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Problems affecting ability to teach

Impairment: Problems affecting a teacher's ability to teach

If it emerges during the conduct or competence process that there may be a health or other issue—an “impairment”—affecting the teacher’s ability to teach, the Teaching Council will use a specific process for this. This impairment process is only used for teachers referred to it from the Complaints Assessment Committee, the Disciplinary Tribunal, or the competence process.

An “impairment” is anything about a teacher’s physical or mental health, or personality, that may negatively affect their ability to teach competently and safely. It could include, for example, an alcohol or drug addiction, a mental health condition like depression, or a personality trait like an anger problem.

In these cases the issue will go to the Teaching Council’s impairment process to assess whether, and how, the teacher’s ability to teach is affected, and what can be done about it. The Impairment Committee, or in some cases just the Impairment Chair, will report back with recommendations to the body that referred the problem to it.

The Impairment Committee’s assessment

The Committee will investigate to find out:

  • what the problem is and how it might affect the teacher’s ability to teach competently and safely
  • what the teacher has already done, or is planning to do, to deal with the problem—for example, treatment for a drug or alcohol problem
  • what precautions the school, or early childhood centre, might need to put in place
  • what help the teacher might need to teach competently and safely.

In some situations, the Chair may decide the full Impairment Committee isn’t needed and may instead prepare a report on the basis of the information already available.

To assess the problem the Impairment Committee may ask for a written report from a doctor or other health professional.

The Committee can also ask the teacher to have an assessment by a health professional. The teacher doesn’t have to agree to this. However, not doing so could prevent the Impairment Committee from completing its assessment and working with the teacher to make a recommendation to the referrer.

The teacher is entitled to see any report from a health professional. They also have the right to be present if a health professional, or other person, meets with the Impairment Committee.

What happens when the Impairment Committee has made its assessment?

The Impairment Committee will report back with recommendations to the group that referred the case to it—either the Complaints Assessment Committee, the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal, Professional Practice Evaluators or the Competence Authority.

Temporary measures for serious risks

The Impairment Committee can make an interim risk report back to the body that referred the issue on to it (the Complaints Assessment Committee for example), if it has reasonable grounds to believe the teacher’s impairment poses a serious risk to students, colleagues or the teacher.