1 Jul 2021

Teachers demand triennial certification after court ruling, but regulator faces insolvency

5:36 pm on 1 July 2021

Principals and teachers want answers from the Teaching Council after the High Court threw out its new system for certifying teachers, potentially undermining its financial stability.

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Photo: 123rf

A judicial review quashed the council's decision to make teachers renew their praticising certificates annually instead of every three years, and at a higher total cost.

The High Court judgment said the council had not consulted teachers properly on the change and was charging teachers for costs it was not permitted to charge for.

The council told RNZ it was working through the decision and could not comment until next week, but the Principals Federation, the Secondary Principals Association and the Post Primary Teachers Association said it should explain as soon as possible what would happen next.

The PPTA brought the case, and its president Melanie Webber said the council must revert to three-yearly certificate renewals.

"They need to go back to the drawing board on this, we need to go back to three-year certification rather than annual, we need to go back to the fees that we were previously paying and the Teaching Council need to do a proper consultation with teachers before they make any more changes," she said.

Principals Federation president Perry Rush said teachers needed to know as soon as possible what rules now applied.

President of the Principals Federation Perry Rush.

Principals Federation president Perry Rush Photo: supplied

"This is about teachers' professional status. We have to have our professional body confirm the appropriateness of our professional status in terms of being registered, that's not something we can wait for so this does require some quick answers now," he said.

Rush said the situation was disappointing.

Secondary Principals Association president Vaughan Couillault said the judgment was significant.

"The habit has been every three years you look at your registration and do the stuff that you need to from a compliance point of view. That was going to be flipping into an annual piece of work that looked like more workload to us, and now that requirement looks like on the surface of it it has been rewound to what we had before," he said.

Couillault said teachers must renew their certificates before they expired and now there would be confusion about the cost of that renewal and how long the certificate was valid for.

The court decision said the council had warned it faced insolvency if it were forced to drop its new, annual certification system and fees.

Couillault said the council's financial stability was a real concern.

Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault

Secondary Principals Association president Vaughan Couillault Photo: RNZ

"You do want your regulatory and certifying body able to function and discharge the duties that it holds in law and it certainly sounds like they are not able to do that with their current income streams," he said.

Rush said the council needed appropriate funding to discharge its statutory duties and the government might need to help the council financially.

In February, the council moved from triennial certificate renewal at a cost of $220 to annual renewal at a cost of $157 per year.

The change affected more than 100,000 registered teachers with practising certificates.

The council has written to teachers saying it accepts the judgment and will abide by it.

Council chief executive Lesley Hoskin indicated in the message that the council would seek law changes to enable it to charge fees for aspects of its work the court had ruled it could not charge for.

"In many ways this decision will provide long-term certainty for the Council and the profession. It has revealed that the legislation that gives the Council its mandate and powers is not well written, in that the fees component has not accounted for changes to the Council's mandate. Therefore, some areas will need to be fixed," she said.

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