27 Nov 2014

Concern schools not reporting staff

6:14 am on 27 November 2014

Principals say some schools are breaking the law by offering not to report staff to the Teachers Council if they resign.

They say reports to the council are mandatory when a teacher or principal's conduct or competence is in doubt and boards should never offer to forego such complaints.

no caption

Principals are concerned some boards are not reporting staff Photo: PHOTO NZ

The Principals' Federation and principals involved with teachers' disciplinary hearings say they are increasingly hearing of school boards offering not to make the reports if a staff member they are in dispute with quits and goes quietly.

Federation president Philip Harding said it's not on.

"Nobody can contract out of New Zealand law. You can't make a secret deal or sign a confidentiality agreement to not to do something when the law requires that you do. And so we're very uncomfortable with deals like this because it starts to sound and feel like blackmail," he said.

"We are aware that it is increasingly being used as a tactic to convince people to go quickly and to go quietly."

Mr Harding said the approach probably saved schools money by avoiding legal battles - but that did not make it right.

"We're not trying to protect people who should not be working in schools. But we do want all people going through a performance process or a termination process to be treated with respect and to be treated ethically, morally, fairly."

The president of Te Tai Tokerau Principals Association, Pat Newman, said the practice appeared to be happening in Northland, where there was a relatively high turnover of principals.

"There is a lot of discussion among principals that that is what is being done up there. It's illegal, it's poor practice, it does nothing for the school, the community, the children or the principals at all."

Patrick Walsh, a past president of the Secondary Principals Association, said the trend was unsatisfactory and high-risk.

"It's attempting to circumvent the purpose of the disciplinary processes of the Teachers Council, which were created to prevent teachers who were incompetent and guilty of serious misconduct, resigning with a confidentiality clause and then moving to another school and visiting their incompetence and misconduct on other students."

The president of the School Trustees Association, Lorraine Kerr, said she was not aware of the practice and would be disappointed if it was happening.

The acting director of the Teachers Council, Rob MacIntosh, said schools should never offer to not report staff to the council if they resign.

The Teachers Council could fine schools up to $5000 if they failed to make a mandatory report.

What the Teachers Council says about the obligation to report problems with teachers and principals:

  • The Education Act 1989 states that an employer must provide a mandatory report to the New Zealand Teachers Council in certain circumstances. Failing to file a report is an offence, which carries a fine of up to $5000, unless there is reasonable justification.

Employers need to make a mandatory report when:

  • A teacher is dismissed for any reason
  • A teacher resigns from a teaching position if, within the 12 months preceding the resignation, the employer had advised the teacher that it was dissatisfied with, or intended to investigate, any aspect of the teacher's conduct or competence
  • A teacher ceases to be employed by the employer, and within the following 12 months the employer receives a complaint about the teacher's conduct or competence while he or she was an employee
  • The employer has reason to believe that the teacher has engaged in serious misconduct
  • The employer is satisfied that, despite completing competence procedures with the teacher, the teacher has not reached the required competence level.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs