Seanad debates

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Teaching Council (Amendment) Bill 2015: Committee Stage

 

Section 1 agreed to.

SECTION 2

Government amendment No. 1: In page 3, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:“ ‘Act of 2015’ means the Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015;”.

2:30 pm

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 10 to 14, inclusive, 17 to 22, inclusive, and 37 are technical amendments. They are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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There are a considerable number of amendments from the Government here but many are technical. That applies to this grouping too. These are minor wording amendments to ensure consistency of language in referring to sections of the Bill following its enactment. Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 10 to 14, inclusive, and 17 to 22, inclusive, and 37 replace references in the Bill to the Act as the “Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015”, with “Act of 2015”. Amendment No. 20 is also concerned with ensuring consistency of language in the Bill. References to “(amended by section 11(e) of the Teaching Council(Amendment) Act 2015)” will be replaced with “(amended by section 11(e))” for consistency with similar references.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 2: In page 3, lines 24 and 25, to delete “Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015” and substitute “Act of 2015”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 3: In page 4, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:“(ii) by the substitution of the following definition for the definition of “panel”: “ ‘panel’ means a panel of the Disciplinary Committee established under section 43(3);”,”.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 3, 40 and 44 to 48, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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Amendment No. 40 provides for the holding of an inquiry under section 43 by a panel of the disciplinary committee where the investigating committee has determined that there is a prima faciecase to answer, following a complaint to the council regarding a registered teacher.

This is a redraft of section 43 in order to make clear the steps and processes involved in an inquiry and the responsibilities of the disciplinary committee and panels. The various avenues for conducting or completing inquiries are also set out.

To summarise the process, the disciplinary committee will write to the teacher informing him or her of the nature of the complaint, including evidence supporting the complaint, and an opportunity for the teacher to request that the matter is investigated by examination of documents. If a hearing is to be held, the teacher will be informed that he or she, or the teacher’s representative, may be present to defend the teacher at the hearing and that the teacher may request that some or all of the hearing is to be held in private. The inquiry will be carried out by a panel of the disciplinary committee, consisting of three to five persons, the majority of whom will be registered teachers. At the request of the teacher, the panel may agree to hold the inquiry by consideration of documents and written submissions only, that is in place of a hearing.

Having considered the complaint, the panel may request the teacher to do one or more of the following, and before a hearing has taken place: undertake not to repeat the conduct; undertake to attend a specified professional development course, or such other course as the panel considers appropriate; undertake to comply with such requirements as may be specified for the purposes of improving his or her competence and performance; consent to seek the assistance of such services relating to health and welfare as may be specified; and consent to being censured. Where a registered teacher gives the type of undertaking I have just outlined, the inquiry will be completed. However, where a registered teacher does not give an undertaking in regard to these matters, the inquiry will continue as if the request had not been made by the panel.

A hearing, if required, will be held in public by default unless the teacher or a witness, about whom personal matters may be disclosed at the inquiry, requests that all or part of the hearing is held in private and the panel is satisfied that it would be appropriate in the circumstances to do so. At the hearing the director, or any other person with leave of the panel, will present evidence in support of the complaint. Witnesses will give testimony on oath, and there will be the right to cross-examine witnesses and call evidence. The panel will be able to receive evidence given orally, by affidavit, or other means for example, video link.

The panel will have the powers, rights and privileges vested in the High Court in respect of enforcing the attendance of witnesses and in respect of their examination on oath or otherwise, and can compel the production of documents. A witness will have the same immunities and privileges as if he or she were a witness before the High Court. For the purposes of the inquiry, a panel may, in accordance with the provisions of a new section 43A, consider information in a vetting disclosure and any submissions made in relation to that disclosure. I will outline the provisions of 43A when dealing with amendment No. 41.

On completion of an inquiry, the panel may make no finding and dismiss the complaint. Otherwise, the panel will produce a report setting out the nature of the complaint, the evidence considered, the measures where a teacher has given an undertaking, where appropriate, and the panel’s findings. In addition, where the complaint relates to the conviction of the teacher of an offence triable by indictment, the panel must report whether the findings affect the teacher’s fitness to teach. The panel will also report any other matter it considers appropriate.

Under the Bill the Teaching Council itself may make a complaint under section 42 of the Act where it has received a vetting disclosure giving a bona fide concern that the teacher may harm any child or vulnerable person, cause any child or vulnerable person to be harmed, put any child or vulnerable person at risk of harm, attempt to harm any child or vulnerable person, or incite another person to harm any child or vulnerable person. In such circumstances, where the panel is satisfied that there is a risk, the panel in its report will specify the nature of the information disclosed in the vetting disclosure, the evidence, the panel’s assessment of the risk, and its conclusion in respect of that risk. Where it is not satisfied there is a risk the panel may dismiss the complaint. Where a complaint is dismissed, the complainant, the teacher concerned, such other persons as the teacher may request, and the teacher’s employer will be informed. At the request of the teacher, the panel will publish a notice to that effect.

This amendment involves the deletion of the current section 17, which also provided for amendments to the provisions for an inquiry. However, amendment No. 40 is more comprehensive than section 17. Amendment No. 44 amends section 44 of the Act and provides that it is the panel rather than the full disciplinary committee, which, having completed its report, determines what measures, if any, are to be taken to sanction a teacher. The original Bill provided for the full disciplinary committee to have this function. The amendment ensures consistency between sections 43 and 44.This approach is being taken on foot of legal advice received by my Department. Amendment No. 3 is a technical amendment consequent on Amendment No. 40, which replaces section 43. Amendment No. 45 to 48, inclusive, replace the term "disciplinary committee" with "panel". The purpose of these amendments is to ensure consistency of language in section 44 of the principal Act, as amended, which provides that the panel rather than the disciplinary committee shall determine what measures, if any, to take to sanction a teacher following the panel's report.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 2, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 3

Government amendment No. 4: In page 4, to delete lines 25 to 30 and substitute the following:“(a) in subsection (2) -(i) by the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph (b):“(ba) obtain or receive vetting disclosures for the purposes set out in this Act, for the purpose of its role as a relevant organisation or for the purpose of its role as a relevant organisation representing another relevant organisation for the purposes of the vetting procedures under the Act of 2012;”,and(ii) by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (n):“(n) act as a competent authority within the meaning of Regulation 2(1) of the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC) Regulations 2008 (S.I. No. 139 of 2008);”,”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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This is a technical amendment to update the reference to the EU directive on mutual recognition of qualifications. Section 7(2)(n) provides that one of the functions of the Teaching Council is to act as a designated authority within the meaning of Regulation 3(1) of the European Communities (General System for the Recognition of Higher Education Diplomas) Regulations 1991, SI 1 of 1991, for the recognition of qualifications under Council Directive No. 89/48/EEC of 21 December 1988. The amendment updates the reference to the EU directive to Directive 2005/36/EC which replaced the directive referred to in the 2001 Act. The first Part of the amendment, which enables the council to obtain or receive vetting disclosures, is already in the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 3, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 4

Government amendment No. 5: In page 5, to delete lines 3 to 5 and substitute the following:“(a) in paragraph (c) -(i) by the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (iii):“(iii) Marino Institute of Education;”,and (ii) by the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (iv):“(iv) National University of Ireland, Maynooth;”,”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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This is a technical amendment to update the name of Marino Institute of Education in the Act. For the information of the House, the Bill as originally published included in subparagraph (iv) the phrase "National University of Ireland, Maynooth".

Amendment agreed to.

Section 4, as amended, agreed to.

NEW SECTIONS

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 6, 8 and 50 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 6: In page 5, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following: “Amendment of section 24 of Principal Act 5.Section 24 of the Principal Act is amended - (a) by the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (2):“(2A) The Disciplinary Committee shall, for the purpose of carrying out its function under section 43(1), sit in divisions of itself (each division in this Act referred to as a ‘panel’) established under subsection (3) of that section.”,and (b) in subsection (6), by the substitution of “(other than the Executive Committee or Investigating Committee)” for “(other than the Executive Committee, Investigating Committee or Disciplinary Committee)”.”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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Amendment No. 6 enables the disciplinary committee, for the purpose of carrying out a fitness to teach inquiry, to sit in divisions of itself, with each division to be referred to as a panel. The 2001 Act already provides that panels would conduct inquiries on behalf of the committee, and the revised wording strengthens references in the Act to the role of the panels. Section 28 of the principal Act provides for membership of the disciplinary committee and removes the provisions that the director will be secretary to the disciplinary committee and that the chairperson of the Teaching Council will be a member and chairperson of the disciplinary committee. These changes are proposed on foot of legal advice received by the Department pertaining to separation of duties in terms of governance roles and the conduct of disciplinary inquiries. The legal advice indicates it is more appropriate that the chair of the council would not be a member of the disciplinary committee.

Amendment No. 8 proposes that the council shall select eight rather than seven members who are registered teachers elected to the council or nominated by trade unions to make up the disciplinary committee. The number is being increased to make up for the removal of the chairperson.

Amendment No. 50 amends section 44(2)(a) of the Bill, as amended in the Dáil, and provides that the disciplinary committee rather than the director shall advise relevant parties of the decision of a disciplinary panel following an inquiry. This is consistent with the removal of the requirement for the director to act as secretary to the committee.

A further technical amendment to section 44 is required to provide for the status of the decision of the High Court regarding an appeal. I will propose such an amendment on Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 7, 29, 32, 33, 35, 38 and 39 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 7: In page 5, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:“Amendment of section 27 of Principal Act 6.Section 27 of the Principal Act is amended by the repeal of subsection (4).”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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Amendments Nos. 7, 29, 32, 33, 35, 38 and 39 propose to remove references to the director as secretary to the investigating committee. There is no legal need for the director to act as secretary to the investigating committee and removing this requirement will afford the Teaching Council more flexibility in the operation of the fitness to teach processes, including in the allocation of staff to support the work of the investigating committee. This also frees up the director to be the presenting officer for cases, which is a more appropriate role.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 8: In page 5, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:“Amendment of section 28 of Principal Act 7.Section 28 of the Principal Act is amended -(a) in subsection (2) -(i) by the deletion of paragraph (a), and (ii) in paragraph (b), by the substitution of “8 members” for “7 members”,and (b) by the repeal of subsection (3) and subsection (4).”.

Amendment agreed to.

SECTION 5

Government amendment No. 9: In page 5, to delete lines 23 to 32 and substitute the following:“(i) by the substitution of “in respect of each person who is registered or is entitled to be registered” for “in respect of each person entitled to be registered”, (ii) by the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (iv):“(iv) whether the registration is subject to conditions under section 31 (amended by section 7of the Act of 2015), section 33 (amended by section 11of the Act of 2015) or section 44 (amended by section 18of the Act of 2015);”,(iii) by the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (vii):“(vii) name and address of employer if known to the Council;”,(iv) by the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (x): “(x) the findings of any disciplinary proceedings under Part 5, including any measures confirmed by a panel under section 44(1A), and the period for which such information shall remain on the register;”,and (v) by the insertion of the following subparagraph after subparagraph (x): “(xi) the information disclosed by the most recent vetting disclosure in the possession of the Council in respect of the person;”,”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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Section 29 of the principal Act provides for the establishment and maintenance of the register of teachers. The purpose of this amendment is to update section 29 in regard to entering on the register details of each person who is registered or is entitled to be registered, as opposed to only each person entitled to be registered, to make clear that the provision relates to teachers who are applying for renewal of registration as well as initial registration. It also makes consistent the reference in the Act to whether the registration is subject to conditions under various sections, such as conditions that may be applied at the initial registration stage. The amendment provides that where the council prescribes the information to be included in the register, such information shall, in addition to the information set out in the Bill and the Act, include the name and address of the employer if known to the council, the findings of any disciplinary proceedings under Part 5, including any measures confirmed by a panel under section 44(1)(a), and the period for which such information shall remain on the register. These updates are important to ensure the register provides comprehensive information on a teacher's registration status.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I wish to speak about the removal of regulation No. 3 on the status of Montessori teachers, which issued in 2009. The Teaching Council has been conducting a review of this matter, which Senator Healy Eames raised yesterday. Why is the regulation no longer considered acceptable? I have BA and MA qualifications but I am most proud of my qualification in Montessori education because it gave me the such useful skills in child-centred developmental education. The primary school sector followed the work of Dr. Maria Montessori by introducing child-centred education. I hope the regulation will not be removed. It was put in place to take account of Montessori teachers. I want to hear a good reason for excluding them from the register. Students take a four-year degree course to qualify as Montessori teachers. This qualification was not even available when the regulation was put in place. The council has acknowledged that no phase of teacher education would be sufficient to address all the needs of pupils but not all types of training are equal. One cannot say that a degree in one subject is more valuable than another. The child is paramount to education, and the child always comes first in Montessori education. I ask the Minister's views on the regulation, which I think is required.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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Regulation No. 3 covered special schools.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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It also covered Montessori teaching.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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I understand it applied to Montessori teachers in special schools rather than specifically in regular schools.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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The Teaching Council has recommended that it be removed.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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That is specifically in regard to special schools rather than regular schools. The Teaching Council has expressed the view that all teachers should have the relevant teaching qualification. I understand the Senator's concerns, however. The intention is that the legislation will be reviewed regularly. I acknowledge that Montessori teaching requires a qualification but the council's view is that registration should be in accordance with qualifications for primary and post-primary schools. The issue is not specifically mentioned in the legislation because it is set out in regulation rather than primary legislation.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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It will be part of the Bill.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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Regulations are not set out in the Bill itself.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Regulations are not in the Bill but they will be laid before the House and the council recommended that regulation No. 3 be withdrawn.It was made by regulation in 2006 and 2009 but, if withdrawn, it will no longer be a regulation. I recommend that it should not be withdrawn. The Minister will make the decision as to whether to withdraw it. I am tabling it in the context of the Teaching Council regulation because it was the Teaching Council that recommended it.

Photo of Mary MoranMary Moran (Labour)
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I wish to elaborate on that. I agree wholeheartedly with the Teaching Council's view that teachers are fully qualified particularly in the area of special education. I have seen people come straight out of college and into a special education class, sometimes with no experience. This happens in mainstream as well. I have called for a long time for strict modules on working on special education which should be brought into special education classes and schools. It has nothing to do with Montessori.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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They have modules and that is what is needed in this area.

Photo of Mary MoranMary Moran (Labour)
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Exactly. In my humble opinion, a person coming out of college with a BA should have that additional qualification and expertise in special needs education to teach people with special needs because that is a whole different ballgame.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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One question around this area is whether there should be different qualifications if one is teaching in a special school as opposed to a mainstream primary school. The issue of having different rules is the question the Teaching Council was concerned about, that we should, in some way, say there is a different standard in terms of qualification. The issue of Montessori is one on which I would like to engage again with the Teaching Council. I have personal experience in this area as does the Senator. In the whole area of early childhood education, Montessori is considered to be a highly valued qualification. The question is, and it is one on which there are differing opinions, whether in terms of the primary school and the post-primary school, which come under the remit of the Department of Education and Skills, one should have different qualifications for special schools as opposed to mainstream schools. The Teaching Council has taken a view that it does not want to say that certain things are acceptable in one type of school and not in another but it is an issue that needs further consideration.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Perhaps they should all be in Montessori.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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That is the current situation. It is a regulation issue rather than being central to the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 5, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 6

Government amendment No. 10: In page 6, line 11, to delete "Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015"and substitute "Act of 2015".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 11: In page 6, lines 12 and 13, to delete "Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015" and substitute "Act of 2015".

Amendment agreed to.

Section 6, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 7

Government amendment No. 12: In page 7, lines 15 and 16, to delete "Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015"and substitute "Act of 2015".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 13: In page 7, lines 39 and 40, to delete "Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015"and substitute "Act of 2015".

Amendment agreed to.

Section 7, as amended, agreed to.

Section 8 agreed to.

SECTION 9

Government amendment No. 14: In page 8, lines 26 and 27, to delete "Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015"and substitute "Act of 2015".

Amendment agreed to.

Section 9, as amended, agreed to.

Section 10 agreed to.

SECTION 11

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Government amendments Nos. 15 and 16 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 15: In page 9, to delete lines 29 to 32 and substitute the following: ""(4) (a) Subject to paragraph (b), an application for renewal of registration shall be made before the expiration of the period of validity of registration and the renewal of fee shall be paid before the expiration of such period. (b) Where, in accordance with subsection (4A), the Council notifies a registered teacher that it intends to seek a vetting disclosure in respect of him or her for the purposes of renewing his or her registration, the teacher shall comply with that notice within the period referred to in paragraph (d) of that subsection.",".

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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Government amendment No. 15 amends subsection (4) of section 33 of the 2001 Act, as amended by this Bill. The amendment is necessary in order to correct a cross reference in that subsection to subsection (4A) of the same section. Section 33 deals with renewal of registration and subsection (4A) of section 33, as amended by this Bill, is concerned with the council notifying a teacher of its intention to seek a vetting disclosure for the purpose of renewal of registration and was amended on Committee Stage in the Dáil. As a result of that amendment, the cross reference to (4A) in subsection (4) required correcting. In making this correction, subsection (4) along with the relevant provision within (4A) has been reworded to make clearer in the Bill that an application for renewal of registration may be made prior to the expiry of that person's registration subject to the person having complied, within the required timeframe for same, with any requirement for vetting that has arisen for the purposes of renewal of his or her registration.

Government amendment No. 16 amends subsection (4A) in line with the changed wording in subsection (4). These amendments do not alter the effect of the existing provisions but simply make clearer the requirement to comply with vetting where it arises. It is not intended that all teachers will be vetted on each annual renewal of registration. This amendment makes clear that when a vetting requirement arises in respect of a person's renewal of registration, that teacher must comply with that requirement within the timeframe specified by the council.

I inform the House that I intend, subject to legal advice, to make further amendments to section 33 of the 2001 Act on Report Stage. These will involve providing for the following: where the Teaching Council receives a vetting disclosure for the purposes of the renewal of a teacher's registration and the information in that disclosure gives rise to a bona fide child or vulnerable person protection concern, the Teaching Council may, after giving that teacher an opportunity to make representations in relation to same, provide that teacher's employer with a copy of the vetting disclosure concerned; and the council may refuse to renew a teacher's registration at his or her next annual renewal where that teacher has not consented to a vetting disclosure being obtained under the Bill's fitness to teach provisions and the council is not satisfied that there are valid and bona fidereasons for the teacher's refusal to consent to such a vetting request. This provision will be subject to the council giving the teacher concerned an opportunity to make representations to it in this regard and the council having considered any such representation received.

I also intend to amend section 33 of the 2001 Act further to provide that in exceptional circumstances where, notwithstanding that a registered teacher has co-operated with a vetting requirement in the context of the annual renewal of his or her registration, a vetting disclosure has not been received from the Bureau prior to the expiry of the teacher's registration, or it has been received but there has been insufficient time for the council to obtain and consider any submissions required in respect of that disclosure, the council may extend the person's registration for a limited time. The timeline for such an extension will be subject to the council making a decision, in respect of that person's registration within 21 days after the receipt of the disclosure concerned or where the disclosure contains information of relevance to that person's registration, the council having invited submissions from the person within 21 days of receipt of that disclosure and making a decision in respect of that person's registration within 21 days of receipt of such submissions.

Further, I intend to amend section 33, to state explicitly that a teacher appeals to the High Court the decision of the Teaching Council not to renew his or her registration will remain on the register during the period of appeal, other than where the Teaching Council considers it is in the public interest otherwise and where the council has consequently made an application to the High Court for an order to suspend the teacher from the register under section 47.

I also intend to amend section 33 such that, following a High Court decision on an appeal, a teacher or the Teaching Council can make a further appeal to the Court of Appeal on a specified question of law. This is to provide for extra time where there is a High Court case or time is needed for the person to get on to the register. That will be dealt with on Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 16: In page 10, to delete lines 32 to 37 and substitute the following: "(d) A notice from the Council under paragraph (b) shall specify the period within which the notice shall be complied with, which period shall be the same in respect of all registered teachers to whom a notice is issued in accordance with this subsection.".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 17: In page 11, lines 17 and 18, to delete "Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015"and substitute "Act of 2015".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 18: In page 12, line 7, to delete "Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015"and substitute "Act of 2015".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 19: In page 12, line 37, to delete "Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015"and substitute "Act of 2015".

Amendment agreed to.

Section 11, as amended, agreed to.

Section 12 agreed to.

SECTION 13

Government amendment No. 20: In page 14, lines 13 and 14, to delete "(amended by section 11(e)of the Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015)"and substitute "(amended by section 11(e))".

Amendment agreed to.

Section 13, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 14

Government amendment No. 21: In page 14, lines 28 and 20, to delete "Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 1015"and substitute "Act of 2015".

Amendment agreed to.

Section 14, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 15

Government amendment No. 22: In page 15, lines 1 and 2, to delete "Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015"and substitute "Act of 2015".

Amendment agreed to.

Section 15, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 16

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 23:



In page 15, line 21, after "constitutes" to insert "serious".
This amendment was discussed at length in the other House. This provision is needed to ensure that only serious cases go to hearings. This principle was upheld in the Corbally judgment in the Supreme Court. The amendment seeks to insert only the word "serious" into the provision. If we err on the side of caution what is the problem with inserting this word? I want to ensure that only serious cases go to hearings. Given that many teachers would be vulnerable to frivolous and vexatious complaints there is a need to tighten the provision to ensure that only serious cases go before the courts.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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As Senator Reilly has said, this was discussed in the Dáil and it was also considered fully during the drafting of the legislation. Legal advice was obtained to assist in the Bill's preparation with regard to this specific issue. Arising from this consideration and our consultation with the Attorney General's office, I believe it is neither necessary nor appropriate to include the word "serious" as proposed in the amendment. The current wording is in line with similar provisions in other regulatory legislation.

There are several stages to the fitness to teach process, which will provide protection against less serious matters proceeding to an inquiry. This was a point we considered in some detail in earlier stages of the debate in light of the Corbally case, referred to by Senator Reilly. To get to the point of a hearing, there will be several examinations of the complaint. If the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, made in bad faith or an abuse of process, the director may refuse it. Subsequently, the investigating committee screens on the basis of a number of criteria and must be satisfied that there is a prima faciecase to warrant further action before referring the complaint to the disciplinary committee. The complaint will not get to the point of a hearing until various thresholds are met. Any complaint that gets to the point of a hearing will be a serious complaint. It will fall to the council, as the self-regulator of the profession, to determine which cases proceed and how they are managed. However, in doing so, the council has the benefit of established case law and the experience of other professional regulators which make clear that there must be a level of seriousness in any conduct or performance issue before a decision can be made to proceed to an inquiry and before consequential sanctions can be made against the teacher.

The Teaching Council will operate its powers under the Act in a manner that fully protects the rights of persons involved in a Part 5 process and in a manner consistent with the Supreme Court judgment in the Corbally case as well as other relevant case law and the council's legal advice. The Bill provides for appeal to the High Court on foot of decisions made following a fitness to teach inquiry, which is another important protection for teachers.

I am satisfied, therefore, that the wording as set out in the Bill is appropriate. As I said, we have consulted the Office of the Attorney General on the matter and have taken into consideration corresponding provisions in existing regulatory legislation. We have considered the union's concerns in this area. On top of what I have outlined in respect of the various processes before the process gets to a hearing, the council will be required to review the operation of the fitness to teach provisions after three years.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 24: In page 15, to delete lines 29 to 32 and substitute the following:“(g) that he or she has been convicted in the State of an offence triable on indictment or convicted outside the State of an offence consisting of acts or omissions that, if done or made in the State, would constitute an offence triable on indictment; (h) that he or she has failed to comply with an undertaking or to take any action specified in a consent given in response to a request under section 43(6).”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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The purpose of the amendment is to provide for non-compliance with an undertaking given by a registered teacher following an inquiry by the disciplinary committee under section 43 as an additional reason for complaint under section 42, the section dealing with an inquiry by the investigating committee. If a teacher has agreed to measures as part of an inquiry, it makes sense that non-compliance with the measures can be followed up. This is the same structure that applies for other regulators. Section 42(1)(g), dealing with conviction for an offence, is already in the Bill.

On Report Stage I intend to amend the fitness to teach provisions in Part 5 of the 2001 Act, subject to legal advices, to provide that failure to consent to vetting where a vetting disclosure is sought in accordance with the Bill's fitness to teach provisions may also constitute grounds for complaint under the Bill's fitness to teach provisions.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 25, 28, 31 and 36 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 25: In page 16, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:“(1E) The Council may make a complaint to the Investigating Committee under subsection (1)(g) in respect of a registered teacher on the basis of information contained in a vetting disclosure received by the Council on behalf of another relevant organisation the Council represents for the purpose of vetting procedures under the Act of 2012.”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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Section 16 amends section 42 of the 2001 Act. That section sets out the grounds on which complaints about registered teachers may be made and the role and processes to be followed by the director and the investigating committee in respect of such complaints.

Section 42(1D), as amended by the Bill, provides that the council may make a complaint to the investigating committee where a vetting disclosure, obtained in its conduit role for school employers, gives rise to a bona fide child protection concern.

Amendment No. 25 inserts a new subsection (1E) into section 42 and makes clear the council may also make a complaint to the investigating committee under the existing provisions of section 42(1)(g), where a disclosure obtained in its conduit role contains information relating to a criminal conviction. Under the Bill as it stands, section 42(1)(g) provides that a complaint may be made in respect of a registered teacher on the grounds “that he or she has been convicted in the State of an offence triable on indictment or convicted outside the State of an offence consisting of acts or omissions that, if done or made in the State, would constitute an offence triable on indictment”. Amendment No. 25 makes clear that such a complaint may be made by the council where a vetting disclosure obtained in its conduit role for school employers contains information about a conviction of this nature.

Amendments Nos. 28, 31 and 36 are linked to amendment No. 25. Amendment No. 28 makes clear that where the council, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Bill, makes a complaint in respect of information contained in a vetting disclosure that it has obtained in its conduit role, it shall provide the director with a copy of the vetting disclosure concerned and shall indicate the information within that disclosure which grounds the complaint.

Amendment No. 31 makes clear that the director may, in the case of such complaints and for the purpose of considering whether to refuse or to refer such a complaint to the investigating committee, consider the information in the disclosure in so far as it relates to the complaint in question.

Amendment No. 36 replaces section 33(7), as amended by the Bill, with revised wording to incorporate additional provisions that set out more comprehensively the requirements on the investigating committee when dealing with the aforementioned complaints. This new subsection (7) has been amended to provide that, in addition to providing the teacher concerned with a copy of the complaint and other information and documentation accompanying the complaint, the investigating committee shall provide a copy of the vetting disclosure to the teacher concerned where the complaint has been made by the council in respect of information in that disclosure, and for the teacher to be invited to make submissions in respect of that vetting disclosure. This amendment also makes clear that the investigating committee may consider the information in a disclosure in so far as that information relates to the complaint made by the council and may consider any submissions made by the teacher relating to that disclosure.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 26: In page 16, line 27, to delete “(IE) A complaint made” and substitute “(1F) A complaint made”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 are technical and serve to revise numbering following inclusion of amendment No. 25.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 27: In page 16, line 29, to delete “(1F) A complaint made” and substitute “(1G) A complaint made”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 28: In page 16, line 38, to delete “complaint.” and substitute the following:“complaint, including—(i) in the case of a complaint made under subsection (1D), a copy of the vetting disclosure referred to in that subsection and confirmation of the information contained in that disclosure which grounds the complaint under that subsection, and (ii) in the case of a complaint made under subsection (1)(g) to which subsection (1E) applies, a copy of the vetting disclosure referred to in subsection (1E) and confirmation of the information contained in the disclosure which grounds the complaint under subsection (1)(g).”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 29: In page 17, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the following:“(i) to substitute the following for paragraph (a):“(a) Subject to paragraph (b), the Director shall refer all complaints made under subsection (1) or subsection (1D) to the Investigating Committee.”,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 30: In page 17, line 8, to delete “occurs,” and substitute the following:“occurs,and”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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This is a technical amendment. The purpose of this provision is to include the word “and” linking to subsection (iii) in amendment No. 31.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 31: In page 17, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:“(iii) by the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph (b):“(c) For the purposes of considering whether to refuse to refer a complaint under paragraph (b), the Director may—(i) in the case of a complaint made under subsection (1D), consider the information contained in the vetting disclosure in so far as the information grounds the complaint under, and in accordance with, that subsection, and (ii) in the case of a complaint made under subsection (1)(g) to which subsection (1E) applies, consider the information contained in the vetting disclosure in so far as the information grounds the complaint under subsection (1)(g).”,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 32: In page 17, line 28, to delete “the Director” and substitute “the Investigating Committee”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 33: In page 18, line 4, to delete “the Director” and substitute “the Investigating Committee”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 34: In page 18, to delete lines 28 to 31 and substitute the following:“(ii) in paragraph (b)—(I) by the substitution of “a complaint” for “an application or appeal”, (II) by the substitution of “the complaint” for “the application or appeal” in each place it occurs, and (III) by the deletion of subparagraph (iii),".

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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Amendment No. 34 is a technical amendment required on foot of amendments on Committee Stage in the Dáil to take account of changes in terminology. In this regard, the Bill refers to a “complaint” under section 42, whereas the 2001 Act referred to an “application” or “appeal”. It also deletes the provision at section 42(5)(b)(iii) to the effect that the investigating committee shall refuse to consider a complaint where there is insufficient evidence to warrant an investigation. The purpose of this change is to guard against the danger that a complaint must be refused, even if of a serious nature, where there is little evidence available or where it is not straightforward to determine if the evidence is sufficient. It would not be desirable for a situation to develop where there is a danger that complaints are forced to be abandoned too early in the process and before an informed decision can be made on whether it merits an inquiry.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 35: In page 18, to delete lines 32 to 34 and substitute the following:“(h) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (6):“(6) Where the Investigating Committee refuses under paragraph (b) of subsection (5) to consider a complaint referred to in paragraph (a) of that subsection, the Investigating Committee shall, within 21 days of such refusal, by notice in writing inform the complainant of its decision to refuse and the reasons for that decision.”,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 36: In page 18, to delete lines 35 and 36 and substitute the following:“(i) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (7):“(7) (a) Where the Investigating Committee decides to hold an inquiry, the Investigating Committee shall, within 21 days of making the decision, provide the registered teacher with—(i) a copy of the complaint and any documents and information accompanying the complaint including, in the case of a complaint made under subsection (1D) or a complaint made under subsection (1)(g) to which subsection (1E) applies, a copy of the vetting disclosure referred to in subsection (1D) or (1E), as the case may be, and confirmation of the information contained in that disclosure which grounds the complaint under subsection (ID) or subsection (1)(g), as the case may be, and (ii) a notice stating that the registered teacher may make submissions in writing to the Investigating Committee within such time period as is specified in the notice, including submissions in relation to a vetting disclosure (if any) provided in accordance with subparagraph (i).(b) The Investigating Committee shall consider submissions (if any) made by the registered teacher concerned pursuant to paragraph (a)(ii). (c) The Investigating Committee may consider—(i) in the case of a complaint made under subsection (1D), the information contained in the vetting disclosure in so far as that information grounds the complaint under, and in accordance with, that subsection, and (ii) in the case of a complaint made under subsection (1)(g) to which subsection (1E) applies, the information contained in the vetting disclosure in so far as the information grounds the complaint under subsection (1)(g).”,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 37: In page 19, lines 26 and 27, to delete “Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015” and substitute “Act of 2015”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 38: In page 21, to delete line 10 and substitute “Committee.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 39: In page 21, to delete lines 11 to 15 and substitute the following:“(n) in subsection (10)—(i) by the substitution of “The Investigating Committee shall, within 21 days of making a decision under subsection (9)” for “The Director shall, within 21 days of receiving the decision made under subsection (9)”, and (ii) in paragraph (a), by the substitution of “the complainant” for “the applicant”, and”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 16, as amended, agreed to.

NEW SECTION

Government amendment No. 40: In page 21, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:“Amendment of section 43 of Principal Act 17. The Principal Act is amended by the substitution of the following section for section 43:“Inquiry by Disciplinary Committee 43. (1) The Disciplinary Committee shall hold an inquiry into the fitness to teach of a registered teacher in respect of a complaint referred to it by the Investigating Committee under section 42(9)(a). (2) As soon as is practicable after a complaint is referred to it under section 42(9)(a), the Disciplinary Committee shall cause a notice in writing to be given to—(a) the registered teacher the subject of the complaint of the following:(i) the referral of the complaint to the Disciplinary Committee; (ii) the nature of the matter that is to be the subject of the inquiry, including the particulars of any evidence in support of the complaint; (iii) the opportunity for the registered teacher to request that the inquiry be held by examination of documents in accordance with subsection (4); (iv) if a hearing is being held as part of an inquiry, the opportunity for the registered teacher, or the registered teacher’s representative, to be present and to defend the registered teacher at the hearing; (v) if a hearing is being held as part of an inquiry, the opportunity for the registered teacher to request that some or all of the hearing be held otherwise than in public if the registered teacher can show reasonable and sufficient cause;and(b) if a hearing is being held as part of an inquiry, any witnesses who may be required to give evidence at the hearing (including, where appropriate, the complainant) of the opportunity of the witness to request that some or all of the hearing be held otherwise than in public if the witness can show reasonable and sufficient cause.(3) For the purpose of an inquiry under this section, the chairperson of the Disciplinary Committee shall appoint, from among the members of the Disciplinary Committee, a panel consisting of not less than 3 and not more than 5 persons, of whom a majority shall be registered teachers and Schedule 3 shall apply. (4) Subject to such rules as may be made under Schedule 3, a panel may, at the request of, or with the consent of, the registered teacher concerned hold an inquiry under this section by an examination of documents and written submissions from the complainant and the registered teacher, including any documents and written submissions considered by the Investigating Committee in relation to the complaint, in place of a hearing. (5) For the purposes of an inquiry under this section by an examination of documents, the panel shall provide the registered teacher with a notice stating that the registered teacher may make submissions in relation to the inquiry in writing to the panel within such time as may be specified in the notice. (6) A panel may, at any time after its appointment under subsection (3) and having considered the complaint the subject of the inquiry, request the registered teacher who is the subject of the complaint to do one or more of the following:(a) if appropriate, undertake not to repeat the conduct the subject of the complaint; (b) undertake to attend a specified professional development course, or such other course as the panel considers appropriate; (c) undertake to comply with such requirements as may be specified for the purposes of improving his or her competence and performance as a registered teacher; (d) consent to seek the assistance of such services relating to health and welfare as may be specified; (e) consent to being censured.(7) Where a registered teacher gives an undertaking or consent in relation to all matters which are the subject of a request from a panel under subsection (6), the inquiry into the complaint shall be considered to be completed. (8) Where a registered teacher refuses to give an undertaking or consent in relation to all matters which are the subject of a request from a panel under subsection (6), the panel shall continue with the inquiry as if the request had not been made. (9) Where a hearing is being held before a panel as part of an inquiry, the hearing shall be held in public unless—(a) following a notification under section 43(2), the registered teacher or a witness who will be required to give evidence at the inquiry or about whom personal matters may be disclosed at the inquiry requests the panel to hold all or part of the hearing otherwise than in public, and (b) the panel is satisfied that it would be appropriate in the circumstances to hold the hearing or part of the hearing otherwise than in public.(10) The panel shall give notice in writing to the registered teacher the subject of a complaint referred to the Disciplinary Committee of the date, time and place of any hearing of the complaint in sufficient time for the registered teacher to prepare for the hearing. (11) At the hearing of a complaint before a panel—(a) the Director, or any other person with leave of the panel, shall present the evidence in support of the complaint, (b) the testimony of witnesses attending the hearing shall be given on oath, and (c) there shall be a full right to cross-examine witnesses and call evidence in defence and reply.(12) Any member of the panel may administer oaths for the purposes of an inquiry. (13) Subject to any rules in force under Schedule 3, and to the necessity of observing fair procedures, the panel may receive evidence given—(a) orally before the committee, (b) by affidavit, or (c) as otherwise allowed by those rules, including by means of a live video link, a video recording, a sound recording or any other mode of transmission.(14) A panel shall, for the purpose of an inquiry under this section, have the powers, rights and privileges vested in the High Court or a judge thereof in respect of—(a) the enforcement of the attendance of witnesses and their examination on oath or otherwise, and (b) the compelling of the production of documents,and a summons signed by the chairperson of the panel or by such other member of the panel as may be authorised by the panel for that purpose may be substituted for and shall be equivalent to any formal procedure capable of being issued in an action for enforcing the attendance of witnesses and compelling the production of documents. (15) For the purposes of an inquiry under this section, a panel may, in relation to a vetting disclosure, consider the information and submissions referred to in section 43A. (16) A witness before a panel shall be entitled to the same immunities and privileges as if he or she were a witness before the High Court. (17) Following the completion of an inquiry by a panel, the panel shall—(a) where it makes no finding against the registered teacher in respect of a complaint under any of paragraphs (a) to (h) of subsection (1) of section 42, dismiss the complaint, (b) where an inquiry is completed under subsection (7) or where the panel makes a finding or findings against the registered teacher in respect of a complaint under any of paragraphs (a) to (h) of subsection (1) of section 42, make a report of the inquiry and shall specify in the report—(i) the nature of the complaint, (ii) the evidence before the panel, (iii) where an inquiry is completed under subsection (7), the measures included in the undertaking or consent, (iv) where it makes a finding or findings against the registered teacher in respect of a complaint under any of paragraphs (a) to (h) of subsection (1) of section 42, the panel’s finding or findings, (v) where any finding in respect of the registered teacher is in the terms of section 42(1)(g), its consideration of whether that finding affects the fitness to teach of the registered teacher, and (vi) any other matter in relation to the registered teacher which the panel considers appropriate,(c) where it is satisfied, in respect of a complaint made under subsection (1D) of section 42, having regard to the protection of children and vulnerable persons, that there is a risk that the teacher may harm any child or vulnerable person, cause any child or vulnerable person to be harmed, put any child or vulnerable person at risk of harm, attempt to harm any child or vulnerable person, or incite another person to harm any child or vulnerable person, make a report of the inquiry and shall specify in the report—(i) the nature of the information disclosed in the vetting disclosure giving rise to the complaint under that subsection, (ii) the evidence laid before the panel, (iii) its assessment of the risk concerned, and (iv) its conclusion in respect of that risk,or(d) where it is not satisfied, in respect of a complaint made under subsection (1D) of section 42, having regard to the protection of children and vulnerable persons, that there is a risk that the teacher may harm any child or vulnerable person, cause any child or vulnerable person to be harmed, put any child or vulnerable person at risk of harm, attempt to harm any child or vulnerable person, or incite another person to harm any child or vulnerable person, dismiss the complaint.(18) Where the panel dismisses a complaint under subsection (17), the panel shall, as soon as practicable, by notice in writing, inform—(a) the complainant, (b) the registered teacher concerned and such other persons as the teacher may request, and (c) where the teacher is employed as a teacher, his or her employer,and shall, at the request of the registered teacher concerned, publish a notice to that effect in such form and manner as may be determined by the Council. (19) In this section, ‘document’ includes—(a) a book, record or other printed material, (b) a photograph, (c) any information stored, maintained or preserved by means of any mechanical or electronic device, whether or not stored, maintained or preserved in legible form, and (d) any audio or video recording.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 17 deleted.

NEW SECTIONS

Government amendment No. 41: In page 22, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:“Use of information in vetting disclosures in inquiry under section 43 18. The Principal Act is amended by the insertion of the following section after section 43: “Use of information in vetting disclosures in inquiry under section 4343A. (1) For the purposes of an inquiry under section 43, a panel may consider—(a) the information (in so far as that information relates to the conduct which is the subject of the inquiry) contained in a vetting disclosure obtained by the Investigating Committee under subsection (7A) of section 42 subject to subsection (7C) of that section in like manner as subsection (7C) applies to the Investigating Committee, and (b) submissions (if any) made by the registered teacher concerned under subsection (7A)(b) of section 42 to the Investigating Committee.(2) Where the Investigating Committee did not seek a vetting disclosure in respect of a registered teacher under section 42(7A) in relation to a complaint and a panel considers that the complaint referred to the Disciplinary Committee by the Investigating Committee under section 42(9)(a) is of such a nature as to reasonably give rise to a bona fide concern that that teacher may—(a) harm any child or vulnerable person, (b) cause any child or vulnerable person to be harmed, (c) put any child or vulnerable person at risk of harm, (d) attempt to harm any child or vulnerable person, or (e) incite another person to harm any child or vulnerable person,the panel may request the Council to apply to the National Vetting Bureau for a vetting disclosure in respect of that registered teacher. (3) Where a panel receives a vetting disclosure under subsection (2) in respect of a registered teacher, it shall provide the registered teacher concerned with a copy of the disclosure and invite that teacher to make submissions in writing to the panel in relation to the disclosure within such time period as is specified in the notice. (4) A panel shall consider submissions (if any) made by the registered teacher concerned under subsection (3). (5) Subject to subsection (6), a panel may, for the purpose of its inquiry, consider the information contained in a vetting disclosure obtained under subsection (2) in so far as the information relates to the conduct which is the subject of the complaint. (6) Where a vetting disclosure obtained by the Council under subsection (2) in respect of a registered teacher contains specified information and that specified information relates to conduct of the teacher which occurred prior to the coming into operation of section 16 of the Act of 2015, the panel may not consider that information for the purposes of subsection (5) unless the conduct concerned would have constituted a criminal offence at the time the conduct occurred. (7) For the purposes of an inquiry under section 43 in relation to a complaint made under subsection (1D) of section 42, a panel may consider—(a) the information contained in a vetting disclosure referred to in that subsection in so far as the information grounds the complaint under, and in accordance with, that subsection, and (b) submissions (if any) made by the registered teacher concerned under subsection (7)(a)(ii) of section 42 in so far as the submissions relate to that vetting disclosure.(8) For the purposes of an inquiry under section 43 in relation to a complaint made under subsection (1)(g) to which subsection (1E) applies, a panel may consider—(a) the information contained in a vetting disclosure referred to in subsection (1E) in so far as the information grounds the complaint under subsection (1)(g), and (b) submissions (if any) made by the registered teacher concerned under subsection (7)(a)(ii) of section 42 in so far as the submissions relate to that vetting disclosure.”.”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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This is largely a technical amendment to transfer the provisions in subsections (1) to (6) from schedule 3 of the 2001 Act, as amended by this Bill, into a new section 43A. This new section 43A sets outs separately the relevant provisions of the Bill relating to the use and assessment of vetting disclosure by a panel undertaking an inquiry under section 43.In addition to the provisions which were previously in Schedule 3, additional provisions in subsections 7 and 8 of this new section makes clear that a panel may also consider information in a vetting disclosure where the council has made a complaint, under the relevant provisions of section 42, in respect of that information, and that the panel can consider information in that disclosure only in so far as it grounds that complaint and relates to the conduct which is the subject of the complaint. It also allows the panel to consider any submissions that the teacher may have made in respect of that vetting disclosure.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 42: In page 22, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following: “Offences - panel inquiry19. The Principal Act is amended by the insertion of the following section after section 43A: “Offences - panel inquiry 43B.(1)A person commits an offence where he or she—(a)on being summoned to attend before a panel for the purpose of an inquiry under section 43, fails to attend, (b)in attendance as a witness before a panel under section 43, refuses—(i) to take an oath lawfully required by the panel to be taken, (ii) to produce any document in his or her power or control lawfully required by the panel to be produced by him or her, or (iii) to answer any question to which the panel may lawfully require an answer, or(c)in attendance before a panel, does anything which, if the panel were a court of law having power to commit for contempt, would be contempt of court.(2)A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) shall be liable on summary conviction to a class C fine.”.”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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This amendment provides that a person commits an offence in the course of an inquiry when he or she fails to attend, having been summoned, refuses to take an oath, refuses to produce any document in his or her power or control lawfully required by the panel or refuses to answer a question. In addition, it is an offence if a person does anything which, if the panel were a court of law, would be contempt of court.

The amendment provides that a person who commits an offence will be liable on summary conviction to a class C fine. These matters were already included as offences in the 2001 Act but references need to be updated to reflect that it is the panel which is conducting the inquiry and making decisions. The inclusion of "a class C fine" in place of a fine of "£1,905" updates this provision in accordance with the more current legislative approach.

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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What exactly is the oath that is referenced in this amendment? Concerns have been raised with me about whether it will be a religious oath or one that would be broad and would cater for those of religious faith and none. What type of oath will teachers be required to take?

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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I do not have the wording of the oath available. I will come back to the Senator on Report Stage with that information, if that is acceptable.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 43: In page 22, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following: “Withdrawal of complaint20. The Principal Act is amended by the insertion of the following section after section 43B:“Withdrawal of complaint 43C.Where a complaint is withdrawn by the complainant—(a)while it is being considered by the Investigating Committee, the Committee may, with the agreement of the Council— (i)decide that no further action is to be taken in relation to the matter the subject of the complaint, or (ii)proceed as if the complaint had not been withdrawn, or (b)while it is being considered by a panel, the panel may, with the agreement of the Council— (i)decide that no further action is to be taken in relation to the matter the subject of the complaint, or (ii)proceed as if the complaint had not been withdrawn.”.”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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This amendment provides that where a complaint is withdrawn by the complainant while it is being considered by the investigating committee or where is has progressed to a panel inquiry, the committee or the panel may, with the agreement of the council, decide either that no further action is to be taken or proceed as if the complaint had not been withdrawn. This is to prevent a situation where the investigating committee or a disciplinary panel are obliged to proceed with a complaint even if it has been withdrawn and the committee of panel see no reason to proceed. Of course, the committee or panel may also decide to proceed if that is deemed appropriate.

Amendment agreed to.

SECTION 18

Government amendment No. 44: In page 22, to delete lines 38 and 39, and in page 23, to delete line 1 and substitute the following: “ “(1) Subject to subsection (1A), the panel may, having completed its report under paragraph (b) or paragraph (c) (as the case may be) of subsection (17) of section 43, make a decision—”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 45: In page 23, lines 5 and 6, to delete “Disciplinary Committee” and substitute “panel”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 46: In page 23, line 8, to delete “Disciplinary Committee” and substitute “panel”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 47: In page 23, line 15, to delete “Disciplinary Committee” and substitute “panel”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 48: In page 23, line 19, to delete “Disciplinary Committee” and substitute “panel”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 49 and 52 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 49: In page 23, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following: “(b) by the insertion of the following new subsection after subsection (1):“(1A) If the report referred to in subsection (1) contains the measures included in a consent or undertaking in accordance with section 43(17)(b)(iii), then the panel shall make a decision to confirm those measures.”,”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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I have already outlined amendment No. 40, which provides, inter alia, that a panel may request a teacher to give certain undertakings or consent to certain measures. Amendment No. 49 is necessary to provide that, in such circumstances, the panel will make a decision to confirm those measures. Amendment No. 52 ensures that such decisions, which are arrived at on foot of a voluntary agreement by the teacher, are not subject to an application by the Teaching Council to the High Court for confirmation of the decision.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 50: In page 23, to delete line 21 and substitute the following: “(c) in subsection (2)—(i) by the substitution of “The Disciplinary Committee shall” for “The Director shall”, and (ii) in paragraph (a), by the substitution of “the complainant” for “the applicant”,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 51: In page 23, to delete lines 22 to 27 and substitute the following: “(c) in subsection (3)—(i) by the substitution of “A registered teacher may, within 21 days of the date of service of a notice under subsection (2), apply to the High Court for annulment of the decision (other than a decision to advise, admonish or censure under subsection (1)(d) or a decision under subsection (1A))” for “A registered teacher may, within 21 days of the date of service of a notice under subsection (2), apply to the High Court for annulment of the decision”, and (ii) in paragraph (c), by the deletion of “of the Disciplinary Committee”,”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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This is an additional amendment to section 44, subsection 3, of the Principal Act which deals with the removal, suspension or retention of a teacher on the register following an inquiry. The amendment provides that measures entered into by a teacher voluntarily are not appealable to the High Court. The amendment deletes the words "of the Disciplinary Committee" from the phrase "vary the decision of the Disciplinary Committee". It is considered that these words are unnecessary in the context of the purpose of this section.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 52: In page 23, lines 29 and 30, to delete “(other than a decision to advise, admonish or censure under subsection (1)(d))” and substitute the following: “(other than a decision to advise, admonish or censure under subsection (1)(d) or a decision under subsection (1A))”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 18, as amended, agreed to.

Section 19 agreed to.

NEW SECTIONS

Government amendment No. 53: In page 24, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following: “Notification to Minister, employer and other body of certain matters relating to sanctions 20.The Principal Act is amended by the insertion of the following section after section 46:“Notification to Minister, employer and other body of certain matters relating to sanctions 46A. (1) Where it comes to the Council’s attention that, under the law of a state other than the State, a decision corresponding to a decision referred to in any of paragraphs (a) to (d) of section 44(1) has been taken in relation to a registered teacher, the Council shall, as soon as practicable, give notice in writing to the Minister and where the registered teacher is employed as a teacher, to his or her employer (if known), of the decision. (2) Where—(a) a decision takes effect under this Part in relation to a registered teacher to remove the teacher from the register, suspend the teacher from the register, retain the teacher on the register subject to conditions or to advise, censure or admonish the teacher, and (b) the Council has reason to believe that—(i) the teacher is registered in another jurisdiction, and (ii) the decision referred to in paragraph (a) may not have come to the attention of a body duly authorised to perform functions in that jurisdiction that correspond to the functions of the Council, the Council shall give notice in writing to the body of the decision referred to in paragraph (a).”.”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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The amendment inserts a new section into the Act and provides that, where it comes to the Teaching Council's attention that a decision to sanction a registered teacher has been made in another state, the Teaching Council will, as soon as practicable, inform the Minister and the teacher's employer, where relevant. The amendment further provides for the Teaching Council, where it has reached a decision to sanction a teacher, to inform the appropriate body in another jurisdiction of that decision, where it has reason to believe the teacher is registered in that jurisdiction and that the body may not be aware of the decision.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 54: In page 24, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following: “Information Council may publish in public interest21. The Principal Act is amended by the insertion of the following section after section 46A: “Information Council may publish in public interest 46B.The Council shall, if satisfied that it is in the public interest to do so—(a) advise the public when—(i) a decision takes effect under this Part in relation to a registered teacher to remove the teacher from the register, suspend the teacher from the register, retain the teacher on the register subject to conditions or to advise, censure or admonish the teacher, or (ii) a decision referred to in section 46A(1) comes to the attention of the Council, or(b) following consultation with the Disciplinary Committee, publish (with or without any information which would enable any party to an inquiry to be identified) all or any of the following—(i) the report of a panel under section 43(17)(b), (ii) the findings of a panel referred to in section 43(17)(b), (iii) the decision of a panel under section 44(1), or (iv) a transcript of all or any part of the proceedings of an inquiry by a panel.”.”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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This amendment inserts a new section in the Act and provides that the council may publish certain information concerning a decision made following an inquiry or a decision made in another jurisdiction. The amendment also provides that the council may also publish the inquiry panel's report, its findings, its decision or the transcript of the inquiry. Information identifying a party to the inquiry may be redacted.

I would also like to inform the House that I intend, on Report Stage, subject to legal advices and to compatibility with the provisions of the National Vetting Bureau Act 2012, to amend section 46B to provide that reports, findings or transcripts, as appropriate, or parts thereof, in respect of complaints made by the council itself on foot of information in a vetting disclosure obtained in the council's conduit role for employers, may be published.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 20 agreed to.

NEW SECTIONS

Government amendment No. 55: In page 25, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following: “Amendment to section 60 of Principal Act 21.The Principal Act is amended by the substitution of the following section for section 60:“Non-admissibility of certain evidence 60. A statement or admission made by a person to a panel in relation to a complaint brought under Part 5 shall not be admissible as evidence in proceedings brought against the person for an offence (other than an offence under section 43B).”.”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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This amendment replaces the current section 60 of the Principal Act and concerns the non-admissibility of a statement or admission made by a person to a panel in regard to a complaint in other proceedings. It does not apply, however, where a person commits an offence in respect of a panel inquiry. The proposed amendment follows the form of non-admissibility provisions in more recent legislation than the original Teaching Council Act.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 56: In page 25, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following: “Amendment to Schedule 3 to Principal Act 22.The Principal Act is amended by the substitution of the following Schedule for Schedule 3:“SCHEDULE 3Section 43Panel1.Notwithstanding any vacancies in the membership of the Disciplinary Committee, a panel may be appointed from among the members of that Committee. 2.The procedures of a panel shall be laid down from time to time in rules made by the Council with the consent of the Minister. 3.The Disciplinary Committee shall appoint the chairperson of a panel from among the members of the panel. 4.The Council shall make available to the panel such services, including staff, as the panel may reasonably require.”.”.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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This amendment concerns the appointment of a panel to conduct an inquiry under section 43 of the Act. The amendment proposes the replacement of Schedule 3 of the Principal Act. Much of the detail of Schedule 3 of the Principal Act is now dealt with in the proposed amendment to section 43. Accordingly, this is essentially a structural amendment, and all of its provisions already exist in the Principal Act.

Acceptance of this amendment involves the deletion of section 21 of the Bill, which included the provisions for the panel which are now included in the proposed amendment to section 43.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 21 deleted.

Section 22 agreed to.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Amendment No. 57 in the name of Senator Ned O'Sullivan is out of order.

Amendment No. 57 not moved.

Section 23 agreed to.

NEW SECTION

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 58:



In page 27, between lines 2 and 23, to insert the following:

“Review of operation of Act

24. The Minister shall—

(a) not later than 2 years after this section comes into operation, commence a review of the operation of this Act, and

(b) not later than 12 months after its commencement, make a report to each House of the Oireachtas of the findings made on the review and of the conclusions drawn from the findings.".
This amendment provides that there will be a facility to review the operation of the Act after two years and, then, that a report be made to the Houses of the Oireachtas on the findings of the review. This is an important amendment. It is good practice to review legislation, particularly new legislation which gives new powers in regard to personal information and where many practices are being changed. It is a good idea that we would review the legislation to ensure it is fulfilling the purpose for which it was designed and to make sure we are doing things right.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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This amendment was also considered in the Dáil and I have referred to having a review of Part 5 after three years following discussions with the teaching unions. What we are doing by way of this Bill is amending the original legislation upon which the council is based. The main purposes of the Bill under consideration are to underpin the Teaching Council's statutory functions in regard to Garda vetting of teachers, to strengthen and clarify the council's teaching arrangements and to make consequential amendments. There is a comprehensive suite of provisions for ongoing oversight of the implementation of the Teaching Council Act and operations of the Teaching Council. The Teaching Council also publishes an annual report which is laid before the Houses each year.

As I said, I am aware of the concerns and fears of teachers regarding aspects of the operation of the fitness to teach provisions of Part 5. My officials have had a number of very helpful meetings with the teacher unions in this regard. It is true to say that similar concerns relating to various legal rights - for example, privacy, reputation, fairness and rights of appeal - are shared across all professions.We are fortunate we have available to us a substantial body of knowledge and good practice in the way other regulated professions have approached these issues both here and in similar jurisdictions. Recent court judgments too indicate clear boundaries within which regulatory bodies such as the Teaching Council operate. On the basis of the advice available to my Department, it is clear that only serious professional matters can be considered under the fitness to teach provisions. However, all legislation needs to be kept under review in case something is not working in accordance with the intention during its passage. I with my officials have given some consideration to the point that a timeframe might be put in place in respect of a review of the Act, with a view to addressing any issues that might arise in terms of implementation of the Act that possibly could be addressed at an earlier stage. Accordingly I will be asking the council to review the operation of Part 5, three years following its commencements and to submit advice to my Department on any policy issue arising that might require further legislative attention.

I suppose that goes some way to addressing the concerns of Senator Reilly.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is the amendment being pressed?

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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No. Based on what the Minister has said, I will not press it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 24 agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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Next Tuesday.

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 14 July 2015.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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When is it proposed to sit again?

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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At 10.30 tomorrow morning.

The Seanad adjourned at 7.55 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 July 2015