Colm McCarthy appeared before a fitness-to-teaching inquiry of the Teaching Council on Thursday in relation to false claims he had made about working as a teacher at Carrigaline Educate Together National School in Carrigaline, Co. Cork, in job applications for vacant teaching posts in Thailand and Myanmar. Picture: Colin Keegan
A teacher accused of professional misconduct has admitted making false claims about holding a teaching position at a Cork primary school in applying for teaching jobs in the Far East because he wanted to be able to live in Thailand to be with his son.
Colm McCarthy appeared before a fitness-to-teaching inquiry of the Teaching Council on Thursday in relation to false claims he had made about working as a teacher at Carrigaline Educate Together National School in Carrigaline, Co. Cork, in job applications for vacant teaching posts in Thailand and Myanmar.
The teacher faced other charges of professional misconduct over allegations that he provided false references purporting to be from the principal of Carrigaline ETNS when applying for such jobs.
Mr McCarthy – who comes originally from Douglas, Cork – also faced allegations that he knowingly provided false e-mail addresses for the school’s principal, Imelda Thornton and vice-principal, Christine O’Brien as referee contact details in CVs submitted with job applications.
He apologised to the Teaching Council’s disciplinary committee, claiming he had “no option” about what he did and was “looking for a way out.” Mr McCarthy explained he had a son living in Thailand at the time and wanted to go back there.
Pleading for leniency, he added: “That is why I lied.
Mr McCarthy claimed he had got advice which he should have ignored.
Mr McCarthy said his son was now living with him in Ireland but it would be “disastrous” if he lost his teaching licence.
Counsel for the Teaching Council, Eoghan O’Sullivan BL, claimed Mr McCarthy had submitted a CV to the Udon Thani International School in Thailand in October 2018 in which he stated he had been working as a Year 4 classroom teacher at Carrigaline ETNS since September 2017.
The inquiry heard a similar false claim about holding a teaching post in the Cork school was made to Teach Anywhere, a UK-based international recruitment agency, in a CV submitted by Mr McCarthy in November 2018 and again in a job application sent in November 2020.
The Teaching Council is claiming that a total of 11 allegations individually or cumulatively amount to professional misconduct and bring the teaching profession into disrepute.
Mr McCarthy, who has been a registered teacher since 2018, admitted submitting job applications in which he had falsely claimed to have worked at Carrigaline ETNS and “getting a buddy” in Kuwait to create false e-mails and references.
Imelda Thornton’s testimony
In evidence, Lindsay Stewart, head of Udon Thani said he had contacted Ms Thornton in 2018 after he became suspicious about a reference submitted by Mr McCarthy allegedly from her as it was written in a similar style to his own job application.
The committee heard that Mr McCarthy claimed he had represented Ireland at Under-14 level in football and spoke three languages including Thai.
Ms Thornton told the inquiry that Mr McCarthy had only ever been in Carrigaline ETNS on placement as a student teacher in the 2013/14 school year after being asked by a mutual friend to facilitate a practice period for him. Ms Thornton said he had only spent around two months in the school during the year.
The former principal said she had never provided a reference for Mr McCarthy as he had never worked as a teacher in the school. Ms Thornton said she became aware of the false e-mails and references after being contacted by Mr Stewart in October 2018 seeking to verify that she had submitted a reference for Mr McCarthy.
She claimed she was “shocked” to hear details of what was submitted in her name. The reference claimed Mr McCarthy got on well with other teachers, while school inspectors were very happy with his class.
It also claimed the principal would have no problem recommending the teacher for a permanent position although the students would be disappointed and he would be missed by the school’s staff.
Ms Thornton told the inquiry that she had tried calling a phone number that Mr McCarthy had submitted in her contact details. “I asked to speak to Mel Thornton and the person said ‘that’s me,’” Ms Thornton recalled.
She said she became very flustered by the exchange while the other woman claiming to be her was “very gruff” before hanging up after being questioned about Mr McCarthy.
Ms Thornton said she contacted both the Teaching Council and gardaí in November 2020 after she was contacted by Teach Anywhere about a purported reference she had supplied for Mr McCarthy. “I thought ‘oh no, this is happening again,’” she recalled.
Ms Thornton said she was concerned that her name and the school’s name was being used in false information for getting a teaching job.
At the end of her evidence, Mr McCarthy offered an apology to the witness “for all the grief and upset that I caused you.” He also thanked her for the “massive favour” she had done in arranging a placement for him in her school.
A consultant with Teach Anywhere, Paul Orechoff, said Mr McCarthy told him on November 24, 2020, that his job interview with a school in Myanmar had gone well. However, Mr Orechoff, said he had received an e-mail the following day from Carrigaline ETNS which stated Mr McCarthy had never worked at the school.
Mr Orechoff said Teach Anywhere subsequently withdrew Mr McCarthy’s candidacy as “we felt he had not been honest with his references”.
Garda Stephen Cleary, who interviewed Mr McCarthy under caution in December 2020 following a complaint from Ms Thornton, told the inquiry he had concluded that no offence had been committed in Ireland.
Garda Cleary said the issue was classified under the lowest category of incident as “attention and complaints”. The council’s disciplinary committee said it will issue its findings and proposed sanction, if any, at a later date.
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