Rodney Hide: Closed council scorns justice

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The Teachers Council's closed disciplinary system has every appearance of a protection racket. Photo / Thinkstock
The Teachers Council's closed disciplinary system has every appearance of a protection racket. Photo / Thinkstock

In New Zealand, all teachers must be registered. If you are not registered, you can't teach. Overseeing the registration is an outfit called the New Zealand Teachers Council.

The council has just told Parliament that teacher registration ensures teachers are "subject to scrutiny" and "held to account for their professional conduct".

But there's no way we can know that. As the Herald on Sunday has revealed, the council's "scrutiny" and "holding to account" is done behind closed doors. It's against the law to report anything about a teacher's disciplinary hearing, even after the hearing has concluded and the teacher is deregistered.

The Teachers Council pulls a cone of silence over naughty teachers and their misdeeds.

Herald on Sunday editor Bryce Johns has written to the council to "protest the draconian suppression rules" and "one of the heaviest shrouds of secrecy over any statutory disciplinary body in New Zealand".

The issue is important. Our British-based system of law enjoys a tradition of open justice dating back centuries. It's the public nature of proceedings that deters inappropriate behaviour and maintains public confidence in the justice system.

None of us can have any confidence in the "scrutiny" and "accountability" applied by the Teachers Council because, by law, it operates a closed system of justice. We have to take the council's word that its judgment is sound, something we have never accepted of our judges and our courts except in extraordinary circumstances.

The Teachers Council tells the Minister of Education it exists to set standards. But something is clearly amiss. Thirty per cent of students leave school ill-equipped to prosper in the modern world.

Moreover, NZ now has a long list of registered teachers convicted of the most vile abuse of students. Teacher registration has done nothing to protect these students.

Imagine the outcry in any other industry if staff were convicted of sexual abuse of customers as often as registered teachers are. No other business or industry would survive such an appalling record.

The Teachers Council's failure is made worse by its closed disciplinary system, with all details subject to blanket suppression.

It has every appearance of a protection racket. Any disciplinary action it takes is hidden well away from public gaze.

I know I would have a lot to learn if I wanted to teach in a school. But I don't understand why the Teachers Council gets to demand that prospective teachers attend Auckland University for a full year to get a Graduate Diploma in Teaching before doing so.

I already have three degrees, have taught science and economics at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, have worked in a successful merchant bank and have some knowledge of government and its operation.

In some capacity I would have something to teach students. But I can't. The Teachers Council declares I must complete a diploma that includes a course called EDPROFST 612, which "explores questions relating to ... the Treaty of Waitangi and the socio-political influences that shape the interconnections between learning and context".

It's too dreadful even to finish reading the course prescription.

I am amazed we have the many good teachers that we do. But I wonder how many potentially good teachers the Teachers Council and their asinine courses and processes have driven away.

- Herald on Sunday

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