The Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand has been operating for just over a year now, after taking the place of the New Zealand Teachers Council in November 2015, after much debate about its independence.
The notion of a new statutory independent body for teachers was raised in 2010 with the Education Workforce Advisory Group Report. In 2013, the release of the 2013 Ministerial Advisory Group report outlined its recommendations for the replacement for Teachers Council.
Along the way there has been widespread consultation, a huge number of submissions and much discussion about what a new professional body for teachers should look like.
The new council set out to improve teacher registration, enhance reporting requirements, and provide a greater range of options when dealing with disciplinary matters.
It would also see the separation of registration (which recognises membership of the profession) and practising certificates (which are focused on assessing ongoing competence of teachers) as another change, and one that was welcomed by the sector.
Similarly, the move to strengthen the disciplinary framework by opening its proceedings to enable matters to be investigated on its own motion, as well as developing a Code of Conduct, has been generally well received, however some doubt was cast over whether the new legislation will be any better at identifying offending teachers.
Decisions regarding appointments to the Education Council attracted most concern. The decision for all appointments to be made by the Minister through a combination of sector nominations and direct appointments was heavily criticised.
The teacher unions were particularly indignant at the Bill’s proposal to remove the right of teachers to directly elect their own professional body and many felt this was a ‘missed opportunity’ to create a truly independent professional council.
John Morris was chair of the transition board, a move that was questioned by the PPTA. The union felt that as Morris was a public advocate for performance pay, he would use his position to introduce these measures. However, the Minister felt any conflicts could be managed and Morris himself said the transition board had no role in policy-making.
In 2015, Barbara Ala’alatoa was appointed chair of the council, and Dr Graham Stoop appointed chief executive.
In November 2016, after the Education Council had been operating for one year, the Ministry announced that it would receive a funding injection of $21.34 million. The Minister declared that the council had inherited an "unsustainable financial position" from Teachers Council yet has a much broader remit.
The funding gives the Education Council a specific timeframe to establish the full cost of delivering all its functions as a professional body for teachers and to work out how it will become financially independent from government.
By July 2017 the Education Council will need to show the Government how it plans to increase its revenue and become financially self-sufficient by July 2019.
More coverage in Education Review:
Sun sets on Teachers Council: www.educationreview.co.nz/magazine/december-2013/sun-sets-on-teachers-council/#.WCuObWee3IU