The purpose of an investigation is to gather relevant information about concerns in relation to a teacher and to determine appropriate disciplinary responses.

Our initial communication

We will write to the registered teacher within 14 days of commencing an investigation, inviting the teacher to:

  • meet with us to discuss the concerns
  • provide a written response to the concerns
  • explore opportunities for early resolution by agreement.

At this stage, a registered teacher should consider obtaining independent legal advice or union assistance.

We will also notify the complainant and the registered teacher’s employer (at the time of the concerns) when an investigation is commenced.

How we gather information

Our aim is to conduct investigations as quickly as practicable having regard to the nature of the concerns.

We gather information by conducting interviews with, and taking statements from relevant witnesses which may include:

  • principals
  • registered teachers
  • parents
  • students.

We always seek consent from the parent or guardian before we conduct an interview with a student (if the student is under the age of 18), and work closely with the relevant principal to coordinate interviews to minimise the impact on school operations.

We may have to rely on our formal powers to gather information when a person does not respond to an initial request for information.

How we investigate health concerns

Some concerns we receive relate to impairments such as serious ill-health or alcohol or drug abuse and dependence.

We endeavour to support teachers who are suffering impairments by exploring opportunities to implement a framework with appropriate conditions.

Our aim is to assist a teacher’s return to practice where to do so will not present any risks to students or others.

Find out what an agreement means

When a teacher suffering an impairment is not able to co-operate with us, a Medical Panel hearing may be convened.

Outcomes

Following an investigation, we will consider a range of possible disciplinary approaches and outcomes, including:

  • taking no further action against the registered teacher where there is insufficient evidence to support the concerns
  • entering into an agreement
  • referring the concerns to;
    • an informal hearing
    • a formal hearing
    • a medical panel hearing
  • undertaking a criminal prosecution for a criminal offence.

What is an agreement?

Agreements enable concerns to be mutually resolved without the necessity for a lengthy investigation or hearing. They eventuate when a registered teacher openly acknowledges the concerns, and requests the cancellation or suspension of their registration or the imposition of a condition(s) on their registration.

In determining whether to enter into an agreement with a registered teacher, we balance the rights of the teacher against the public interest and our protective function. We take into account a number of factors, including whether the agreement seeks to:

  • resolve concerns that, if proved, would only warrant the imposition of appropriate conditions on registration
  • manage more serious concerns with appropriate conditions such as a period of suspension or the cancellation of registration.

What are appropriate conditions?

Conditions may be appropriate when they are designed to address the cause of the concerns and reduce the likelihood of similar future concerns, including:

  • undertaking and completing specified further education/training/professional development
  • undergoing counselling
  • a period of monitoring, which may include the teacher providing us with regular reports from their treating health practitioner or with details of the satisfactory completion of any education/training/professional development

 or

  • working under the supervision of another teacher.

Suspension or cancellation

We may agree to a period of suspension (with or without conditions) or cancellation in appropriate circumstances.

What if an agreement is not reached?

If we cannot reach an agreement, the matter will generally be continued as an investigation and alternative disciplinary pathways will be considered.

Hearing panels

Hearing panels are quasi-judicial bodies that consider matters referred to them by us.

All hearing panels are comprised of members who are independently appointed by the Victorian Government.

Informal hearings

An informal hearing is inquisitorial in nature, with the panel ascertaining information through the questioning of the teacher and any witnesses the panel considers relevant.

Informal hearings:

  • enable us to deal with misconduct that is not serious but falls short of the expected standards of professional conduct for teachers.
  • are conducted as informally as possible, but with sufficient structure to ensure compliance with the rules of natural justice.

In an informal hearing, a teacher is not entitled to legal representation and the proceedings are closed to the public.

 Read more on what we investigate.   

Findings and determinations following an informal hearing

Following a finding of misconduct, an informal hearing can make one or more of the following determinations – that the teacher:

  • be cautioned
  • be reprimanded
  • has conditions placed on their registration.

Formal hearings

A formal hearing is conducted in a manner very similar to a court and the teacher is entitled to legal representation. Formal hearings are open to the public, unless an order for the hearing to be held in private is granted.

A formal hearing panel has the power to consider whether a teacher:

or

Read more on what we investigate.  

Findings and determinations following a formal hearing

Following a finding of misconduct, serious misconduct, serious incompetence or a lack of fitness to teach, a formal hearing can make one or more of the following determinations – that the teacher:

  • be cautioned
  • be reprimanded
  • has conditions placed on their registration 
  • has their registration suspended
  • has their registration cancelled

 or

  • be disqualified from applying for registration for a period of time if registration is cancelled.

Medical Panel hearings

Where a Medical Panel makes a finding that a teacher has a medical impairment that adversely affects the teacher’s ability to teach, the panel can make a determination to:

  • impose conditions on the teacher’s registration 

 or

  • suspend the teacher’s registration for a period subject to appropriate conditions.

Criminal prosecution

It is a criminal offence for a person who is not registered with us to:

  • undertake the duties of a teacher
  • claim or hold themselves out to be a registered teacher.

It is also a criminal offence for a person to employ a person to undertake the duties of a teacher if that person is not registered with us.

If we have information that suggests a criminal offence has been committed, we may decide to commence criminal proceedings against:

  • the unregistered teacher
  • the person who employed the unregistered teacher

or

  • both the unregistered teacher and the person who employed them.

Read more on what we investigate. 

Read some examples of past decisions made in regards to the areas listed above.