any issues that you have with a school or organisation
  9. consider your 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.

Can the Teaching Council look into a complaint about something that happened outside 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.

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 the 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.

What should I do if my complaint about a registered teacher relates to child protection or harm to a child or vulnerable person?

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, or
  • the Gardaí, where appropriate.

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

Can a teacher be suspended from the register during the complaints process?

The teacher’s registration status generally does not change when we receive a complaint about them. However, it may change if the complaint is proven at an inquiry. It is important to note the following:

If the circumstances warrant, we can ask the High Court to suspend a teachers’ registration under section 47 of the Teaching Council Acts, 2001-2015, for a period of time, if we consider it is in the public interest to do so. It is the High Court that makes the decision to grant an order. The teacher’s registration would usually be suspended until we have finished looking into the complaint.

These applications are rare and generally only happen where there is a real concern for the safety of the public. The teacher may be informed and invited to attend a meeting before a decision is made to apply to the High Court. If we apply to the High Court and get a High Court order, we will notify the teacher 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 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.

Should I get independent advice or representation?

There is no obligation on you to get independent advice or representation. You may wish to seek legal advice or other support from other bodies or persons, however, we will not reimburse you for the cost of any representation. This is a matter for you.

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.

However, the teacher can ask that the inquiry take place by an examination of the relevant documents and written submissions rather than as an oral hearing. In addition, 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. 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 my role?

We may ask you to give evidence, in which case your role is that of a witness. For more information in relation to the role of a witness and what to expect at an oral hearing, please click here for our Information for witnesses booklet.

If an oral hearing takes place, will it be 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 identity of the people involved, including the teacher, confidential.

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 subject of the complaint.

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. A registered teacher may defend his or her 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.

If my complaint is referred to the Disciplinary Committee for an inquiry, what could happen to the teacher?

The panel of the Disciplinary Committee which considers your 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.

If the complaint is proven and a finding is made against the teacher, the panel of the Disciplinary Committee which considers your complaint may decide to:

  1. advise, admonish or censure the teacher
  2. place conditions on the teacher’s registration
  3. suspend the teacher from the Register of Teachers 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.)
  4. remove the teacher from the Register of Teachers and not allow him or her to apply to be restored to the register 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).

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 you with the location, date and time that you should attend.

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 (ETB) 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. The Legal Assessor does not decide whether the complaint has been proven. This is a matter for the panel only.

Panel – the group of three to five people who hold the inquiry and decide whether the case is proven or not.

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 the evidence given at the inquiry.

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.