29 Jan 2014

Call for schools to reassure parents

8:39 pm on 29 January 2014

There has been a call for schools to let parents know what they are doing to protect pupils against teaching staff who might be sexual predators.

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Photo: 123RF

An Education Review Office report released on Tuesday warned that a third of the 200 schools it surveyed in 2013 were at risk of hiring or failing to detect staff members who could pose a danger to students.

The report is based on reviews of 200 schools early in 2013 and surveys of nearly 350 principals and board of trustees' chairpersons.

The ERO cautioned that some schools had still not acted to improve safety policies despite high-profile inquiries into sex offences by teacher James Parker and Henry Te Rito Miki, who pretended to be a qualified teacher.

Ced Simpson, chairman of the board of trustees at Wilford School in Lower Hutt, says schools should be informing parents about policies and systems they have in place to safeguard pupils.

"Because this is a particular issue of concern I suppose at the moment, it wouldn't do any harm for schools to reassure parents about the checks that they run."

One Auckland high school principal says many schools are reluctant to talk to parents about sexual predation because they're "gun-shy" about bad publicity.

Ignorance of employment law 'alarming'

A former head of the Education Review Office has described school trustees' ignorance of employment law as alarming.

Judith Aitken was one of the authors of a ministerial Inquiry into sex offender Henry Te Rito Miki, who stole identities to trick employers into thinking he was a teacher.

Ms Aitken told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme the study says 40 percent of trustees have had no training on employment law. She said it is disappointing that the report says it's early days for trustees, despite the model operating for 25 years.

Education Minister Hekia Pararta said schools should already be improving their practices.

"This review was done in term one of 2013, since when these processes have been overhauled, since when we have invested fourteen and a half million dollars into the New Zealand School Trustee Association and made these employment practices a priority."