Half the Otago schools reviewed by the Education Review
Office in a nationwide investigation last year were found to
be inadequately prepared to protect pupils from sex offenders
teaching in their classrooms.
The schools were part of a nationwide sample evaluated by ERO
at the request of the State Services Commission and the
Ministry of Education, following two recent inquiries into
the employment of sex offenders at schools.
ERO refused to say how many Otago schools were included in
the sample, but confirmed some schools from the region were
involved in the evaluation.
A report on the evaluation, titled Student Safety in Schools
- Recruiting and Managing Staff, found one in three New
Zealand schools did not have satisfactory practices for
appointing and managing staff which were designed to keep
pupils safe. It meant they were unlikely to recognise
situations when pupils could be at risk.
An ERO spokeswoman said its staff discussed the gap in
practices with the Otago schools identified as being
under-prepared, and advised them on how to strengthen their
ERO evaluation services manager Stephanie Greaney said school
boards and leaders had a key role to play in pupils' safety.
''Our findings highlight that although all trustees and
school leaders agreed that student safety is paramount, some
schools need to increase their commitment to students' safety
when employing and managing staff.
''In addition, education agencies need to actively support
schools by making sure advice and regulation ... about what
is required is easy for school trustees to find and
Mrs Greaney said ERO had made recommendations for schools and
education agencies in the report, and included questions
which boards could use to review and improve their own
Information for the report had been gathered from online
surveys completed by principals and boards of trustees
chairmen, from scheduled reviews of 173 schools with
primary-age pupils, and from focused reviews of 27 secondary
Ministry of Education sector enablement and support head
Katrina Casey said pupil safety was a top priority for the
ministry, and concern was shared by schools, their boards of
trustees and the New Zealand School Trustees Association.
''We are looking closely at this week's report by ERO into
student safety, and are taking some additional action in
light of it.
''Now that ERO has released the report, we are writing to all
schools, clarifying guidance on their procedures for
recruiting and managing staff and offering ... support.''
Ms Casey said a lot of work had been done since ERO carried
out the survey a year ago, and there was also action on all
the recommendations contained in the `Person A' Inquiry
Report in 2012.
''The powers of the body that registers and undertakes
vetting procedures have been strengthened, and there is a new
code of conduct for the education profession and automatic
referral of serious misconduct to its disciplinary tribunal.
''Teachers receive advice on what makes a child vulnerable
and how they can be helped, as part of their initial
A Bill is before Parliament to create a consistent approach
to vetting and screening.