Teaching Council consultation disappoints
PPTA Te Wehengarua members have once again been faced with a Teaching Council fees consultation that is ill timed, overly complex, and inadequate. It was followed by an unnecessary re-consultation after the Teaching Council discovered $1.5 million in savings.
How it all started
The Teaching Council announced its intention to consult on a proposal to increase fees back in 2020. An initial consultation took place, which resulted in the decision to increase fees by 115% and reduce the certification period from three years to one. PPTA took a successful judicial review case to challenge these decisions, and they were duly overturned. The judicial review, among other things, found that the Teaching Council was charging a bundled fee for all its statutory functions, when the legislation only allowed for it to charge for functions relating to registration and certification.
PPTA was disappointed when the government’s response to this finding was to amend the law to allow a bundled fee to be charged, rather than limiting the Teaching Council’s functions to its core tasks of regulating the profession.
Consultation a tough ask for teachers
Following this law change, the Teaching Council embarked on a renewed consultation. The consultation documents arrived in teachers’ inboxes on 18 February this year. Not only was this at the busy start of the school year, but it was also right at the beginning of the Omicron outbreak, as schools were adjusting to providing teaching and learning under the red traffic light settings. The full consultation document runs to some 50 pages, and even the summary is 20 pages long. It was a tough ask for teachers to engage in this process.
Inaccuracies around inflation
The consultation was also, in some respects, inaccurate. The Teaching Council had selected the wrong economic indices when calculating the rate of inflation since 2010, putting it at 33% when a figure of 20 – 25% is more accurate. We raised this issue with the Teaching Council and requested that it inform teachers of this mistake and re-open the consultation in light of the correct numbers. At the time, the Teaching Council replied that it would consider this request after it had received all the submissions.
PPTA provided as much support as possible for members to fully understand the consultation information and make an informed decision. COVID-safe webinars were held to help members understand the consultation processes and make sense of the materials provided.
Fee increase unreasonably high
The main concern that we have raised with the Teaching Council is that the amount that teachers will be asked to pay for renewal of a three-year practising certificate seems to be fixed at approximately $470. This is the amount that was given in the first consultation in 2020, and it was the amount that was decided on after that consultation. This was then overturned by the judicial review. The renewed consultation once again has the amount at roughly $470. This raises questions about whether teachers could influence this figure as part of the submissions process, and as such, if this is a genuine consultation.
We consider a fee increase of this size to be unreasonable. The fees have not been raised in more than 10 years, so an increase in itself is not unexpected. However, PPTA members have been clear that they do not wish to pay for the additional functions that have been added to the Teaching Council’s remit during this time. A fee increase based on inflation since 2010 would bring the cost of renewing a three-year practising certificate up from $220 to $263. We consider this increase to be reasonable.
But wait, there’s more consultation
We were surprised when the Teaching Council announced a further consultation period to seek very specific feedback about how to spend the $1.5 million in savings it had discovered. The error in calculating inflation was mentioned but dismissed as unimportant, and certainly was not the reason given for the re-opening of the consultation. PPTA’s advice remained the same as it had been in the initial consultation: the fees increase is unreasonably large. Reducing it by $9 per qualified teacher does not make it reasonable.
The Teaching Council still intends to have the new fees structure in place by July of this year. We can only hope that the Teaching Council has this time heard the voices of the profession.