July 6, 2022

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Teacher who falsified certificates in order to work in Ireland says he got ‘caught up in a terrible web of lies’

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A teacher who falsified certificates about his teaching qualifications in order to be able to work in Ireland has told an inquiry that he got “caught up in a terrible web of lies.”

he language teacher told a fitness-to-teach hearing of the Teaching Council that he accepted as true a series of allegations that his actions constituted professional misconduct and contravened the Code of Professional Conduct for Teachers.

The teacher, who cannot be named by direction of the council’s disciplinary committee, admitted he had submitted fraudulent certificates to the Teaching Council in the summer of 2020 purporting to be from the UK Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) and UK Department of Education that he had completed a teaching induction programme.

The inquiry heard the teacher had subsequently claimed he had been the victim of a scam by the TRA which he knew was false in order to cover up his own fraudulent actions.

Counsel for the Teaching Council, Hugh McDowell BL said the teacher had repeated a claim about being scammed out of £60 by a TRA official when he made a complaint about his treatment by the Teaching Council later that year to the Ombudsman.

Mr McDowell said the allegations against the teacher were very serious as his actions were “dishonourable and disgraceful” and would amount to professional misconduct.

He said they had contravened the profession’s code of conduct by failing to act with honesty and integrity in relation to his professional status and qualifications and failing to uphold the reputation and standard of the profession.

The committee’s chairperson, Charlie Dolan, said it would issue its findings by April 13.

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At the outset of the hearing, Mr McDowell successfully applied to have two further allegations added after the teacher had signalled in recent correspondence to the Teaching Council that he had falsely completed a form purporting to be from his former principal at a school in England and using a bogus school stamp.

Addressing the inquiry, the teacher said he was truly sorry for the harm caused by his actions for which he carried “a huge shame.”

He explained that a teaching post in England had not worked out due to stress and anxiety and he had returned to Ireland to support his family.

The teacher said his mental health also suffered during the Covid-19 lockdown when he was unemployed.

He told the inquiry he had subsequently secured the offer of a teaching job at a secondary school but that the principal had warned him she might have to let him go if he was not fully qualified.

The teacher, who still has a job at the school, said he had falsified documents as he was determined “not to let a job opportunity slip.”

He added he had learnt a valuable lesson and asked the committee “to look beyond my reprehensible behaviour” and recognise that he had completed his induction and showed potential as a teacher.

Several written character references from school principals were read out on his behalf to the inquiry.

The teacher, who completed a languages degree in Ireland in 2018 followed by a postgraduate teaching diploma at an English university, contacted the Teaching Council in early 2020 about being registered to teach at post-primary level.

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However, he was informed that his UK qualifications would not be recognised as he had only completed two of the mandatory three school terms as a trainee teacher.

The inquiry heard the teacher became frustrated at being told by the Teaching Council that he could either return to England to complete his induction or undertake a two-year college course in the Republic.

In correspondence the teacher said he was very disappointed at the lack of compassion shown by the Teaching Council and that an exception could not be made given the shortage of language teachers in Ireland.

He complained its lack of flexibility was “beyond shocking” as he was struggling to “make ends meet” because he could not return to England due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is insulting to be asked to do two years [study] again,” he added.

The teacher was subsequently informed he could have completed his induction in Ireland as a result of changes to regulations during the pandemic that allowed teachers to enter the Irish educational system without having completed their induction abroad.

TRA official, Philip Gallagher, told the inquiry that the documentation submitted by the teacher was not authentic as the certificate stated his induction was “completed” when the TRA would use the word “pass.”

The teacher’s former principal at a school in England, where he taught between September 2019 and March 2020, gave evidence that his purported handwriting on a form submitted to the Teaching Council had been forged.

The principal said he would not have answered a certain question about the teacher’s performance on the form as presented as there had been “concerns about his class management.”

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