What is an impairment 

An “impairment” is anything about a teacher’s physical or mental health, or personality, that may negatively affect their ability to teach competently and safely. It could include, for example, an alcohol or drug addiction, a mental health condition like depression, or a personality trait like an anger problem.  

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Voluntary impairment assessment

During the conduct or competence processes a possible “impairment” issue affecting the teacher’s ability to teach may become apparent. In these situations, a teacher may be offered the opportunity to voluntarily undergo an impairment assessment. This assessment is undertaken by the chairperson of the Impairment Committee (a registered medical practitioner) and is confidential to the chairperson and the investigator/competence evaluator. The assessment will result in a summary report by the chairperson.  

The purpose of this voluntary process is to assist the teacher and the investigator/competence evaluator to understand what has been happening and what support might be required. The summary report may be provided to the decision-making body in that process to assist in determining an appropriate outcome.  

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Impairment Committee assessment

When a teacher is referred for an assessment by a decision-making body (for example, the Complaints Assessment Committee, the Competence Authority or Disciplinary Tribunal) an impairment assessment process is undertaken by the Impairment Committee. The Committee is normally made up of three people: at least one health practitioner, and one registered teacher, and it is chaired by a health practitioner. 

The Impairment Committee will assess possible impairment issues that have been referred to it or identified in the voluntary impairment process. 

It will investigate 

  • What the problem is and how it might affect the teacher’s ability to teach competently and safely 
  • What the teacher has already done, or is planning to do, to deal with the problem – for example, treatment for a drug or alcohol problem 
  • What precautions the employer might need to put in place to enable the teacher to teach effectively 
  • What help the teacher might need to teach competently and safely 
  • If requested, it may also assess whether a teacher was impaired at the time of conduct or competence concerns.

In some situations, a full investigation may not be needed, and a report can be prepared by the Committee based on information already available. 

To help evaluate the problem, the Committee may ask for a written report from a doctor or other health professional or ask the teacher to have an assessment by a health professional – though the teacher does not have to agree to this assessment. Not doing so may prevent the Committee from working with the teacher to make a recommendation to the referring body on next steps. The teacher can also provide medical reports or other relevant records from medical professionals it would like the Impairment Committee to consider 

The teacher is entitled to see any report from a health professional who assesses them. They also have the right to be present if a health professional, or other person, meets with the Impairment Committee. 

The Impairment Committee will report back with recommendations to the body that referred the case to it—either the Complaints Assessment Committee, the Disciplinary Tribunal, the Professional Practice Evaluator or the Competence Authority. 

The Impairment Committee can make an interim risk report to the body that referred the issue, if it has reasonable grounds to believe the teacher’s impairment poses a serious risk to students, colleagues or the teacher.  

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