Letter to the editor – State Exams and teachers

Dear Editor,

WHILE I understand the position of the teachers, I also understand the position of parents and students.

An indemnity by the Department of Education to teachers will not in my opinion provide sufficient protection to teachers as teachers.

First of all it is not an indemnity it’s a guarantee that the State (taxpayer) will fund the cost of the defence.

The case will still go ahead with all of the trauma involved for the teacher but also for the parent/student and worse still for them they have to pay their own costs.

Have the parents’ associations not considered seeking similar arrangement for the person bringing the case.

Secondly the parent/student does not need to take an action against the teacher personally.

He or she can take an action against the Board of Management that for the purposes of everything except pay is the actual employer

In a High Court case Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley upheld a Labour Court finding that a named employee was an employee of the Minister and not, as the Minister argued, of her school’s management board.

However, the Court went on to say that:

In relation to teachers whose salaries are paid by the State, the role of employer is, ‘uniquely, split’, with one part played by the Department and the other by the school management, she said.

The school management has the right to hire, discipline and generally direct a teacher in the day to day running of the school while the Department sets the rules about, and pays, the salaries.

Since the Department was taking on what would normally be the rights of an employer in relation to pay, it also carried the ‘legal duties’ of an employer associated with pay, she ruled.

So, what does that mean? My reading of it is that it is only in the case of pay that the teacher is an employee of the Department but for everything else the employer is the Board of Management.

This means that each Board of Management would have to give the indemnity as well putting local voluntary people at risk of litigation.

Yours etc,
Pat Coughlan

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