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Departmental Staff

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 6 April 2022

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Questions (110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115)

Alan Kelly

Question:

110. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education if all relevant staff under the remit of her Department have been trained in on circular CI 48/2018; and if she would be concerned if this was not the case. [18598/22]

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Alan Kelly

Question:

111. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education the number of times in total Circular letter Cl 48/2018 has been invoked at stage 4 of its process as opposed to stages 1, 2 and 3. [18601/22]

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Alan Kelly

Question:

112. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education the process involved to determine when a case begins at stage 4 under Circular CI 48/2018. [18602/22]

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Alan Kelly

Question:

113. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education the personnel that are involved under Circular CI 48/2018 in invoking stage 4; and the procedures that are undertaken to start proceedings at stage 4 and ensure that those making those decisions do not have conflicts when it comes to making those decisions. [18604/22]

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Alan Kelly

Question:

114. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education the process under Circular CI 48/2018 an education and training board takes to investigate under this circular, who carries out these investigations; and if she is confident that all education and training boards have done so correctly. [18606/22]

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Alan Kelly

Question:

115. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education the role that the internal audit unit of Education and Training Boards Ireland has in issues being dealt with under cl 48/2018; the remit of the unit; if it can investigate perceived fraudulent cases; and if this is within its remit. [18608/22]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110, 111, 112, 113, 114 and 115 together.

ETBs and Principals have a responsibility for the quality and effectiveness of education and the management of staff in a school as set out in the Education Act 1998. Section 24(3) of the Education Act 1998 provides for the suspension and dismissal of teachers and principals by employers. The Minister for Education has no role in such matters.

Circular 48/2018 sets out agreed procedures between Employers and Unions to be used in the case of individual disciplinary cases but the Department is not involved in such procedures and is not a party to any individual process. The only role for the Minister of Education in the circular is in nominating people to the list of independent chairs for use in appeals under the procedures. Staff of my Department have no role in the operation of procedures under Circular 48/2018 and so the question of training for them does not arise.

While no procedures can be definitive about the range of circumstances which might give rise to the initiation of disciplinary procedures in general these are likely to be related to misconduct, a threat to the health and safety of students and/or sustained failure to perform adequately the professional duties and responsibilities expected of a teacher. The procedures provide for two separate and independent strands which should be utilised in appropriate circumstances, namely (i) procedure relating to professional competence issues and (ii) Procedure relating to work, conduct and matters other than professional competence.

The procedures are designed to deal solely with issues of employment and supersede all prior existing disciplinary procedures in existence save for those provided in law. The actual operation of the procedures including any investigation is a matter for the employer. The circular does set out that individuals may be placed on administrative leave while an investigation is carried, where the circumstances warrant, and that any process should to comply with the general principles of natural justice.

In terms of cases where some stages of the process may be bypassed, Circular 48/2018 clearly sets out the circumstances and some examples of “gross misconduct for which any or each of Stage 1 to 3 of the disciplinary procedure may not apply depending on the gravity of the alleged offence”. It is entirely a matter for the employer in question to decide if such circumstances exist to warrant proceeding on that basis. Teachers maintain an option of appeal under the procedures, including, in the case of a sanction being imposed under stage 4 of the procedure to a disciplinary appeal panel chaired by an independent person from the list of nominated chairs.

As outlined in Department Circular 48/2018 all matters relating to the disciplinary procedure are strictly confidential to the parties and their representatives. These procedures are without prejudice to the right of a teacher to have recourse to the law to protect his/her employment. In the circumstances and as my Department is not involved in individual cases, the number of times stages under the procedures have been invoked by employers is not known.

In relation to the matter of the internal audit for the ETB sector, the primary purpose of the Internal Audit Unit for the ETBs is to provide assurance to the Audit Committee of the ETB that the system of internal control as implemented by executive management is adequate and operates effectively. However the IAU-ETBs remit also includes the provision of ancillary consulting services which may include the carrying out an investigation of a specific ETB risk area/suspected fraud.

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 110.
Question No. 112 answered with Question No. 110.
Question No. 113 answered with Question No. 110.
Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 110.
Question No. 115 answered with Question No. 110.
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