What happens when the Teaching Council gets a complaint about a teacher? 

Our Triage Committee does an initial assessment of the type of issue it might be and what the appropriate process and next step should be. As part of the process the teacher will ordinarily be given the full details of the complaint, advised of their right to seek representation and given an opportunity to respond to the allegations, correct any inaccurate information, and comment on what they think the Triage Committee’s decision should be. 

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What’s the difference between conduct and competence? 

Conduct issues are related to the behaviour of the teacher and concerns they may have engaged in conduct that breaches the Code of Professional Responsibility | Ngā Tikanga Matatika. Competence issues are mainly around teaching practice – how they might teach or interact with students or colleagues or whānau, how they meet the Standards for the Teaching Profession | Ngā Paerewa.  These are investigated by professional practice evaluators and generally treated in a more rehabilitative way, working with the teacher to support them in addressing any concerns and to meet the Standards Ngā Paerewa.   

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Can a member of the public make a complaint about a teacher? 

Yes, however, our legislation requires that complaints should be made to the teacher’s employer first (unless special circumstances apply)so complaints made to the Teaching Council will usually be referred back to the teacher’s employer if this has not happened.  

However, if you aren’t satisfied with the employer’s response, or the teacher doesn’t have a current employer, or special circumstances apply, you can come directly to us.  If you are concerned the teacher has committed an offence, you should contact the Police. 

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How is the Teaching Council notified about an issue with a teacher?

  • Mandatory reports from employers – Schools and early childhood centres are required to report to us about their teachers in certain cases—for example, if they dismiss a teacher for any reason, or if a teacher resigns or a fixed-term position comes to an end after a conduct or competence issue has been raised or made within 12 months after the teacher ceases employment. 
  • Criminal convictions A teacher with a current practising certificate and the courts must both notify Tthe Teaching Council if they/a teacher is convicted of any criminal offence punishable by a jail term of three months or more (drink-driving for example). 
  • Complaints – Complaints about teachers must usually go first to the teacher’s employer. In some limited cases they can be made to the Teaching Council first—for example, if the teacher isn’t currently teaching. 
  • Sometimes too we may become aware of a problem in some other way. In those cases, we can begin the conduct or competence processes on our own initiative. This is called doing this on our “own motion”.

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What is “serious misconduct”? 

This is defined in section 10 of our legislation but, practically speaking, any behaviour which calls a teacher’s fitness to practise into question, puts a student at risk, or could bring the profession into dispute may be considered serious misconduct.   Types of serious misconduct include using unreasonable or inappropriate physical force on a childhaving an inappropriate relationship with a student, neglect or failing to protect a child, theft or fraud, involvement in illegal drugs, impairment by drugs or all while at work (as a teacher), viewing pornography while at work (as a teacher or anything that is an offence punishable by 3 months’ time in prison.   

The criteria for reporting serious misconduct used by schools can be found in rule 9 of the Teaching Council Rules 2016. 

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How long will an investigation or evaluation take?    

While the Council endeavours to resolve matters as quickly as possible, we also seek to ensure that an evaluation or investigation is rigorous and as full and accurate as necessary.  

The length of an investigation or evaluation can depend on several factors: complexity of the case, how many cases are currently being investigated, availability of evidence and/or witnesses, and involvement of other agencies such as the Police Evaluators and investigators endeavour to stay in regular touch with teachers throughout the process to inform them of progress.   

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What is the Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC)? 

The CAC assesses a complaint about a teacher and all the relevant evidenceWhen considering a case the CAC operates in a panel of two or three teachers and a lay person. The CAC has only limited powers to take disciplinary action. For instance, it might try to get agreement from the teacher and the person who made the original report or complaint that the teacher will be censured or have conditions imposed. But the CAC can’t take this action without that agreement. If there is no agreement reached, or if it finds there may possibly have been serious misconduct, the CAC has to refer the case to the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal. When cases go to the Disciplinary Tribunal, the CAC becomes the prosecuting body and is represented by a lawyer. 

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What is the Impairment Committee? 

This committee focuses on any issues that might affect a teacher’s ability to teach or affected the teacher at the time of alleged conduct or competence such as a mental health problem, an addiction or an issue with drugs and alcohol. 

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What is the Competence Authority? 

The Competence Authority is a panel made up of one lay person and two to three registered teachers from across the sector. They consider competency cases and have the power to impose conditions, annotate the register or in very serious cases, cancel the teacher’s practising certificate/registration. 

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Who are Professional Practice Evaluators? 

Experienced, registered teachers from across the sector who evaluate the evidence and assess a teacher’s competence against the Standards | Ngā Paerewa. 

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What is the Disciplinary Tribunal? 

The Disciplinary Tribunal has powers and procedures similar to a court of law.  It must objectively review and determine facts and draw conclusions based on that process. It considers matters referred to it by the CAC. Tribunal hearings are formal but members of the public and media can attend them, unless the Tribunal chairperson decides otherwise. The chairperson can also decide if any details are suppressed. The Tribunal usually comprises two panel members who are experienced, registered teachers and one chairperson, an experienced lawyer.   

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Why are some hearings held in private? 

Hearings are rarely held in private because there is a strong argument in favour of the public’s right to know.  The chairperson might decide a hearing needs to be held in private, for instance to protect a vulnerable witness, but this isn’t common practice.  Details are suppressed if a hearing is held in private. 

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What does a hearing ‘on the papers’ mean? 

This is where the Disciplinary Tribunal will review and make a decision on a case based on written submissions from both parties where it’s convenient, practical and fair to do so. 

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What decisions can be made in a hearing? 

If the Tribunal determines a teacher’s conduct was serious misconduct or warrants disciplinary action it will then determine what the outcome will be. For instance, the teacher might be censured but allowed to carry on teaching under certain conditions, the teacher’s practising certificate might be suspended for a period, or, if the matter is extremely serious, the teacher’s registration might be cancelled. A person cannot work as a teacher unless they are registered.

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Why are some details of Tribunal decisions suppressed? 

The teacher or others who might be named in the decision, including a school, may request suppression of all details that might identify them.  The chairperson will consider this, balancing the public’s interest with the respondent’s right to privacy.  There is a strong mandate for transparency in these matters so the chairperson will consider this very carefully. 

Sometimes names and/or details of the respondent teacher or others may be suppressed if there is concern about, for example, the age of a witness or where allowing this information to be public could have an adverse effect on a witness or member of the respondent’s family.  The name and details of students involved are usually suppressed if requested. 

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Can teachers be fined? 

Yes, and ordered to contribute to the costs of the hearings, unless the matter relates to a conviction. 

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What does “censure” mean? 

Censure is a formal statement of disapproval. It lets the teacher know the profession regards their behaviour as unacceptable. More serious censures are annotated, or marked, on the online Register of Registered Teachers. 

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What if I have a conviction for a Specified Offence? 

We must cancel your registration and practising certificate if you are convicted of a specified offence under law, as you no longer meet the requirements to be a teacher. This also applies to those with a Limited Authority to Teach. You can apply for an exemption from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).  Broadly speaking a specified offence is one which is of a sexual or violent nature. See the full list here under the Children’s Act 2014.

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What is an exemption? 

Getting an exemption means you are entitled to work as a teacher as you have been cleared by the Ministry of Social Development and investigated by the Complaints Assessment Committee and found to be competent and safe to teach. 

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How do I get an exemption? 

You must apply for an exemption to teach through the Ministry of Social Development. The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has an exemptions team which manages applications for exemptions on behalf of government departments and ministries. This includes teachers. If MSD has approved your exemption you will then be referred to the Complaints Assessment Committee. 

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