Categories
Employment Injunctions

Board of Management Decision Quashed for Failure to Give Reasons for Dismissal of School Principal

This school principal went to the High Court to seek an order quashing the decision by the Board of Management of a national school from terminating her employment as a school principal and teacher.

The allegations against the school principal involved allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards two pupils, made against her by a special needs assistant. The school was a small one with only two teachers, including the principal.

The school principal had been dismissed in March 2018 and appealed the decision to the Disciplinary Appeals Panel. The Disciplinary Appeals Panel (DAP) recommended that the teacher be immediately reinstated to her position as principal. The Board of Management rejected this recommendation.

The teacher’s case to the High Court was that the investigation leading up to, and the decision to terminate her employment was fundamentally flawed and legally indefensible. The core of her argument, however, was that the failure by the Board of Management to give any, or any adequate, reasons for the decision to dismiss her was irrational and unreasonable.

She argued that there was no proper evaluation of the evidence against her, nor had she been told what allegations had actually been found as having been proven against her.

Thus, she argued that the decision was bad at law for having failed to giver reasons for the decision.

She also argued that the decision to ignore the recommendation of the DAP was bad at law having regard to the established case law as to the circumstances where a Board could lawfully depart from the recommendations of the DAP.

High Court Decision

The High Court, Barr J, held that the Board of Management had acted rationally and fairly in the investigation and disciplinary stage of the process.

Where it went wrong, however, was in engaging with the evidence against the Principal and deciding which, if any, allegations were proven against her. The Board had to engage with the evidence in a fair and rational manner and this could only be shown if they could give reasons for their decision.

They had failed to do this.

They also failed to give due regard to the recommendation of the DAP and there was no logical or constructive engagement with the DAP recommendation. For these reasons the High Court set aside the decision of the Board to terminate the Principal’s employment and quashed the decision.

You can read the full 50 page decision of Barr J here: C.D. and The Board of Management of a National School.

Categories
Fixed Term Contracts

Teachers and Fixed Term Contracts-the Essentials

Fixed term contracts are very common in the teaching profession in Ireland.

teacher-fixed-term-contract

This is due to a number of factors including

• The DES (Department of Education and Skills) sanctioning temporary teaching posts for a school year, rather than approving permanent posts or contracts of longer duration

• Teachers taking leave from the school on a career break, maternity leave, sick leave, carer’s leave, parental leave, job sharing, secondment etc. with the subsequent need for the school authority, such as the  Board of Management, to find a replacement.

This replacement will be given a fixed term contract.

The teacher’s contract of employment will be with the managerial authority of the school such as the VEC committee or Board of Management.

In the primary education sector the Board of Management of the school will be the employer, even though the teacher is paid by the DES.

For Boards of Management in the Primary education sector, all the normal rules and laws discussed elsewhere on this site apply when granting a fixed term contract. Additionally, there may be the requirement to make a job offer subject to certain conditions, eg

  • approval of the Patron (where necessary),
  • Garda vetting,
  • registration with the Teaching Council,
  • a certificate to teach Religious Education (if appropriate),
  • pre employment medical screening by Medmark,
  • and approval of the Minister for Education and Skills.

See also equality and discrimination in the workplace which sets out the legal grounds for schools to discriminate on religious grounds when taking on employees.

Fixed term contracts for teachers will fall into one of two categories:

• Fixed term where the duration of the contract is known or

• Specified purpose contract where the end date may be uncertain (such as maternity leave cover or illness cover).

Fixed term contracts for teachers will normally not exceed the school year, which runs from 1st September to 31st August.

Objective Grounds

It is critically important for the Board of Management to inform the teacher in the contract why they are being employed on a temporary basis, rather than being offered a permanent contract or a contract of indefinite duration, and how the contract will be determined/terminated.

Here is an example of a clause you may use when granting a contract to a teacher who will be covering for a teacher on a career break:

This contract is a Fixed-Term Contract of …. duration and is offered due to the absence of a permanent teacher in the school who is currently on career break. The contract will end on the termination of the career break. A career break can be sanctioned for a period of 1 year with annual application to renew up to 5 years.

In addition, where the Board decides to renew a fixed term contract, it is vital to inform the teacher in writing beforehand why it is not offering a permanent contract and to set out the objective justification for this.

This notice in writing should be given to the teacher at the latest by the date of renewal.

Renewal of Fixed Term Contracts

Renewal of a fixed term contract may lead to the entitlement to a contract of indefinite duration arising. (Click the link to see the circumstances where a CID may arise)

All of the other protections and obligations arising from the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003 will, naturally apply.

(See Department of Education and Skills-employing a teacher )

For a more detailed look at fixed term contracts

Recommended: Education Law in Ireland

Haddington Road Agreement and Contracts of Indefinite Duration

The Haddington Road agreement saw some significant changes brought some significant changes to a teacher’s right to a CID and reduced the service requirement from 4 years to 3.

The relevant circulars are 64/2013 for Primary teachers and 0005/2014 for secondary teachers.

Then, further improved conditions were introduced for teachers pursuant to circular letter 23/2015 which implemented the recommendations of the Ward Report, a report prepared by Peter Ward SC. The huge change in respect of CIDs brought about by this report and circular letter was a further reduction in the service requirement for primary and secondary teachers from 3 years to 2.

Yes, 2 years’ continuous employment is all that is required for a CID, whereas if you are not a teacher you will need 4 years’ service, as explained above.