A teacher who fraudulently created documents about his qualifications with the aim of securing a job in a secondary school, breached the code of professional conduct for teachers, a fitness-to-teach inquiry has found.
A hearing to determine the level of sanction facing the teacher was adjourned on Friday and will be issued within 21 days. Potential sanctions range from a formal censure to removal from the register of teachers.
The fitness-to-teach inquiry heard that the teacher, who cannot be named for legal reasons, left his trainee teaching post in the UK in early 2020 before completing an induction period needed to become fully qualified.
After returning to Ireland, he received an offer of a teaching post in a secondary school the following September on condition that he became registered with the Teaching Council.
However, the teacher admitted to providing fraudulent documents from the UK’s Teaching Regulation Agency indicating that he had completed his induction period and was fully trained.
The documents included a forged signature and a stamp purporting to be from the school.
When the teacher’s qualifications were later queried in late 2020, the inquiry heard that he attempted to cover-up his actions by falsely claiming that he had fallen foul of a “scam” and had been defrauded by an official of the agency.
Shortly afterwards, he made a complaint to the Ombudsman, claiming that his rejected application to be placed on the Teaching Council register amounted to “discrimination”, and repeated the claim he had been scammed.
At a sanction hearing of the fitness-to-teach inquiry on Friday, it heard that the allegations in the case had been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
The teacher said he was “hugely ashamed” of his actions which he put down to poor judgment and immaturity.
“It is still something I am very embarrassed about. To this day I question what brought me to this frame of mind,” he said.
He said he had a history of anxiety and depression and, at the time, was unemployed, isolated and supporting his mother and brother. He was also worried over the future of the family home.
The teacher apologised for his dishonesty and said he was keen to continue working in education as a special needs assistant. He has since completed the bulk of the teacher training process in Ireland and hoped to work as a teacher one day.
He said that he had two favourable character references from education professionals, who were aware of the circumstances of the fitness-to-teach inquiry.
Hugh McDowell BL, who appeared for the director of the Teaching Council, said that the teacher’s actions involved a “considerable degree of dishonesty” and the wrongdoing was at the “very serious end of the spectrum”.
He said there were “multiple episodes of dishonesty” which were premeditated.
He said the teacher had failed to uphold the standards of the profession and that his conduct had the potential to undermine the system of regulation for teachers.
Patricia Dillon, legal assessor to the disciplinary committee inquiry, noted that a number of factors should be considered in mitigation such as the teacher’s relative youth and difficult personal circumstances.
While she said it was unfair to characterise the teacher’s actions as a “pattern of behaviour” given that it surrounded a single event, she noted that there were “tentacles attached” in seeking to cover up his dishonesty.
The teacher has also displayed insight into his wrongdoing, had co-operated with the inquiry and expressed remorse for his actions, she sad.
The Teaching Council’s three-person disciplinary committee inquiry panel was chaired by Charlie Dolan and teachers Kathleen Burke and Noel Cronin.
Where findings are made against a registered teacher, the Teaching Council’s disciplinary committee panel may apply no sanction, admonish or censure the teacher, or apply conditions to the teacher’s registration. It may also suspend or remove the teacher from the register.