Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced this week a Ministerial inquiry into the employment of a convicted sex offender in schools.
The employment came to light when the person was arrested while allegedly in breach of the conditions of release. The inquiry will look at how, and the specific means by which, the person was able to exploit opportunities in the system as well as how the system can be strengthened to prevent this recurrence.
It appears the person had worked at more than one school.
"The schools that were immediately affected have been notified. School communities have been informed and the Ministry of Education is actively working with those schools. It is possible that several other schools have also been affected,'' Ms Parata says.
Could a convicted sex offender gain employment in the early childhood sector? If it's possible in the school sector it is possible in the early childhood sector.
The Ministerial inquiry is a wake-up call to all employers in the wider education and early childhood sectors to ensure they have had a recent full police vetting check done on every person whether an employee or other person such as an independent contractor or a volunteer who may come into the service to work with children (e.g. to provide a music or physical education programme). Employers should personally cite the police vetting information before approving the person's employment or participation.
Employers can use police vetting as one way to help protect young children from any risks posed by people who may have displayed bad behaviour detrimental to others' safety and wellbeing.
Employers in the early childhood sector may also consider requesting a family violence report as part of the vetting check as this may include information about behaviour of a violent or sexual nature that may not have resulted in a criminal conviction.
Criminal conviction information is released in accordance with the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004 and does not by itself provide all the required information. A person's reasons for leaving previous employment should be looked into by the prospective employer or early childhood service, along with any gaps in employment history.
An early childhood service may request a person to provide a copy of their criminal record – similar to a "police clearance certificate" that other countries have. If in doubt it may be possible for an early childhood organisation to request a copy of a person's criminal record as a third party from the Ministry of Justice Privacy Unit in Wellington.