More ways for bad teachers to hide?

By Kathryn Powley

Hekia Parata. Photo /  David White.
Hekia Parata. Photo / David White.

Misbehaving teachers facing disciplinary action may soon lose their automatic name suppression - but the national kindergarten federation is warning that those in trouble could still use other ways to retain anonymity.

Existing rules grant automatic name suppression and a closed hearing to teachers facing a disciplinary tribunal.

But on Monday, following complaints from the Herald on Sunday and Wellington lawyer Graeme Edgeler, Parliament's Regulations Review Select Committee recommended legislation to open Teachers' Council Disciplinary Tribunal hearings to the public.

The committee also recommended the Teachers' Council change its own rules to make hearings public.

Even if the changes happen, errant teachers could still hide their identities through secret settlements, according to New Zealand Kindergartens Incorporated's submission to the Teachers' Council ministerial review.

The umbrella organisation wrote: "There are situations where a teacher and an employer enter into a formal proceeding with a third party, such as lawyers or NZEI Te Rui Roa, around teacher conduct or competence.

"There may be a negotiated outcome where the teacher resigns and a report is not made to the [Teachers'] Council.

"In this case the employer's hands are essentially tied as none of the criteria for mandatory reporting have been met and concerns over the individual's ability to teach are therefore not communicated to the council."

The submission suggested another mechanism for raising concerns about teacher performance was needed in order to protect the interests of children and families.

As it was, a new school hiring a teacher with a history might not know there had been problems.

The review process is ongoing, with Education Minister Hekia Parata suggesting new Teachers Council laws could be passed by next June.

She has mooted an agency similar to the Health and Disability Commissioner to investigate and report on teachers.

The council has said it will consider changing its rules in the wake of the Select Committee report, and Herald on Sunday editor Bryce Johns is urging them to move quickly.

"To give parents confidence they have the best interests of children at heart, a rule change is needed urgently," he said.

- Herald on Sunday

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