More than 30,000 teachers face vetting by gardaí for first time

All teachers to face periodic checks under new rules

More than 30,000 teachers who qualified a decade or more ago face being vetted for the first time by gardaí.

Until recently only new teachers and those moving schools have been required to obtain Garda clearance, which is administered by the Teaching Council.

However, Minister for Education Richard Bruton officially commenced legislation on Wednesday which provides a legal basis for the retrospective vetting and periodic revetting of all registered teachers.

This means that about 32,000 teachers hired prior to 2006 – when vetting became mandatory for new applicants – face Garda checks for child-protection reasons. Those affected are typically permanent teachers who have been in the same school for the past decade or more.


In addition to a check for criminal offences, Garda vetting involves a search of “soft information”. According to the Department of Justice, this is “information other than criminal convictions held by the Garda that leads to a bona-fide belief that a person poses a threat to children or vulnerable persons”.

The Teaching Council plans to undertake vetting of registered teachers in a structured and phased manner, starting with those who may not yet been been vetted. Once this is complete, there will be periodic revetting of all registered teachers on an ongoing basis.

A Department of Justice spokesman declined to say how long it was likely to take to vet the 32,000 existing teachers except to say there were no “legal or resource impediments”.


“The national vetting unit of An

Garda Síochána

has offered to conduct vetting of these teachers,” a Department of Justice spokesman said. “Currently about 300,000 vetting applications are processed by the Garda vetting unit each year”.

Mr Bruton said the move was an “important milestone” in helping to ensure our children were properly protected in the school environment and that standards in the teaching profession were upheld.

Under the new rules a teacher will face a fitness-to-teach inquiry if information in a vetting disclosure indicates a risk of harm to a child or vulnerable adult.

The Teaching Council may also seek a vetting disclosure for such an inquiry in cases where the nature of a complaint raises a child-protection concern.

In all, about 65 per cent of the 92,000 teachers registered with the Teaching Council have been vetted, a figure which is steadily increasing over time.

The ISPCC has welcomed the commencement of the remaining sections of the Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015 which introduces new arrangements for the vetting of teachers.


However, it said vetting procedures in other areas still required attention. Although crèche and preschool staff have to be vetted, individual childminders and sole traders do not and this placed children at risk. In addition, vetting for those who have resided outside of this jurisdiction needed to be addressed.

ISPCC chief executive Grainia Long said: "The ISPCC welcomes the changes announced today to ensure that more teachers will now be vetted.

"Children spend such a huge amount of time in the school environment it is especially important that they are safe and protected. However, we have quite a way to go in regards to the protection of children in Ireland. "

She also said the Children First Act – which sets out a legal basis for reporting and handling child-protection concerns – needed to be fully enacted. “Without the enactment of this legislation, children do not have sufficient legal protection when it comes to their safety.”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent