Some Countries like Scotland have a Fitness system like this in place for more than 50 years. Nurses and doctors here are main responsible for their actions by their own profession standards bodies.
Will this new fitness-to-practice process work? it be accepted? it be fair? to all? Many involved in education – at all levels. Will follow this first hearing with great interest because it may well hold answers to those questions.
The notice on the Teaching Council website is, “In accordance with part 5 of the Teaching Council Act.An inquiry related to a teacher will be held by a panel of the Teaching Council”.
This shows something completely new in Irish education. Something long overdue many would argue. The first formal disciplinary hearing against a teacher here.
We know nothing about the case that will be heard today. The allegations behind it, the teacher at its centre. But the very fact that it is taking place is a new departure. And one that is force to generate great interest not least among parents and teachers.
Why has it taken so long to mention in place similar procedures for those women and men. Who play such a central and for the most part positive, role in the lives of our children?
For those who have been unlucky enough to encounter. Such as students or as parents, a teacher who is manifestly unfit for the classroom.
The legislation enabling these hearings finally commence in July of last year. Since then the council has received around 50 complaints.
Half of these complaints already discounted but the other half seems serious enough to warrant further investigation.
Children are likely to be key witnesses for Fitness
Today’s hearing expect to hear over two days and in public. However the Teaching Council has decided not to publicly identify the teacher, the witnesses or the school at its center.
Anyone can bring a complaint about a teacher to the Teaching Council. A parent, another teacher or indeed a pupil.
In most cases they will need to have first made a complaint to their school and exhausted procedures there.
There are a number of grounds under which a complaint can be register. They include professional misconduct, poor performance, medical unfitness, and a serious court conviction.
Not all complaints will result in a full hearing and the range of sanctions. Re-training through to temporary suspension or even long-term removal from the teaching register.
Today’s hearing will have powers similar to the High Court. Able to compel evidence and witnesses.
A three-person panel will adjudicate. Two of those three will be teachers themselves. The panel will have a legal expert to advise.