12 Nov 2012

Ministry improving info-sharing to protect children

12:59 pm on 12 November 2012

The head of the Ministry of Education says it is improving the way information is shared between teachers and police to better protect children from sex offenders after an inquiry into a Far North paedophile.

A report by the ministry on how former deputy principal James Parker was able to prey on young boys in his care was made public on Friday and found that Pamapuria School failed to protect students despite a police warning about him.

The report found the school was warned numerous times about the behaviour of Parker, who has admitted 49 charges of indecent assault against boys and is facing 23 new charges. He is in custody.

The Secretary for Education says the ministry is working with the school and has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Child, Youth and Family.

Lesley Longstone told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Monday it has implemented communication systems between Child, Youth and Family, the Teachers' Council and police.

"What we have now are procedures whereby if any one of the parties are informed of an issue or a concern, all of them will be notified - including the ministry - so that we can use all powers and information that is available to us to make sure we keep children safe."

Ms Longstone says it is important that everyone learns a lesson from this situation.

Meanwhile, the School Trustees Association says not even the best practices can guarantee that a sexual offender working in a school will be found out.

General manager Ray Newport says it can be difficult, because people do not often come into a workplace with a track record or prior concerns.

"There may be nothing that's really alerting the employer to a situation or to a prior situation. That's why it becomes very critical that when something does appear to be maybe a bit suspect or you're hearing a few concerns ... that it's more important to act on them - even if they're unfounded."

Mr Newport says it is not often that people slip through the cracks and is satisfied that most school boards are doing a good job.