Queensland teachers in firing line of hundreds of conduct complaints

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Queensland teachers in firing line of hundreds of conduct complaints

By Felicity Caldwell

Hundreds of complaints about the behaviour of teachers, including allegations of harm to children, were made in Queensland last year, even though students learnt from home for weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Queensland College of Teachers, which is responsible for the registration of more than 110,000 teachers, revealed a spike in complaints about professional conduct and discipline in 2020.

The Queensland College of Teachers is the regulatory body responsible for the registration of teachers.

The Queensland College of Teachers is the regulatory body responsible for the registration of teachers.Credit:Shutterstock

Employers made 610 notifications about teacher conduct in 2020, almost double those of the previous year (329), with nine reports related to competence.

Bosses must notify the college when they start and stop dealing with an allegation of harm caused or likely to be caused to a child because of the conduct of a teacher, and when a teacher is fired as a result of their level of competence.

In total, 865 disciplinary matters were received in 2020 – up 60 per cent.

The college suspended the registration of 33 teachers after they were charged with serious offences or posed an unacceptable risk of harm to children.

Serious offences can include child-related sexual offences or possessing child exploitation material.

Five teachers’ registrations were cancelled after they were convicted of serious offences.

All Queensland students were required to learn from home from April 20 to mid-May unless they were the child of an essential worker or considered vulnerable.

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There were 111,175 approved teachers in Queensland at the end of last year, with almost 7000 new applications for approval to teach received.

Only 64 applications were refused, with reasons including a failure to meet requirements of the suitability to teach criminal history check, qualifications, or English language proficiency.

Another 105 applications were withdrawn.

During 2020, 3793 teachers had their registration cancelled or removed from the register for reasons including non-payment of their annual fees, not applying for renewal, voluntarily surrendering registration, or they died.

Almost four in five teachers were women, half were aged 45 or older, and 17 per cent were 60 or older.

Almost 70 per cent of approved teachers were employed in permanent or long-term temporary teaching positions in Queensland schools.

Others were working as relief teachers, were on extended leave, or in education-related positions outside schools, such as curriculum development.

About two-thirds were in state schools and one-third in non-state schools, which has remained constant in recent years.

In 2020, the college received 479 applications from teachers with overseas qualifications, including from Britain, South Africa and New Zealand – a 15 per cent decrease owing to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The college also granted permission to teach to 211 people who were not registered teachers, with subject areas including design and technologies, English, maths, health and physical education, and science.

In its latest annual report, the college said its audits of school and university records indicated it was effective in ensuring only registered teachers were employed in teaching duties at schools or in supervising student teachers in schools.

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The college is also investigating how to remain financially viable in the long term, given its income stream is mostly reliant on teacher registration fees and it has an “ageing register of teachers”.

Meanwhile, even without the added challenges of a global pandemic, the college noted 2020 would have been an especially busy year as it was a “renewal year”.

It was the one year in every five when the largest cohort of fully registered teachers – more than 50,000 – were due to renew their registration.

It was also the first full year the college delivered its added function of certification of “highly accomplished and lead teachers”.

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