Tougher teacher scrutiny welcome

Editorial: Little wonder teachers are protective of the Teachers Council. That's probably only polite - since it has been so very, very protective of them.

Unhappily, this has been at the expense of accountability to parents and the public.

Southland PPTA members have come out against the Government's plans to replace the council with a toothier, independent statutory body to be called Educanz.

But when PPTA Southland Regional chairman Terry McNamara characterises the issue with the phrase "if it ain't broke don't fix it" then he invites a scornful reply.

In what world wasn't that council broken?

The new body is going to have strengthened abilities to exert disciplinary process on errant teachers; and it will have a much more independent look to it rather than the status quo of teachers sitting in judgment on themselves - which they've been doing in exquisite privacy, thank you very much.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says new legislation improves teacher registration, enhances reporting requirements and provides a greater range of options when dealing with disciplinary matters.

That last bit is particularly important. The PPTA believes the new body has too much policing power, such as naming teachers facing disciplinary inquiries, which McNamara says could jeopardise "natural justice".

Let's remind ourselves how well natural justice has been getting along under the Teachers Council.

When it has investigated a teacher, regardless of how serious the offence, it has applied automatic and permanent name suppression.

This is simply unacceptable in modern society. Only now has the council decided to open up proceedings of all disciplinary hearings to the public from July 1 to improve transparency and ensure "rigorous and robust processes".

Motivated at last.

But way too late. And curiously enough, under the changes proposed in the Education Amendment Bill is a requirement for this to happen anyway under Educanz, unless there is good cause for name suppression.

Another change: there will be automatic referral of teachers to a disciplinary tribunal for cases of serious misconduct - because, guess what? It hasn't been automatic.

And Educanz will investigate matters without relying, as the council did, on there being a third-party complaint.

Teachers are concerned that the proposed makeup of Educanz, since the Minister will appoint every member and there's no guarantee how many of them will be teachers, means it will be a "Government-controlled club".

They may have a point for decent representation, but frankly a stronger say by the Government is looking preferable to the outcomes of the teachers-controlled club that has been ready, willing and able to close ranks for far too long, and which is showing a professed interest in openness only when the do-next-to-nothing option has been utterly exhausted. So roll on Educanz.


The Southland Times