Dozens of teachers were disciplined or struck off last year for sexual, inappropriate or aggressive behaviour towards students.

Fifty teachers were censured and 19 had their registrations cancelled in 2016, in the year to October 31.

Among those cases there were more than 40 incidences of inappropriate behaviour, sexual misconduct, or physical, aggressive or violent behaviour towards students, according to Education Council data obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act (OIA).

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In 2014, 51 teachers were censured, and 44 were in 2015.

In the first 10 months of 2016, 19 teachers were struck off. That compares to 44 in 2015 and 32 in 2014.

All teachers who had their certificates to teach cancelled were also censured.

A total of 70 complaints went before the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal in 2016, 69 in 2015 and 47 in 2014.

However, decisions made in 2016 may relate to a complaint that was filed in a previous year.

Andrew Greig, manager of teacher practice at the Education Council, said parents should have faith in the teaching profession and the current disciplinary procedures.

"The role of the Education Council is to make sure the right people are in our classrooms and that teachers are highly competent and safe to teach," he said.

"We have more robust reporting procedures, strengthened investigative powers and a bigger focus on educating teachers and schools about their professional responsibilities."

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A boy walking to school. Photo / File
A boy walking to school. Photo / File

There were a range of factors that could account for the increase in censures last year, he said.

"But we can categorically say the overall quality of teachers in New Zealand remains very high, and parents should be confident teachers are highly competent and doing a good job teaching our kids," Greig said.

"While one case is of course, one too many, with over 101,000 practising teachers, the number that we deal with for conduct issues must be kept in perspective. It's incredibly low."

Teaching was "one of the most scrutinised of professions", he said, both inside and outside the classroom, and the disciplinary process was among the most transparent.

Whetu Cormick, president of the New Zealand Principals' Federation, said new mandatory reporting requirements, which mean schools must report all claims of inappropriate behaviour, could account for the higher number going before the disciplinary tribunal.

New Zealand Principals' Federation president Whetu Cormick. Photo / supplied
New Zealand Principals' Federation president Whetu Cormick. Photo / supplied

He backed the tribunal in censuring or de-registering teachers who breached regulations or acted inappropriately.

"We want the best teachers in front of students, and we want our students to be safe, cared for and nurtured," he said.

The vast majority of teachers were "highly competent, professional, and they care for the young people that they work with", Cormick said.

A number of high profile cases of teachers breaching their guidelines hit the headlines in 2016.

Among those was Gisborne intermediate teacher Sam Back and his partner Angela Mepham who were found guilty of serious misconduct by the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal over their contact with pupil Reiha McLelland.

Former Gisborne Intermediate teacher Sam Back and his partner Angela Mepham were found guilty of serious misconduct over contact with a 13-year-old student. Photo / Supplied.
Former Gisborne Intermediate teacher Sam Back and his partner Angela Mepham were found guilty of serious misconduct over contact with a 13-year-old student. Photo / Supplied.

The 13-year-old took her own life in the aftermath of a police investigation into Back's relationship with her.

She had spent nights at his home without her parents' knowledge and the pair exchanged around 4000 texts in three months, described as "increasingly intimate and intense".

In May, Back was struck off, while Mepham was censured.