02 November, 2016 - Minister for Education and Skills commences remaining sections of the Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015: introduction of new arrangements for the vetting of teachers

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, has today (Wednesday) commenced the remaining sections of the Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015 (the 2015 Act).

This allows the Teaching Council to put in place new arrangements for the renewal of registration of registered teachers. It provides a statutory basis for the retrospective vetting and periodic re-vetting of all registered teachers in the context of renewal of registration.

Role of the Teaching Council in vetting

The Teaching Council has been central to the vetting arrangements for teachers since non-statutory vetting was introduced in 2006.   The 2015 Act, now fully commenced, puts in place statutory arrangements that make vetting mandatory for teacher registration.

The 2015 Act provides for the following vetting related provisions:

a)   a statutory basis for the Council to act as a representative for school employers in the statutory vetting arrangements under the Vetting Act; 

b)   statutory vetting to be an integral part of initial teacher registration;

c)   a statutory basis for the retrospective vetting and periodic re-vetting of all registered teachers in the context of renewal of registration;

d)   for a Fitness to Teach Inquiry to be undertaken if information in a vetting disclosure received by the Council indicates a risk of harm to a child or vulnerable adult;

e)   for a vetting disclosure to be sought for the purposes of a Fitness to Teach Inquiry where the nature of the complaint raises a bona fide child protection concern.

Vetting of registered teachers

The new renewal of registration arrangements now commenced provide a straightforward and legally underpinned approach to vetting those teachers who have never been vetted previously. These provide a clear statutory basis for the Teaching Council:

(1) to require such teachers to undergo vetting,  and

(2) to deal with any adverse vetting disclosure that might be received.   

It is considered that removing a teacher from the Teaching Council register is the best way of achieving child protection across recognised schools.

The number of registered teachers vetted continues to steadily increase with almost 65% of the circa 92,000 teachers on the Teaching Council register now vetted.  The cohort of approximately 32,000 have not yet been vetted are typically permanent teachers who have been in the same school since before the introduction of vetting in 2006.

Future arrangements for the vetting of registered teachers

It is not intended that all 92,000 registered teachers will be vetted on each annual renewal of registration.  The new arrangements will allow the Council to plan and undertake vetting of registered teachers in a structured and phased manner, starting with those who may not heretofore have been vetted and ultimately providing for periodic re-vetting of all registered teachers on an ongoing basis.

The Minister said:

“Today is a very important milestone. The Teaching Council now has the mechanism to ensure that all registered teachers can be vetted in the context of their annual renewal of registration, including those who have not been vetted to date. It is another step in helping to ensure that our children are properly protected in the school environment and that standards in the teaching profession are upheld”.

Note to editor:

Background: phased implementation of the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015

The Teaching Council Act 2001 (the 2001 Act) provided for the establishment of the Teaching Council to promote teaching as a profession; to promote the professional development of teachers; to maintain and improve the quality of teaching in the State; to provide for the establishment of standards, policies and procedures for the education and training of teachers and other related matters; to provide for the registration and regulation of teachers and to enhance professional standards and competence.

The sections of the Act putting into effect the functions of the Council have been commenced in a planned and phased manner. Initially, persons who were employed as a teacher or eligible to be so employed were registered for one year on establishment day i.e. 28 March 2006.  Thereafter teachers were required to renew their registration annually. From 1 September 2012, the Teaching Council has had authority and responsibility to set criteria for induction and probation of newly qualified teachers into the profession.

Section 30 of the Teaching Council Act, which commenced on 28 March 2014, made registration a requirement for applicants for teaching positions in schools funded by the State.

In July 2016 Part 5 of the Act, as amended by the Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015 (the 2015 Act), was commenced, enabling the Teaching Council to investigate complaints against teachers and to conduct fitness to teach inquiries.