Teachers worried by regulatory council bill

The proposed scrapping of the Teachers Council has triggered concerns among some Nelson educators.

This week a select committee began hearing submissions about the Government's Education Amendment Bill (No 2).

The bill proposes to dismantle the New Zealand Teachers Council and replace it with a new body - the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (Educanz).

It would establish Educanz as an independent statutory body.

The nine-member council will have at least five members and a chairperson appointed by the education minister, and could have a maximum of five registered teachers on it, but teachers and their unions voiced concerns that there could be none.

The bill also makes changes to the regulatory framework for teaching and to the disciplinary regime for teachers.

Nelson College for Girls teacher and Nelson PPTA regional chairperson Anna Heinz wrote a submission to the select committee on behalf of some teachers at Nelson College for Girls.

She and the PPTA had many concerns about the bill.

"One of the biggest issues is this is establishing a body that is meant to oversee the professional work and registration of teachers but there's no guarantee at all that teachers themselves will be on the body. There's not the compulsory voted members like there are in the current Teachers Council."

She said the body could not represent teachers if they were excluded from it.

She said the democratic process the Teachers Council had would be disestablished.

Heinz also said there was concern about enforcing a code of conduct.

The Teachers Council already had a code of ethics which covered a range of behaviours.

"A code of conduct is a narrow definition of behaviour and it dictates behaviour by the lowest common denominator." She said no teacher would condone inappropriate behaviour and enforcing a code of conduct would seem like a backward step.

She said the bill sought to loosen the rules around having non-teachers in schools teaching using the limited authority to teach process.

"In one part they are tightening and creating a code of conduct, in the other part they want to broaden options for untrained and unqualified people to go into the classroom, they seem to be at odds with each other. Teachers should be trained and qualified."

She also said the proposals for what Educanz had to do were what the Ministry of Education already did.

"The council should be concerned with the registration of teachers and the process, training, classroom practice, and that they are safe in the classroom. The Teachers Council already does that."

Enner Glynn principal and new head of the Nelson Principals Association Issac Day said he also believed there should be teachers represented on the new council.

Nayland College principal Rex Smith said teachers needed a clearer idea on what the new council would do.

"I think there is still a lot to be sorted, it is very difficult to know what the final bill is going to be. It is time the council had a revamp and is refreshed and has a definite direction and focus," he said.

He had "some confidence" in the proposed changes.

"There seems to be greater emphasis on teachers' development and professional learning and I think that's a good thing.

"This is going to be a professional body with a wider mandate than what is there at the moment and until people see for certain what that is then I can understand there's some anxiety about that."

He said the Teachers Council had not changed much over time and it needed to look at what functions it needed to be fulfilling.

Teachers Council chairwoman and former Nelson College for Girls principal Alison McAlpine said the new council would need greater powers to discipline teachers than it currently had.

"The new professional body should have the power to cancel a teacher's registration for competence reasons," she said.

Under the proposed amendments, a teacher's practising certificate could be cancelled but not a registration, although that could be done in matters of serious misconduct.

That needed to be changed so the new body could cancel registrations based on incompetence, McAlpine said.

There should be an increase in the maximum fine the new council could hand out for misconduct and incompetence from $5000 to at least $7500, she said.

The Nelson Mail