A teacher and manager of a central Auckland pre-school has lost her registration and been fined for overcharging parents and caregivers over $220,000 in 12 months.
The New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal called the teacher's actions an "extremely clear-cut example of serious misconduct".
Rebecca Brindle is the owner, sole manager and joint shareholder, with her husband, of Kowhai Montessori Pre-school in Orakei.
The Commerce Commission began an inquiry into the school after a parent complained about the fees being set.
Brindle was responsible for setting childcare fees and communicating fees to parents, producing and sending invoices to parents, and managing the business accounts.
The commission found that between term four in 2013 and term four in 2014 she had issued invoices and letters that misrepresented the amount of ECE (Early Childhood Education) subsidy received from the Ministry of Education.
That resulted in parents paying additional childcare costs, and the pre-school unlawfully receiving additional funding.
The sentencing judge said the motivation for the offending was to "maximise unlawful financial gain", to the amount of $221,632.15.
Following an investigation by the Commerce Commission, the pre-school was convicted in the District Court on seven charges under the Fair Trading Act of 1986 of making false or misleading representations and sentenced to a fine of $254,099.
Kowhai Pre-School has been placed into liquidation.
"The pre-school deliberately gave false and misleading information to parents and omitted to disclose to parents the level of funding it was receiving from the Ministry of Education.
"The false information was grossly wrong.
"As a result the parents were required to pay significant additional amounts of childcare costs and the pre-school unlawfully received additional funding through its parental contribution and under the early childhood scheme," Judge Jelas said in summary of the offending.
The Teaching Council referred the case to its Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC), which referred a charge of serious misconduct to the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal.
Brindle did not participate in the proceedings and wished to voluntarily deregister, but once an investigation was under way a teacher could no longer voluntarily deregister.
"Behaviour of this type is the antithesis of the standard of honesty expected of
teachers," the tribunal said.
It also went on to say Brindle had "fundamentally undermined the trust placed in her by both the Ministry of Education and the parents and children associated with [the] pre-school."
The tribunal decided in response to the serious misconduct that Brindle's registration be cancelled, she be censured, and ordered to pay 40 per cent ($2518.95) of the tribunal's costs.