What are the consequences of a criminal charge or conviction on a teacher or aspiring teacher?
Who does this apply to?
This article applies to all existing and aspiring teachers in Queensland. Registration to the Queensland College of Teachers is mandatory and regulated by the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld) (“the Act”). The law in other jurisdictions in Australia may differ, and hence this article is applicable only to those within Queensland. If you are interstate, we are still able to assist you, and have experience in a variety of jurisdictions. We encourage you to contact are office.
If you are an early childhood teacher, registration with the College of Teachers may not be compulsory for you, unless you are teaching in a school (eg Prep-Year 3). You will however require a blue card to work with children, and we have a separate article in relation to the impacts a criminal history will have on obtaining a blue card.
I am applying for registration as a teacher. What do I need to do?
Sections 8(1)(b) and 9(1)(b) of the Act state that a person is eligible for full or provisional registration as a teacher if the college is satisfied they are suitable to teach.
The Act allows the college to consider a variety of information. This includes police information and criminal history checks. It provides that if a person’s criminal history includes a conviction for a “serious offence” (more on this later), the college must deem the person unsuitable, unless satisfied there is an exceptional case and the best interests of children would not be harmed by allowing that person to teach.
The Act also provides that in having regard to the person’s criminal history (in and outside Queensland), the college must consider when the offence was committed or alleged to have been committed; the nature of the offence and its relevance to the duties of a teacher; and anything else the college considers relevant to deciding whether the person is suitable to teach. The Act also explicitly provides that a person is not suitable to teach if the person behaves in a way that does not satisfy the standard of behaviour generally expected of a teacher and shows the person is unfit to be granted registration or permission to teach.
If you do not have a blue card at the time of your application, you must agree to allow, and pay a fee to the college for them to conduct a criminal history check. If you do hold a blue card, you must still pay the fee if there is any police information held in relation to you. The college may ask for the fee to be paid after your application has been lodged. If there is no police information about you, you will instead have to pay the employment-screening fee in relation to a blue card.
What if I am renewing my registration?
The Act does not specify that further police information or criminal history checks must be completed on the application for renewal. As such, it is up to the college’s discretion on whether they wish to conduct further checks. You should refer to the renewal form sent to your via post, or the online form on myQCT, as the requirements may change from time to time.
Do I need to declare my criminal charges or convictions if I am already a teacher?
Yes, the Act requires you to notify the college if there are any changes in your police information. This includes if you are charged with a criminal offence, despite the fact that you are presumed to be innocent until convicted within the criminal justice system. You must also disclose additional factors, such as if you are subject to an offender prohibition order. If you are concerned on whether you are required to make disclosures, you should contact our office immediately. There is a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units ($12,615.00 until July 2018, rising every financial year from thereon in) for failure to make a disclosure.
What happens if I don’t notify the college of my criminal charges?
If you do not notify the college of criminal charges when you are already a teacher, you will likely be charged under the Act with the offence of failing to disclose changes in police information. The Act also requires police to provide the college with changes in your criminal history; hence there is a high likelihood that the college will discover your police information.
You may also face disciplinary action and be suspended or prohibited from working as a teacher if you are convicted of an offence under the Act (eg failing to make a disclosure of other criminal charges).
Please note that this advice is for general background information only and is not intended as legal advice you can rely on. To obtain legal advice you can rely on you must contact a lawyer who can advise you on the basis of your personal circumstances.