yelling at childWhen an early learning centre manager and an assistant team leader admitted to many charges of grossly mistreating children in their care during a two-year period, the Teachers Council disciplinary tribunal allowed them to keep their practising certificates.

The charges against the centre manager included screaming at children to stop their crying after parents left the centre, holding back a child's head to shove stew in the child's mouth, and permitting other staff to use the assistant team leader for the purposes of threatening and disciplining children.

Force feeding of children, yelling at children, hitting a child with a ball to get the child's attention, rough-handling children, confining children to a closed door room alone as punishment were just some of the things the assistant team leader did. 

The behaviour of both teachers amounted to 'serious misconduct' the Teachers Council (Education Council) disciplinary tribunal said in its written decision . 

The centre manager may not work in a management capacity again for a period of three years and the assistant team leader is asked to undergo a course on behaviour management and be supervised in her teaching for a period of two or three years.  

But locking a child in a room for punishment rates at the extreme of unacceptable practice according to 96.5% of people in the early childhood sector surveyed by the ChildForum National Early Childhood Network this year. Verbally abusing children is also at the top end of seriousness according 93% of people. (Click here to view the survey findings)

It is a sad fact that the tribunal supports these teachers to continue to work in the sector as early childhood teaching professionals.

A course on behaviour management may make no difference to a teacher who has already undergone full training and has been working in the field for some years having already been signed off as competent to teach by a mentor after the initial period of provisional registration.  

While every early childhood service should do a thorough check of an applicants past employment, not all do.

The Teachers Council disciplinary tribunal decision is this case shows that there are still inadequate protections in place to ensure the safety of young children from abuse and mistreatment in early childhood centres.  

And the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office are not helping enough either.  

When complaints of a serious nature against a centre are upheld by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Education keeps everyone in the dark by refusing to publish the centre's name and inform parents and the public of what has happened.   

ERO published a glowing report about the Te Oriwa Early Learning Centre where the 2 teachers worked at the time, failing to pick up that a culture of mistreatment of children existed at the centre during its pre-announced review.  ERO reported:  "high standards of care and protection are provided for all children", and the centre "is very well positioned to promote and sustain successful learning outcomes for children."

The written decision of the Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal (NZTDT 2014/46 & 47) is available from the NZ Teaches Council's website.

We don't agree with the Tribunal's decision to allow the teachers to keep their practising certificates. Sadly, for the children who have suffered the only positive outcome is that the teachers have been named. 

Some reactions

Dawn Trenberth 2014-11-30
Something needs to happen to prevent this.
The regulations don't seem to protect children. Perhaps what needs to happen is the way teachers are viewed. We need responsibility and professionalism not mindless accountability and making sure the paperwork is all up to date.
In the interim we need random and unsolicited Ministry of Education visits.

Ngaire Gilbert 2014-12-18
I find this article not only disturbing but the length of time that children were in an aggressive environment. Parents must feel awful that they have had their precious children in this situation. I can’t believe that this behavior was by the manager and team leader. I feel strongly that they should never ever teach again, why should they have rights?