ERO’s recommendations are divided into four parts.
The first part outlines recommendations for the Ministry and other education agencies. The other three parts are recommendations specifically for the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA), the Teachers Council, and all schools.
Next steps for the Ministry of Education and other education agencies
ERO recommends that a review is undertaken to consider some form of early intervention related to particular serious employment misconduct that carries high risks for students and the school, so that schools can delegate the responsibility for the particular issue.
ERO recommends that education agencies ensure student safety is paramount in all resources about school employment.
Each agency should regularly make clear to boards, particularly new trustees, that:
- they are responsible for ensuring the safety of all students as part of their employment responsibilities
- staff employment is one of the board’s key responsibilities
- their principal must inform boards of key safety and employment information so that trustees can effectively carry out their responsibilities
- resources with specific information about trustees’ responsibilities are available to guide their actions.
Clear and consistent resources and guidelines about board employment responsibilities should be available in one easily accessible place. This should include all protocols and memorandums of understandings between government agencies to ensure student safety is paramount.
ERO recommends that all principals, including new and aspiring principals, undertake professional development that ensures they are familiar with safety and employment advice and support. This should include:
- how to promote and monitor student safety as part of employment responsibilities, including knowledge of relevant legislation
- the importance of professional responsibility to the wider education sector, and not just the current school when employing and managing staff, and when providing professional references.
The Ministry and NZSTA should extend their board training programmes so that boards understand:
- their responsibility for safety and employment
- the Teachers Council’s mandatory reporting requirements.
Specific advice and guidance
ERO recommends that when dealing with concerns about school staff, the Ministry and NZSTA should recognise the importance of ensuring student safety is paramount in the guidance and support they provide for schools by:
- providing employment advice that includes how to ensure students are safe during and after an actual incident
- ensuring schools understand their responsibility to meet the requirement for mandatory reporting to the Teachers Council, when this needs to occur and the process
- encouraging schools to consider building their capability in safety and employment when ERO’s review has signalled a one-to-two year return time.
Next steps for NZSTA
ERO recommends that NZSTA should:
- consider developing a human resource database application for schools to monitor and update police vetting of non-teaching staff
- frequently remind schools about the requirement for, and application of, police vetting every three years.
ERO recommends that the NZSTA employment application form template be modified to include asking applicants:
- whether they have been the subject of any concerns involving student safety
- for permission to access any information held by the Teachers Council, including being under investigation
- for land‑line phone numbers for referees to check that the person does hold the position stated, is employed in the stated organisation, and is appropriate for providing a reference
- for a signed statement about any reason why they are not suitable to work with children/young people.
Next steps for Teachers Council
ERO recommends that the Teachers Council should:
- expand the registration information available to the public to include notes on any convictions and Disciplinary Tribunal findings, current school and the school where registration was last confirmed
- develop a system where potential employers can access information about concerns relevant to student safety
- clarify what is already thoroughly checked as part of registration and what schools need to find out themselves in carrying out qualification and police checks
- ensure registration is based on robust processes that employers can rely on
- provide greater clarity to schools about the purpose of, and when and how to use, the Registered Teacher Criteria for the renewal of teachers’ practising certificates
- consider modifying the national registration system so both boards and teachers are notified when teacher registrations are due for renewal.
Next steps for boards of trustees
The next steps for boards are detailed below. We have also included these steps under the relevant findings.
Balancing students' needs with concerns about staffRecruitment and appointment processes that emphasise keeping students safeBeyond the appointment: robustness of attestation, registration and police vettingResources to support trustees and principals
Balancing students' needs with concerns about staff
ERO recommends that boards recognise that students may be at risk from some staff and students must be kept safe while boards meet their obligation to be a ‘good employer’.
- recognise the importance of student wellbeing and carefully consider the implications for student safety when developing and reviewing policies and procedures associated with the National Administration Guideline 3 (employment and personnel matters)
- regularly review school policies, procedures and practices with the school community to ensure student wellbeing is effectively managed
- undertake school reviews after an incident at the school or at another school
- develop a definition with the school community about what ‘serious misconduct’ means
- keep a register of complaints and concerns about both in- and out-of-school behaviour in one place that can be considered by the board in committee.
Boards should ensure that the school has clear guidelines for students, teachers, parents, family and whānau so that they can see and understand both the preventative actions that ensure students are not put in risky situations, and the processes to ensure the student complainant’s welfare is the priority. The guidelines need to be clear about:
- safe out-of-school contact between students and staff
- the support that will be provided to students, parents, family and whānau after disclosure and while a complaint is being investigated
- actions, and a timeline for such actions, so the person who laid the complaint knows what will happen next and when
- how to support students when they return to school after making an allegation against a staff member (whether true, untrue or retracted).
Recruitment and appointment processes that emphasise keeping students safe
ERO recommends that key information about the background and suitability of applicants is collected as part of schools’ processes for appointing all staff (principals, teachers, and non-teaching staff).
Boards should ensure that their school’s appointment process includes:
- using the guidelines and application template from NZSTA
- asking applicants about convictions, any possible pending charges and any complaints concerning student safety
- asking applicants for consent to seek information from a wide range of people beyond the named referees
- ensuring that the referees are appropriate to provide the information the school is seeking
- a clear process when checking applicant’s background and performance by contacting more people, asking searching questions such as about any concerns related to student safety and reasons for leaving, and documenting responses
- formally checking people are who they say they are, such as through photo identity
- verifying qualifications.
Beyond the appointment: robustness of attestation, registration and police vetting
ERO recommends that schools develop rigorous and effective performance management practices around the use of the Registered Teacher Criteria to ensure the safety of their students.
ERO recommends schools review the risks associated with their range of volunteers who support school activities, and make active decisions about which roles need to be police vetted.
Boards’ knowledge and preparation for their role as employer (pp 41-47)
ERO recommends that principals and trustees have a shared understanding of what key information the principal will report to the board so the board can meet its responsibilities regarding employment and student safety.
This information should include:
- concerns raised about staff and the actions taken
- how the school will care for students during any investigation
- how parents will be involved during the complaint or incident investigation
- what is reported to the Teachers Council
- reviews of procedures, actions and outcomes.
For boards to be assured that suitable people work with students they should be provided with annual information related to registration, attestation and police vetting about:
- which teachers are due for registration (provisionally registered and registered teachers)
- teachers who have not met requirements for registration or attestation, the support being provided for these teachers, and outcome of the support
- the number of non-teaching staff and the number of school volunteers due for police vetting.
Information about appointments reported to the board should include:
- verification checks for the successful applicant
- the number of applications received, referee checks made, and costs for the process
- review of the process and any recommendations for improving the appointment process.
Resources to support trustees and principals
ERO recommends that schools meticulously and consistently follow the guidelines provided by the education agencies for recruiting and managing staff (listed in Appendix 1).
ERO recommends that boards collate employment related resources so that all trustees can easily access all relevant information.