New bill to offer teachers ‘legal certainty’ on Teaching Council fees

A High Court decision on the fee setting powers of the council drove the drafting of the legislation

New bill to offer teachers ‘legal certainty’ on Teaching Council fees

The New Zealand government has introduced a new bill that will offer teachers “legal certainty” regarding the status of fees collected by the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand, an independent professional regulatory body that represents early childhood education, primary and secondary school teachers in English and Māori medium schools.

Entitled the Education and Training (Teaching Council Fees) Amendment Bill, the legislation outlines “the scope of the fees the council can charge for registration and practicing certificates for early childhood, primary, and secondary school teachers,” according to a media release by Education Minister Chris Hipkins.

“This bill provides legal certainty to teachers and the council on the status of fees that have currently and previously been collected. It will make the council’s fee-setting powers consistent with other self-funding professional regulatory bodies,” Hipkins said.

The bill was drafted following a High Court decision regarding limits on the Teaching Council’s fee-setting powers. This year, the body had sought to drive up practising certificates’ base fee from $220.80 for a three-year certificate to $157 for an annual certificate – a move that Wellington’s High Court shot down in June.

Hipkins said that the amendments address “a technical error” in the Education and Training Act 2020.

“The council is expected to operate on a fully self-funded basis, but is only explicitly authorised under the Education and Training Act 2020 to recover some of its costs through the fees it charges teachers. This is not intentional – rather, a technical error in the legislation, which the amendment corrects,” Hipkins explained.

He outlined the following ways in which the Education and Training (Teaching Council Fees) Amendment Bill helps the Teaching Council sustain itself financially:

  • allows the council to retain fees received from 1 February 2021, and to use them as part-payment towards the previous (now current) fees
  • validates any decisions the council or its predecessor organisations took prior to 2020 in setting fees,
  • enables the council to charge a fee and require payment in instalments
  • allows the council to recover debts for unpaid fees

“These changes will help the Teaching Council maintain its financial sustainability, while performing its essential functions: ensuring the quality of teaching and safety of learners, while giving certainty to teachers,” Hipkins said.

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