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Tag: professionalism

Talk-ED: A bad apple for a teacher isn't good enough


The issue was building over the past couple of weeks.

Teachers who behaved unprofessionally and put young people at risk through their actions were being accorded high levels of protection through name suppression.  The same is said of the occasional doctor and lawyer but the issue here seemed to be that name suppression was being continued after the matter had been resolved by the Teachers Council even if the complaint was found to have substance.

The Teachers Council, this became the target.  I wondered whether it was because it was a Teachers Council rather than a Teaching Council that invited such constructions being placed on the issue.  After all the Law Society is not in name a “Lawyers Society” and nor is the Medical Council a “Doctors Council”.  And any entity that is made up in part of representatives of organisations whose existence is based on a mission of representing teachers will always be struggling to be seen dispensing justice even handedly.

But into the midst of these discussions comes Minister Bennett’s “security checks” on all public servants which includes teachers every three years.  To be conducted by the police they will lead to instant dismissal for any public servant whose record is not clean.  What does this mean?  Will that lead to a situation that means that a lower standard of evidence than that required by the courts will be enough to mete out serious punishment?  And what will constitute “failing” the security check.

All the wicked people who have already disgraced the profession through reprehensible behaviour and been found to have done so by the courts have presumably passed the checks that have already been made.  The imprimatur of registration has been no guarantee of safety for all students.  Will Minister Bennett’s three yearly checks be of a higher standard than those applied in the past?

The three yearly timeframe for the checks introduces a new element but what would change in a three year period that would not be before the courts or known to the police.  Surely the line needs to be drawn and efficient processes put in place to see that these ratbags are not in schools and anywhere near children for a minute longer once their proclivities and actions are known.

That raises the issue of reporting.  It seems to be something of a theme in many cases that “suspicions” were held and even raised, the issue was known and had led to a warning being given.  In the recent sickening case in Kaitaia all of these factors had been present and add to them the fact that the police had had their attention drawn to it but could not act “because they did not have the “evidence”.  More young people it seems needed to be sacrificed to get a case going.

The ones most likely to be able to stop such activity would be those working with the perpetrator.  In short, teachers are really the first line of defence against such activity.  If we accept people into the profession as fellow professionals then we should expect them to behave professionally.  That should mean that mischievous, vexatious and frivolous complaints would not surface.  It should also mean that the profession is confident about raising issues such as these with the leadership secure in the knowledge that they would be taken seriously and acted upon seriously and expeditiously.  Professionals must feel safe in exposing unprofessional behaviour if the very professionalism that drives them is to mean anything.

So the answer is probably not in Minister Bennett’s triennial trawl through the ranks but in our own behaviour in ensuring that we are prepared to stand up to stop activity that we know to be wrong or we think might be putting young people at risk.  School leadership and different community agencies have the skills to do something about it.

Education has to work for the good press that it gets.  The events of the past week or so have reflected poorly on us all.  Our personal offence should be such that we will act and have a system where the safety of our young is assured.


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Pathways-ED: Turning Pro! A Reviewed Teachers Council

Stuart Middleton
24 August 2012


The review of the Teachers Council is timely as another teacher indecency case hits the headlines – about the only time the Teachers Council has a public profile.

I have long argued that teaching in  New Zealand will never achieve true professional status until it had control over entry standards to teaching, a system of maintaining a disciplined system with members observing high standards within the framework of a code of ethics.

The Teachers Council on its establishment looks a little as if it might achieve this but it hasn’t.

I have noted over a long period that bodies brought together that consist of representatives of other organisations seldom achieve effective levels of activity. There is a good reason for this. A group made up of representatives of other organisations is simply a random collection of people. The Teachers Council agenda becomes distorted by the agendas that the members of the Council bring with them.

Members of the teachers Council should be a mix of professional educators of great experience and of considerable standing in the community appointed or perhaps even elected through an electoral college system

The question of entry standards into the profession is a key matter for such a body. Having determined a set of standards for entry they should then apply them at the point of entry. It is an absurdity that the Teachers Council gets involved in initial teacher education programmes. They should be approved by CUAP or by NZQA and the only question with regard to programmes should be whether the candidate for entry into the profession has undertaken such an approved course. There will of course be other critieria I would hope that go beyond mere training.

The registration process is cumbersome. The provisional registration system is simply a bit of nostalgia from the old days of the inspectors who would finally give the stamp of  approval. The process for re-registration should be the confirmation standards and should be rigorous for all teachers.

Re-registration should not be the tick-the-box process that it has become. It should be a point at which we should show the professional development that has been undertaken (the qualtity of which might well be laid down), the refresher training that is required (perhaps every 10 years), the meeting of expectations for improved qualifications, and suchlike. This all seems to me to be part of the professional requirements of being a professional within a profession.

The Teachers Council might also be supported by an Education Commission (along the lines of the Law Commission) that could provide professional advice and commentary on the system and its performance – an ongoing source which would continually nourish the system with ideas and challenges.

The Teachers Council might sponsor a set of Teaching Excellence Awards – perhaps under the aegis of a charitable trust in the way the UK does.

In other words the Teachers Council review must lift the level at which the Council works so that it is able to provide leadership to the profession of teaching.

And that raises a final question. What is the “Teaching Profession”. Well, it is certainly those who teach in the early childhood and schooling sector. But what about the tertiary sector? I think not in general terms but as the boundary between secondary and tertiary education becomes very “jagged”, to use the PPTA term, and students are not so easily identified as “secondary” or “tertiary” there are questions (which is not the same as “issues”) about who should teach.

Finally, where do the costs of a Teachers Council come from? They come from the same place that other professionals pay – our pockets. The difference is the capacity of legal and medical professional to pass the costs on to their businesses. No doubt there would be a discussion about this!

Teaching has an opportunity now to realise professional status through a revised Teachers Council that could itself achieve a level of professionalism that has eluded teacher organisations and principals associations.



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Pathway-ED: Education is none of your business!

Stuart Middleton
31 August 2011

I’ve got a committee – oh what a pity!

I have heard of all kinds of silliness that cluster around committees but I think New Zealand took the cake the other day when a committee representing key education groups assembled in New Zealand over the weekend. And the lofty purpose of this committee?

To draw up a list of education matters that no government should attempt to get involved with and which must be left entirely to the education professionals of the land.

In case you are not sure what this means let me put it simply and in a number of ways. On certain matters in education the professionals want to tell the government to butt out, to leave it to them, to mind their own business Above all the message is:  LEAVE IT TO US! WE KNOW WHAT WE‘RE DOING!

Let us put to one side the small matter of democratically elected governments and their right to govern. Let us ignore the fact that the government bank-rolls education. Let us forget for the sake of the argument that those who work in education are generally public servants employed ultimately by the state.

Now I have no idea just who was in this group and who they spoke for other than themselves and I have yet to see the list they came up with never mind that, the very idea of it is arrogant, flawed and an abrogation of professionalism

If governments represent the people then it is the people who are the parents and caregivers, the people who are employers, the people who pay the taxes not only for education salaries but also for the social cost of failure. It is also the people who are school students, tertiary students, second chance learners. Governments have every right to engage with educational matters and with the consequences of education operations.

Well, you might ask, why a government wants to be involved. Well there is a series of links between education, skills, employment and economic growth. Without the effective outcomes of a well-functioning education system, economic growth is not a possibility. Nor is a socially cohesive society or a healthy community. I would have thought that education is Numero Uno when it comes to government concerns and if it isn’t, we should be asking why.

If it were not for government involvement it is unlikely that universal education to primary levels, then to secondary levels and finally to postsecondary levels would not have been achieved. Would all schools regardless of the socio-economic status of its catchment get a fair go if it were not for the intervention of the government in the allocation of resources? Would we have moved towards qualifications reform without the involvement of the government? Would our curriculum reflect some of the key concerns such as biculturalism were it not for governments?

So rather than think that a List of Things We Know Best will protect the professionalism of teaching, it would surely be better to aspire to the key markers of a profession many of which have been achieved over periods of time by others such as the medical profession, the legal profession. And what are those markers?

A profession is an essential and valued service in which professionals dispense that service to high ethical standards, with a concern for others and to the best of their ability. A profession is self-regulating has degree of control over admission to the profession and over the sanctions and processes by which recalcitrant members are hauled into line. Above all, professions have appropriately high standards for the effective delivery of the service whether it be quality health care, rigorous defence and prosecution, sound engineering standards and execution or high levels of educational success.

How much better it might have been to spend the weekend on addressing the question of the extent to which education as a profession measures up rather than telling others to keep their noses out of it.

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