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Code of ethics for teachers important

Code of ethics for teachers important

(Speech to the Teachers Council Summit, Victoria University, Wellington)

Thank you for inviting me to open your summit, with its important mission of working towards a code of ethics for teachers.

This is the first major gathering hosted by the Council and I hope it will be the first of many.

The business of the day is to begin work on developing a code of ethics for teachers. This is one of the Council’s functions under the Education Standards Act.

It’s clear by the interest you have shown in attending today’s summit and by the range and calibre of speakers that this is an issue dear to many people’s hearts.

This should be no surprise.

We have at hand a range of codes that the teacher unions produced some years ago. There is also the substantial work done by the Teacher Registration Board in bringing these codes together and in consulting widely with stakeholder groups.

We have models to follow from a range of professions.

Many education academics and researchers have been wrestling with the notion of professional ethics for many years.

But we have never had one mandated code of ethics that encompasses teachers throughout the education system.

So this is a significant and auspicious day.

At the heart of it lies the real purpose of education for children and young people – to give our future citizens the best possible start in life and learning.

We all know that the Council has been a long time coming – and getting to where we are today has demanded a heap of hard work and input from lots of people and organisations.

Many of you were involved in the consultation process and in the transition of the Teacher Registration Board to the Council.

The delay in getting the Bill before Parliament was unfortunate, with everyone geared up for a July 2001 start.

However, the Council has been up and running for just over a year now.

Everyone is looking to it to be a professional voice for teachers as well as the body dealing with nuts and bolts issues like provisional registration, registration, disciplinary issues and teacher competence.

The Council will have its work cut out for it in striking the balance between maintaining its core business of registration, and making progress with educational and professional issues.

A period of uncertainty over just where the Council can best make a contribution to these issues is therefore inevitable.

Professional development of teachers is a good case in point.

One aspect of the Council’s new role I know it is keen to embrace is helping to provide educational leadership to teachers and others involved in schools and early childhood education.

To bring together the different voices of teaching, it will have to get alongside other education agencies and institutions.

It will have to reach out to unions and individual teachers.

This will be no small challenge but it is one the Council must grasp with both hands to fulfil the high expectations both government and the sector have for it.

Getting this issue right will also help establish the Council as a professional voice of influence.

The Council has taken over the registration functions of the Teacher Registration Board and this is the core and foundation of its work.

Many teachers will have dealings with the Council at this level.

This highlights the paramount importance of getting this function to run smoothly, without causing teachers unnecessary grief.

I have been disappointed to date that so many teachers seem to have experienced problems when seeking registration or re-registration.

I am not at all happy that so many teachers had such a difficult introduction to the 2003 school year.

I trust that these are teething problems.

Some of you have made submissions to the Education and Science Select Committee, currently seeking a review of teacher education

Many submissions have highlighted the Council’s central role here in shaping standards.

We all know the sector is a bit grumpy about the variable quality of graduates emerging from different teacher education programmes.

This will be another powerful role for the Council.

Standards for teacher registration will help determine whether programmes get the go ahead.

As you know, I introduced the teacher education moratorium in 2000 to deal with the proliferation of providers and the concerns about the quality of some programmes and graduates.

Once the Council has shaped its registration standards and feeds these into the approval processes, things should be looking a lot better.

I trust the day’s deliberations will be fruitful, not only for the development of the code of ethics, but in positioning the Council in its professional role with the teaching profession.

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