Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Bad teachers in education law's sights

New disciplinary body will have lots of teeth

Checks on errant teachers will be greatly increased, says Ms Parata. Photo / Thinkstock
Checks on errant teachers will be greatly increased, says Ms Parata. Photo / Thinkstock

There will be less chance of dodgy teachers resurfacing at other schools under legislation to be introduced in Parliament today, Education Minister Hekia Parata says.

In a major shake-up of teaching, the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (Educanz) will be established as an independent statutory body.

It will replace the New Zealand Teachers Council and bring with it significant changes, many of which aim to better deal with teacher misconduct.

Ms Parata told the Herald that parents could be assured checks on misbehaving teachers would be greatly increased.

"This new piece of legislation, as well as establishing the new body, gives it greater teeth, greater authority, greater reach across the profession."

Several high-profile cases involving sexual offences by teachers have put such processes in the spotlight.

In one of the worst, convicted sex offender Henry Te Rito Miki was found to have bypassed Teachers Council registration processes by working illegally in six North Island schools.

Changes under the Education Amendment Bill, which will receive its first reading today, include:

• Making disciplinary proceedings against misbehaving teachers open unless there is good cause for name suppression of those involved.

• Automatic referral of teachers to a disciplinary tribunal for cases of serious misconduct.

• Giving the new professional body the authority to investigate matters without relying on a third-party complaint.

However, the Green Party has attacked today's amendment bill for introducing tough new safeguards for teachers while exempting unqualified charter or "partnership" school teachers.

Greens education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said that was a dangerous double standard that put children at the controversial schools at a much greater risk.

Ms Parata said such criticism ignored the fact that state and state-integrated schools also employed unqualified teachers in a range of jobs, and partnership schools were required to thoroughly vet potential staff.

Members of the new council will be appointed by the Education Minister, which is a sticking point with the PPTA secondary teachers union. It argues for more teacher "ownership" of the body representing them.

Ms Parata said the new council would be independent and the nomination process for members transparent, but the Government needed to retain some influence.

"The only two levers the Government will have for this are, one, being able to ask for reports, and, two, making these appointments."

Today's bill is also brought by Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce, and will controversially reshape the governance bodies of universities and wananga.


Teaching shake-up

• Changes included in the new Education Amendment Bill will:

• Develop a code of conduct for teachers.

• Make disciplinary proceedings open unless there is good cause for name suppression.

• Automatically refer cases of serious misconduct to the Disciplinary Tribunal.

• Enable the new Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand to investigate matters of its own volition.

- NZ Herald

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