This national evaluation report focuses on the important connections between school policies, procedures and actions that ensure a relentless focus on student safety when recruiting and managing staff.

It includes information on how schools use resources, expertise and regulations to support this focus and outlines areas where improvements are necessary.

Who is responsible for employment in schools?

The school’s board of trustees has overall responsibility for ensuring a school provides a safe environment and high quality education for all students. Boards include community representatives as well as the principal and a staff representative. In secondary and area schools there is a student representative and in integrated schools there are representatives of the proprietors. The principal is a full board member as well as the chief executive of the board.

Recruitment, performance management, and managing complaints about staff all contribute to student safety and the quality of education provided. As teachers are the most significant in-school influence on students’ learning, boards have high interest in the quality of the teachers employed. The extent of each board’s involvement in staff recruitment, performance and management is determined by board policy. The board, as employer, has overall responsibility for all employment decisions.

Boards are advised by the NZSTA and the Ministry to have clear policies and procedures that define expectations, including reporting to the board about actions, decisions, and reviews of effectiveness. Such processes assure board members that policy and procedures are followed and improvements are made when necessary. The Ministry has contracted NZSTA to provide most of the support to boards in their role as employer. Boards are supported by the Teachers Council processes of teacher registration (police vetting at the provisional registration stage, and at the three-yearly renewal of registration) and can request further support from NZSTA’s industrial advisers.

Regulatory and legislative requirements, and a range of resources, support schools to ensure students are safe at school and that student safety is the priority when dealing with a complaint about a staff member.

What was the impetus for this ERO review?

This review was prompted by two recent reports on the employment of sex offenders in schools: the Ministerial Inquiry into the Employment of a Convicted Sex Offender in the Education Sector[6] (Ministerial Inquiry) and the Report to the Commissioner of Pamapuria School on Review of the Employment and Offences of James Parker[7](Parker Report).

The Ministerial Inquiry stated that:

It is essential to ensure that the law, and all practices and procedures, including recruitment and hiring, are designed, managed and administered to provide the utmost protection for children within the education system as well as the wider community environment. It is perhaps even more important that people involved throughout the education system, no matter in what capacity, see beyond the system itself, and its processes, and recognise that the safety and welfare of the children in the education system transcend all else. (p. 5)

The Ministerial Inquiry acknowledged that although Miki[8] is certainly an extreme case, many of the opportunities he exploited remain open to others (p. 90). The key findings from the Parker Report confirm this.

The report makes it clear that James Parker is completely responsible for his actions. He was clever at manipulating people and created a lot of victims in the process.... The Pamapuria experience highlights how important it is for schools to be constantly aware of the connections between what is required in documentation and what is actually happening in reality. The extent of the disconnect was a key factor in the systemic failure that occurred at Pamapuria. (Commissioner Pamapuria School)[9]

The State Services Commission and the Ministry asked ERO to complete a national review of schools’ approaches to recruiting and managing staff, including the quality of appraisal.

This ERO report is one of a series of reports which presents findings of ERO’s national evaluation.

This report, Student safety in schools: Recruiting and managing staff, discusses boards of trustees’ effectiveness as employers; in particular how schools keep students safe when investigating concerns about staff, appointing teachers and principals, attesting teacher registration, and applying for police vetting of non‑teaching staff.