Education Minister John Gardner is seeking to crack down on what he describes as a loophole in the current Teacher Registration Act, which allows teachers convicted of serious criminal offences including rape, murder or drug dealing to retain their teacher registration while court proceedings and disciplinary inquiries are underway.
Under the existing provisions, if the Teacher Registration Board becomes aware of serious charges laid against a teacher, it may need to wait for the outcome of court action before it can commence its disciplinary process.
According to the State Government, this means that while a teacher convicted of a crime would be stood down from their current employment, they could potentially seek employment in a different school.
Gardner said proposed amendments to the Teacher Registration Act would allow the Board to immediately suspend the registration of a teacher or vary a teacher’s registration if they were convicted with a prescribed offence.
“Our teachers’ registration process rightly requires high professional standards and demands that teachers registered in South Australia are not only competent educators, but are also fit and proper persons to have the care of children,” he said.
“However, the Teachers Registration Board has brought it to the Government’s attention that current provisions in the Act potentially allow teachers to present themselves as suitable for employment in a school setting, despite being the subject of serious criminal charges relevant to the safety of children.
“We believe that teachers facing serious charges should not remain on the register while these matters are being finalised.”
Former Education Minister and current chair of the Teachers Registration Board, Jane Lomax-Smith, said she expected the proposed amendments would be welcomed by school communities and the “overwhelming majority” of teachers.
She said the board consulted with a range of stakeholders about the changes including teacher representative bodies, principals, unions, parent groups and teacher training providers.
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