The Complaints Assessment Committee and the conduct process
When the Education Council’s Triage Committee has done an initial assessment of a report, or complaint, about a teacher, it can refer the issue to our Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC).
Investigators working on behalf of the CAC will investigate and assess whether there’s been misconduct. However, 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 it finds there may have been serious misconduct, the CAC has to refer the case to the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal. (To find out about the Tribunal, click here.)
Despite its name, the CAC mainly deals with conduct issues raised through mandatory reports by schools, and early childhood centres, and through reports of criminal convictions. It can also consider issues raised through complaints.
The Complaints Assessment Committee’s investigation and decision-making: The process
When an issue goes to the CAC, it is first assigned to an investigator, who investigates on behalf of the CAC.
The teacher is told of the investigation and what the next steps will be. During the investigation, the teacher is given a chance to comment on the information the investigator has been given, and to provide any relevant evidence to the investigator. The teacher’s current employer will also be informed.
The investigator writes a report when they’ve finished. A copy of the report is given to the teacher, who’s also given an opportunity to comment on the report.
Next, the issue is assigned to one of the Complaints Assessment Committee’s panels, which if possible will be near to where the teacher lives.
The CAC panel will consider the investigator’s report and the teacher’s response to it. Its meetings can be in person or by phone or video conference. However, the teacher can ask to appear in front of the CAC in person, and the Committee can’t unreasonably refuse to allow this.
Once it has made its decision, the Complaints Assessment Committee will notify:
- the teacher
- the teacher’s current employer, and
- the person who made the original report or complaint (if this wasn’t the employer).
What action can the Complaints Assessment Committee take?
The CAC can do one or more of the following:
- Further investigation – If the CAC needs more information it can refer the issue back to the investigator.
- Referral to Disciplinary Tribunal – The CAC can, at any time, refer the case to the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal. However, if it thinks serious misconduct was involved it must refer the case to the Tribunal. In this case, the teacher will be sent a notice explaining exactly what the charge against them is.
- Agreements around less serious misconduct – If the CAC finds there’s been misconduct, but not serious misconduct, it can reach an agreement with the teacher, and the person who made the original report or complaint, that the CAC will:
censure the teacher (a formal telling-off)
- place conditions on the teacher’s practising certificate or authority to teach—for example, that they must be supervised or do some professional development
- suspend the teacher for a time or until they’ve met some specific conditions
- annotate the online Teachers’ Register by recording a brief note against the teacher’s registration or authority to teach—this is usually done as an additional step to publicly note the censure, conditions or other disciplinary measures imposed, or
- direct the Education Council to put specific conditions on any future practising certificate the teacher is given.
- Competence review – If the CAC thinks the conduct process has raised issues about the teacher’s competence, it can refer the case to a Competence Assessor. (For the competence process, click here.)
- Impairment – If the CAC thinks a health or other issue could be affecting the teacher’s work, it can refer the teacher to an impairment process. The purpose will be to assess the problem and work out what help the teacher might need to deal with it. (For the impairment process, click here.)
- No further action – The CAC can also decide to take no further action if it thinks this is appropriate.