Olivia Carville is an investigative reporter with the NZ Herald.

School rapist case prompts reporting review

In March this year, Burrett was convicted of 21 charges of sexual abuse, including the rape, sodomy and forced oral sex of a dozen girls aged 5 to 12. Photo / File
In March this year, Burrett was convicted of 21 charges of sexual abuse, including the rape, sodomy and forced oral sex of a dozen girls aged 5 to 12. Photo / File

Security cameras are being installed in special needs vehicles and the Government is looking at a law change following the shocking case of a child rapist working as a school caretaker.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show the Ministry of Education has been strengthening child safety protocols ever since the parents of a disabled schoolgirl first raised the alarm on Robert Burrett's sexual offending in March 2015 - exposing two years of rape and abuse of at least a dozen girls in Christchurch.

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Since then, the ministry has tightened its complaints management process, and is now investigating whether non-teaching school staff should be subject to the same mandatory reporting as teachers.

Under current law there is no requirement forcing schools to report serious matters of conduct or competence of non-teaching staff, the document states. This means offenders could potentially "move around schools or early childhood centres unchecked".

In March this year, Burrett was convicted of 21 charges of sexual abuse, including the rape, sodomy and forced oral sex of a dozen girls aged 5 to 12.

A Weekend Herald investigation found Burrett had been bouncing around schools for the past four decades, working as a principal, deputy principal, teacher, relief teacher, tutor, special needs bus driver and caretaker.

His behaviour had raised many red flags, and he was forced out of two North Island schools, but he was never reported to his professional body, nor was his past noted on his official record.

After Burrett's 19-year jail sentence was delivered last month, Education Minister Hekia Parata confirmed the case had prompted her to ask the ministry and the Education Council to investigate extending their powers to cover all people who work with children in schools, including caretakers and bus drivers.

Mrs Parata expects to hear back from the ministry and council in June.

- NZ Herald

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