Conduct and competence – when the Education Council becomes involved
The Education Act 1989 stipulates that an employer must provide a mandatory report to the council when:
• a teacher is dismissed for any reason.
• a teacher resigns from a teaching position and, within the 12 months preceding the resignation, an investigation into any aspect of the teacher’s conduct or performance had been initiated.
• within the 12 months following the end of employment, the employer receives a complaint about the teacher’s conduct or competence.
• the employer has reason to believe that the teacher has engaged in serious misconduct.
• the employer is satisfied that, despite undertaking competence procedures, the teacher has not reached the required competence level.
Teachers are required to self–report any conviction punishable by a possible imprisonment of three months or more within seven days of the conviction notice. This includes drink driving convictions. Court registrars are also required to report these convictions to the Council.
Obligation to report
Kim, a teacher at Kiwi College, had been enjoying a weekend with family and was driving back home to prepare for the school term. While driving her phone rang and, while reaching into the glove box to get it, Kim veered off the road and crashed into a tree, suffering minor injuries. In due course the police charged Kim with reckless driving. After appearing in court she was convicted, fined $500 and disqualified from driving for 6 months. As the accident had happened during the term break (and she thought it had nothing to do with her as a teacher) she went back to work and completely overlooked her obligation to report the matter.
A few weeks later, the Education Council contacted Kim saying it had been notified of the conviction, and noting her failure to self-report. Kim found herself going through lengthy Education Council processes. She learned that the conduct and discipline process of the Council has two tiers, a Complaints Assessment Committee and a Disciplinary Tribunal. She learned that if the Complaints Assessment Committee considered that her conduct amounted to possible serious misconduct it was obliged to refer the matter to the Disciplinary Tribunal, where any reports made of her accident and any penalty she received from the Tribunal could be made public.
Because of her failure to self-report, Kim’s case was referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal. Kim received support in that process from her PPTA field officer and legal adviser and was relieved that the outcome was limited to a censure and a reminder of her obligation to report.
Hana was working as a short term reliever for two weeks in term one. She did a few lessons with a boisterous, difficult to control Year 10 class. On the last day of her relief tenure, as Hana was dismissing the class, a boy pushed past her knocking her off balance. Hana stumbled but did not fall, and reported the incident to the school.
The boy’s mother laid a complaint with the school alleging that Hana had grabbed the boy’s arm in order to prevent him from leaving the classroom.
The school’s investigation consisted of interviewing students in the class after a long weekend. The investigator spoke to Hana on two occasions but did not ask for a written explanation.
The school decided not to re-employ Hana and submitted a mandatory report to the Education Council. Hana had no idea a mandatory report had been made and contacted PPTA when she heard from the Council. Many stressful weeks passed before Hana attended a meeting with the Complaints Assessment Committee in order to give her account of what had happened.
Within 20 minutes the committee decided that there needed to be no further action.
William is a provisionally certificated teacher who has had a number of fixed-term positions. His most recent employer endorsed his practising certificate, but following that, raised concerns about his performance.
After a period of working with colleagues to address the concerns, a competence process, under clause 3.3 of the Secondary Teachers Collective Agreement was embarked upon. This went its full course, two terms, and William was supported throughout by his PPTA field officer. However, at the end of this period the principal felt that some of the concerns had not been remedied, and wrote a report for the school’s board of trustees. The board then needed to decide whether William’s employment would continue.
William resigned, and the school sent a mandatory report to the Education Council, which then carried out its own investigation, utilising the copious documentation provided by the school and by William and the PPTA. The Council determined that it would be appropriate for William to sign an Agreement to Conditions. This means that William has to inform any future employer about the Council’s report and the Agreement to Conditions, and the future employer has to provide reports to the Council about William’s progress in meeting its conditions.