Thousands of teachers get police checks
By LANE NICHOLS - The Dominion Post | Saturday, 25 October 2008

Thousands of teachers whose registration is due to lapse this year are undergoing police vetting checks and renewing practising certificates to prove they are still fit to work.

But the Teachers Council cannot be sure how many are working illegally, without proper registration, till a new data-sharing arrangement with the Education Ministry becomes law.

The three-year practising certificates of about 10,000 teachers are expected to lapse between the start of this month and January.

The Teachers Council estimated last year that up to 3500 unregistered teachers were working illegally. This meant they had not been police vetted or satisfied school leaders that they were still competent to lead classrooms - as required by law every three years.

But council director Peter Lind believed a campaign to remind teachers, principals and school boards of their legal requirements had cut the number of unregistered teachers significantly.

About 10,000 teachers have already applied for registration or to renew practising certificates in the three months to October 1.

Council officials have been working with teachers and their employers to ensure all have proper police and competency checks through the registration process.

There are about 90,000 New Zealand registered teachers.

"Boards of trustees and professional leaders have renewed their efforts to make sure systems are in place," Dr Lind said. "They have a responsibility to ensure that all teachers are lawfully employed."

But it was impossible to be sure how many teachers were still working illegally till a data sharing arrangement, letting council officials match ministry pay record data with teacher registration records, was passed into law.

The Education Amendment Bill has been tabled in Parliament and is thought likely to become law next year.

School boards or parents concerned about a teacher's registration status can make personal checks on the council's online public register.

The Education Amendment Bill proposes to reveal "an unknown number of unqualified people" teaching in primary and secondary schools.

"Those individuals will also be required to go through the police vetting procedure," the bill's explanatory note states.

"This will provide health and safety benefits for students while ensuring that all students are taught by suitably qualified teachers."

The bill, introduced by Education Minister Chris Carter, says that unregistered teachers are undermining the profession.

From here.