Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Act leader David Seymour slams comments by PPTA president

Act Party leader David Seymour has hit out at comments made by PPTA president Angela Roberts. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Jason Oxenham.
Act Party leader David Seymour has hit out at comments made by PPTA president Angela Roberts. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Jason Oxenham.

Act leader David Seymour has slammed comments made by an education union president - saying teacher stress has nothing to do with serious offending against children.

But Angela Roberts, president of the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA), says Seymour has misconstrued her comments - and probably done so deliberately.

Seymour today called on teachers to demand the resignation of Roberts, over comments made to Newshub on Friday.

"Inappropriate conduct can severely damage a child for life," he said.

"Over the past three years 75 teachers have been investigated and 54 struck off, but the PPTA show no remorse, simply citing 'stress' and 'bad decisions.'"

Roberts was quoted by Newshub for a story on the number of teachers censured and deregistered in the past three years, including for sexual misconduct, assault and sex abuse.

The report quoted Roberts as saying it was important for the Education Council to monitor the statistics for any trends.

"They may find that there is an increased trend of teachers who are suffering from significant stress, and some really poor decisions get made," she told Newshub.

"And if that's something they see a trend is coming through on, then actually how do they respond to that?"

Roberts also said that it was important for the Education Council to have good processes in place to protect teachers and students.

"It can get really complicated very quickly - do the police need to be involved, is it just an employment issue or is it a registration issue? So there are three bits to it," she said.

Roberts told the Herald that Seymour had misconstrued those comments, perhaps deliberately.

They were made as part of a longer interview, and were about the wider issue of dealing with both disciplinary and competency matters, Roberts said.

"If what I had said was, teachers are under stress and they make poor decisions - if I had been referring to cases of serious misconduct, then, yes, that would be dismissive and inappropriate.

"But that wasn't what I was referring to. I was talking about all cases of deregistration - there is a huge range. There is conduct, but there's also competence. And I was talking about all cases referred to the council.

"We do need to look at trends...the ones that are about bad people, absolutely those should be dealt with."

Roberts will step down as president early next year as required by the union's constitution after four years in the role.

The PPTA and the Act Party have been critical of each other on education issues, particularly over partnership or "charter" schools - introduced as part of National's confidence and supply agreement with Act.

Seymour said his criticism of Roberts was not motivated by that opposition.

There had been outrage over the conduct of All Black Aaron Smith and how NZ Rugby had handled other recent incidents, he said, but the attitude of the union representing secondary teachers was more important.

- NZ Herald

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