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Screening of teachers an urgent priority

Screening an urgent priority

September 11, 2012

A mentoring organisation with 10 years’ experience in screening male mentors says the Secondary Principals’ Association and Teachers’ Council call for more rigorous screening of teachers is well overdue.

Big Buddy CEO Richard Aston says the 360 degree screening process they have developed in consultation with psychologists is world-leading and capable of weeding out people who are not sexually safe.

Since 1997, Big Buddy has screened over 500 male volunteers to make sure they are safe before they are matched with fatherless boys.

“Good screening techniques are available in New Zealand, right here - right now,” says Richard Aston. “There is no excuse for teacher training institutions and schools not using them. It is simply negligent.”

“Unfortunately for children, no-one is prepared to put the right resources into setting up a national screening programme that would protect them from sexual predators. Not the Teachers’ Council; not the educational institutions that train teachers and not the Government that has ultimate responsibility for protecting children.”

The call follows two high-profile cases of teachers being convicted for sexual offences against pupils – both over a number of years. Last month a Northland school deputy principal pleaded guilty to 49 charges of sexual attacks on boys under 16, carried out over 8 years.

James Parker was convicted the same week a ministerial inquiry was released on how convicted child sex offender Te Rito Henry Miki managed to work in six North Island schools for five years using a fake CV and birth certificate.

Secondary Principals’ Association president Patrick Walsh says there needs to be more testing of a person’s readiness and maturity to teach “but how you go about testing that I’m not sure”. Peter Lind, director of the Teachers’ Council, echoed these concerns, saying there needs to be in-depth interviewing of individuals selected onto teacher training programmes and who gets employed in schools.

Richard Aston says the time for action on screening is now. “It’s time everyone stopped wringing their hands and talking about screening. If Big Buddy can do it, so can others. Ask us how.”

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