Parata alone will pick new panel

By Patrice Dougan

Hekia Parata. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Hekia Parata. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Education Minister Hekia Parata will appoint all nine members of a new agency to replace the Teachers Council.

Her influence with the new body drew criticism from the teacher's union, which accused her of "throwing the baby out with the bath water."

The Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand will have a broader scope to invest in leadership as well as teaching, and will include the early childhood sector.

It will also have power to change the regulatory framework for teaching, including the disciplinary regime.

While most in the education sector agreed the new body was needed, they said the board must be independent from government influence.

New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) Te Riu Roa national secretary Paul Goulter said the new council was a "missed opportunity to create a truly independent professional body with the full confidence of the sector".

"How can it be independent when all of its governance is directly appointed by a politician?

"There will be a lack of 'ownership' by members," he said.

"There is not even mention of a requirement for the majority of members to be teachers, which doesn't make sense in an organisation required to promote and monitor the standards of the profession."

Labour's education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, said Ms Parata had been "heavy handed" in her approach.

"There's no guarantee that any of the people on the council will end up being teachers," he said.

"And while it's fine to have one or two people with a different perspective, you actually have to have people who understand education and are involved in that sector."

New Zealand Principals Federation president Phil Harding said overall he was "pretty happy" with the new council, but also urged the minister to ensure the governing body was independent.

"The challenge is to make sure the profession has confidence in the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand, that in fact it reflects a sample of the profession who do know the challenges that schools and educators face," he said.

Mr Harding said the new board needs to be one that makes teachers say: "Wow, that's an impressive group of educators that we trust."

Teachers Council chairwoman Alison McAlpine said the move was the "next step" in building on what the council had established.

However, she also said independence was "critical".

"It is critical that teachers own the new professional body and this will only be achieved if teachers recognise it as a truly independent statutory body," she said.

A bill will be introduced to Parliament to make relevant changes to the Education Act, which are expected to come into effect during 2014, Ms Parata said.

"This is a pivotal step in our education system as we provide for that independence and fully entrust our profession with its most important responsibility of delivering high quality education to all New Zealand children and young people," she said.

Ms Parata has criticised the Teachers Council in the past, in particular the disciplinary tribunal, which she said had been too slow to act in cases where teachers had been convicted of serious offences.

- APNZ

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