Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Question 9: To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he has satisfied himself that the previous Government's financial investment in the Teaching Council has provided value, in view of the fact that there are still unregistered teachers teaching in schools; his role in ensuring accountability of the council and his role in having the €90 fee reduced, as per the motion passed at recent ASTI conference. [14767/11]
I see the Teaching Council as key to implementing my Department's strategic objectives. Much work has already been done by the council to develop education, in particular in maintaining and improving teaching standards. The Teaching Council Act includes provisions for accountability and the council's relationship with the Department.
Since 2008, the council has been self-funding, raising its funding mainly from teachers' registration fees. I agree with the council that the annual registration fee of €90 is reasonable and necessary, as significant functions of the council have yet to be rolled out. I am committed to this process.
Since my Department's tightening of regulations, the numbers of unregistered and unqualified personnel teaching in schools has decreased steadily. To limit further that number, I intend to commence section 30 of the Teaching Council Act 2001.
When the Teaching Council came in first, I had been teaching for about 35 years. My fellow teachers and I got what I can only describe as a threatening letter, that unless we joined up to the Teaching Council with our €90 our salaries would be stopped. I did not think that was a very positive start to the work of the council. I have yet to meet a teacher, although maybe there are some, who says that the €90 fee represents good value, particularly at a time when teachers' pay is subject to cuts and levies. The previous Government put €5 million or €6 million into the council at that time but will that be recouped by the current Government?
The council is doing the job the Department of Education and Skills had been doing, so it has been reinventing the wheel. I cannot see any other word to describe the council except as a quango with another gravy-train of expenses for people attending council meetings.
I recognise the Deputy's professional experience and background in this area. Subject to confirmation, my understanding is that the Teaching Council was a professional body requested by participants in the teaching profession themselves, and that it would function similarly to other such professional bodies. It would also be self-regulating in that a registration fee would be required, and would impose its own rules and regulations. I am aware that, because section 30 of the Act has not been brought into full effect, the mandatory requirement on its operations has not yet been rolled out. That has been brought to my attention and it is what I intend to do.
I am not aware of moneys that the Department may have given to the council in the past, but I will make inquiries in that regard. If there is the possibility of a refund then the State will look at that.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Is the Teaching Council accountable to the Minister or is it totally a law unto itself? My understanding is that only certain people in the teaching profession were seeking a teaching council. I do not believe the body of teachers were looking for it.
Subject to confirmation, the council is self-regulating and accountable to itself. It operates within the legislation as enacted by this House but it is a self-regulatory body as I understand it.
I know from the personal experiences of friends of mine in the teaching profession that they have had appalling experiences with the Teaching Council, both as new teachers and those who have been teaching for many years.
All teachers have representative unions and bodies open to them for membership, although every teacher is not necessarily a member of the relevant union. However, those unions are represented on the Teaching Council and if teachers have complaints, I suggest that is the way to go.