Establishing a Competence Authority

The Education Council is the professional organisation for teachers. Its purpose is to ensure safe and high quality leadership, teaching and learning for children and young people. The governing board of the Education Council currently considers competence complaints where cancellation of a teacher’s registration, practising certificate or Limited Authority to Teach (LAT) is being considered.

The Education (Update) Amendment Bill (the Bill) proposes to amend the Education Act 1989 (the Act) to establish a Competence Authority to consider complaints regarding teachers’ professional competence.

The aim of these changes would be to:

  1. have competence complaints dealt with by professional leaders who have expertise in relation to teachers’ competence
  2. have competence complaints dealt with in an appropriate timeframe
  3. enable the governing board of the Education Council to spend more time on the full range of their statutory responsibilities
  4. clearly differentiate between conduct and competence complaints processes - the focus of the competence process is on rehabilitation, whereas the conduct process is focused on discipline
  5. ensure appropriate processes are established for considering competence complaints, including appropriate checks and balances.

The Competence Authority would be established in the Act and would deal with complaints regarding teachers’ competence where cancellation is being considered, or where agreement on a course of action cannot be reached with the teacher concerned.  As is currently the case with the Education Council’s Disciplinary Tribunal, the Authority would have the power to order cancellation of a teacher’s practising certificate, registration or Limited Authority to Teach (LAT), if satisfied that the teacher has not attained the required level of competence.

Further information

Why is a Competence Authority being established?

The Education Council meets two days a month, a full day of which was spent reviewing competence cases. This was not an efficient way to deal with the number of complaints being received. As a result, a Competence Authority was established in the Education Council’s rules, which came into force in July 2016.

Because of the proposed Competence Authority power to order cancellation, the Council and the Ministry now consider that the Competence Authority should be established through primary legislation, as opposed to Rules.  This would be consistent with the arrangements for the disciplinary bodies of the Education Council (the Disciplinary Tribunal and the Complaints Assessment Committee).   

The proposed Competence Authority established in the Bill would, like the Authority established in rules, have panels, which would include professional leaders with expertise in teacher competence and in the relevant sector, who would meet to consider cases as needed, rather than waiting for Council meeting times. This would improve the timeframes in which competence complaints are resolved. It would also free up Council meeting time, enabling the Council to focus on the full range of its professional leadership functions. Having a specialist body would ensure that appropriate processes are established for considering competence complaints, and that the rehabilitative focus of the competence process is kept separate from the disciplinary focus of the conduct process.

How many competence cases does the Council receive?

In the 2014/2015 year 119 complaints were referred to the competence team, with 90 of these reaching competence outcomes (a competence outcome means a signed agreement is reached or the Council makes a decision). This is a small proportion of the 101,000-plus teachers that are registered with the Council.

When would the changes come into effect?

The Competence Authority is currently established through the Education Council Rules 2016. The Rules would need to be updated to reflect the change to the Act, and this would happen within 12 months of the Bill coming into force.

Who would these changes affect?

The Competence Authority established in the Act would only be dealing with cases of competence where cancellation is being considered or where agreement on a course of action cannot be reached with the teacher concerned. These cases are currently dealt with by the governing board of the Education Council or by the Competence Authority (established in the Education Council Rules), depending on whether cancellation is sought and when the complaint or report was received. There would be no change to the process that a competence complaint must go through to be referred to the competence authority and there would be no changes for teachers, schools, centres or boards, other than that serious complaints should be resolved in a timelier manner.

Would this reduce the time it takes for competence complaints to be completed?

As the council was only spending one day a month on competence cases referred to them, it was taking a significant amount of time for a complaint to be resolved. An important change will include the ability of panels of the Competence Authority to convene when necessary to consider competence complaints. This should reduce the time taken for the process.

What would the appointment process and composition of the Competence Authority be?

The Education Council has already appointed a group of experienced practitioners to the Competence Authority established under the Education Council’s rules. We have recommended that the Competence Authority established in the Act should also be predominantly composed of registered teachers from the ECE, primary and secondary sectors with current practising certificates, but unlike the Competence Authority in the Act, must also include lay members. As with the Disciplinary Tribunal, all members would be appointed by the Education Council with lay members being selected from a list prepared by the Minister, in consultation with the Education Council, of people who are not teachers, employers, or members of an employer organisation.

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