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VIT’s regulatory obligations: investigating and resolving conduct matters

Over the past 12 months, there has been an increased level of media reporting on improper teacher conduct matters. This is, in part due, to the rise in conduct-related matters being reported to and therefore being acted on by VIT.

The VIT acknowledges that most registered teachers exemplify the highest standard of conduct, both in the classroom and in their personal lives; the media articles do not represent the way in which the vast majority of the profession behaves.

In line with our regulatory framework, VIT educates and assists teachers, principals and early childhood leaders to comply with their obligations before taking necessary disciplinary action. Where VIT does take disciplinary action, it is proportionate to address the risk to the safety and wellbeing of children

The VIT Professional Conduct Branch develops informative case studies based on trends in teacher conduct issues to enable teachers and employers to better understand where conduct has departed from the Code of Conduct. In many cases, teachers have not considered that their conduct might be questionable or reflected on how they might conduct themselves in ways that are consistent with the Code’s expectations.

Our case studies are designed to encourage teachers to have professional conversations with their peers and educational leaders about how they may have acted in similar scenarios.

Regulatory obligations

To become registered with VIT, all applicants are assessed for their suitability to teach. Once registered, teachers must continue to be suitable to teach in order to maintain their registration.

As part of this important role, VIT investigates allegations of improper conduct by teachers. The VIT prioritises these according to the level of risk the teacher’s alleged conduct poses to the safety and wellbeing of children, and then undertakes an assessment to determine whether the matter requires investigation.

The outcome of an investigation can occur via a regulatory decision made by VIT, or by an agreement with the teacher.

Regulatory decisions

Following an investigation, the VIT has the power to take disciplinary action against a registered teacher if it deems appropriate to do so.

It is important to remember that not all conduct matters will impact a teacher’s registration. The outcome of an investigation will depend on the individual facts of each case.

Useful Resource

In line with VIT’s overarching function to provide for the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, the VIT will continue to educate the teaching profession and broader community about the revised Code of Conduct through case studies and de-identified regulatory decisions.

Case Study

The VIT’s suite of regulatory decision case studies depict real-life scenarios that any registered teacher could face in the teaching profession. The purpose is to help teachers to understand and reflect on what is appropriate professional and personal conduct within their specific teaching context.

VIT’s Professional Conduct Branch

The Professional Conduct Branch is responsible for assessing teacher suitability and investigating misconduct. The branch consists of a team of dedicated investigators, lawyers, support officers and leaders who are highly trained in investigations, legal matters and regulation in the context of child safety and wellbeing.

Each year, the VIT’s investigations workload continues to grow as a result of outcomes from the Betrayal of Trust Inquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

With about 1,500 active conduct matters (as at 30 June 2022), the Professional Conduct Branch works to investigate and resolve every matter as quickly as possible.

Director of Professional Conduct, Damien Cricchiola, acknowledges the dramatic rise in conduct matters over recent years has had an overwhelming impact on the teaching profession and the people involved in this critical work.

“Our Professional Conduct Branch takes the responsibility of exercising VIT’s regulatory powers seriously,” he said.

While child protection is at the forefront of all the work undertaken by his team, Mr Cricchiola also recognises the impact that investigating conduct matters has on teachers, their employers and on the school or early childhood communities more broadly.

“Our team understands that teachers under investigation are seeking swift resolutions to their matters,” he said. “Every team member strives to undertake assessments as quickly as possible while maintaining a strong focus of child safety and wellbeing.”

Working with Children Check

Due to VIT’s current caseload and the prioritisation of cases that pose the greatest risk to child safety, many less serious cases are taking VIT a lengthy time to finalise. An Historical Matters Project team has been established to clear this case load and ensure teachers who have been waiting for a substantial period of time are able to have their matters finalised with priority.

More information on teacher conduct, suitability and VIT’s investigations process can be found here.

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