Teacher Competency

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Page index:
Defining Competency
Agreement Provisions
NZEI Support for the Principal
Working with the Teacher
Work with the Board of Trustees
Independent Appraisal
Key Points
Reporting to Teachers' Council


A successful teaching career is one of continuing professional growth. Competency is about performance.

Collegial support and advice is a key factor in professional growth. Over a teacher's career there may be times when performance is not to the expected standard. This does not necessarily mean a teacher is incompetent. There are a number of factors that can contribute to less than satisfactory practice: opportunities to update professional skills may have been limited; health may be causing difficulties; personal problems may be a source of stress. Often collegial assistance addresses these issues - where it does not the question of competency must be examined.

Defining Competency

Teachers must perform to a satisfactory level of competency to implement the curriculum. This means demonstrating a sufficient level of knowledge, skill and motivation to meet the demands and requirements of the teaching job satisfactorily.
Rather than thinking of a teacher whose performance is unsatisfactory as incompetent, it is more helpful to assess what levels of competency the teacher possesses. In some aspects of the job, the teacher causing concern may demonstrate competency.
Where there are deficiencies, principals have the responsibility to take action to maintain professional competence.

NZEI Te Riu Roa field staff are always available to talk through the procedures. The collective agreement provisions must be followed.  Contact 0800 NZEI Help (0800 893 443)

Current collective agreement for primary teachers, deputy principals, assistant principals and other unit holders

Confidentiality is paramount; this applies to both the principal and the board of trustees.

Agreement Provisions

Principals have an employer responsibility to act when teacher performance gives concern. The primary teachers' collective agreement requires the principal to put in place appropriate professional assistance and personal guidance. If assistance and guidance do not remedy the situation, agreement provisions govern further action.

Competency provisions may also apply where a teacher, deputy or assistant principal fails to meet the interim professional standards.
If a teacher fails to meet the standards, they may have their salary deferred or they may agree to reach the standard within a set period of time. If they fail to meet the standards within the timeframe agreed and they have failed the beginning or registered teachers' standards, they will be subject to competency procedures.
Experienced teachers failing to meet the beginning or registered teachers' standards may also be subject to competency procedures.
Deputy and assistant principals and principals may be subject to competency procedures if they fail to meet their professional standards.
The principal must advise the teacher that competency is in question and identify the specific matters causing concern. Proposed action, including decisions on timeframes, objectives and evaluation processes, are made by the principal in consultation with the teacher.
The teacher must receive copies of all reports to the board of trustees or the Teachers Council.
Teachers aggrieved by the processes followed by principals or boards of trustees will have a right to use the personal grievance provisions in the collective agreement. It is important to get the process right from the beginning.

NZEI Support for the Principal

In cases of competency the principal is acting in a position as an employer. NZEI support can be provided to both parties, with personal professional advice and support for the principal from Principal Support Officers and MSP. For more information about support for both parties  Contact 0800 NZEI Help (0800 893 443).

Working with the Teacher

Job description

Check the job description and any required performance agreement. Are they up-to-date?


Clarify your understanding of the competency problem in the current situation. Is this a problem that affects:

  • the teacher;
  • the children;
  • parents;
  • colleagues;
  • school organisation?

Consider the teacher's

  • state of health;
  • personal problems;
  • class composition;
  • present level of in-school support;
  • expectations - whether they are realistic or unrealistic;
  • present level of performance.

First meeting

Set up a formal meeting with the teacher, on mutually agreed terms, to begin discussion on the problem as you see it - and:

  • give adequate notice of the meeting;
  • advise the teacher of the right to representation at this meeting and throughout the process;
  • make sure the meeting itself is uninterrupted and that there is plenty of time;
  • advise the teacher at the meeting that you will be implementing the agreement provisions which govern teacher competency

At the meeting

  • detail the in-school support that has been provided to date;
  • explain that you are not satisfied that the assistance and guidance provided to this point have remedied the situation;
  • describe your understanding of the continuing problem, how you see the effects on the teacher, children, colleagues,
  • parents and school organisation;
  • state what must change;
  • clarify how you are applying the agreement and the teacher's rights;
  • outline the support available - your availability, NZEI Member Support Personnel (MSP) and field staff support;
  • provide a written outline of the specific concerns;
  • advise the teacher of the date of the next meeting;
  • allow the teacher time to think.

Next formal meeting

  • set the goals and objectives of the programme;
  • establish agreed timeframes and checkpoints;
  • set clear performance criteria and standards for evaluation;
  • recommend or agree to in-service courses as appropriate and make arrangements for enrolment;
  • record all agreements in writing and give the teacher a copy.


Evaluate progress at checkpoints in the timeframe as previously agreed:

  • discuss changes, strengths and weaknesses;
  • advise where performance is satisfactory/not satisfactory;
  • remind the teacher about continuing support arrangements;
  • keep a written record of meetings and discussions and give copies to the teacher.


The principal may delegate the supervisory role to a senior teacher, assistant principal or deputy principal. It is important to meet with this person to discuss and be clear about the process. It may be helpful to include the teacher in this discussion.
Ensure the supervising teacher has a thorough understanding of what is required, including:

  • the time commitment involved;
  • observation techniques;
  • the importance of keeping records of observations and meetings;
  • the requirement to give the teacher copies of all written material.


The supervising teacher must understand that in their observations they evaluate what the teacher is doing against the objectives set. It is very easy for a supervisor to assess a teacher negatively if the teacher's practice differs from the supervisor's own way of doing things or to 'mark' a teacher very harshly for exhibiting characteristics of which the supervisor disapproves.

Work with the Board of Trustees

Check school policy or procedure statements. Discuss agreement provisions with the board.
The process needs to be well developed and all avenues of in-school support exhausted before a report is made and the teacher's name revealed to the board of trustees.
If a report is made to the board of trustees, then proper meeting procedures must be used. Discussion on competency action should always take place in committee.
Copies of reports to the board of trustees must be given to the teacher with a reasonable timeframe in which to respond before any recommendations for action are implemented.
Remind members of the board that confidentiality is paramount.

Independent Appraisal

Weigh up the pros and cons of independent appraisal. An independent appraiser has not been involved in the process and will find it difficult to assess change. In the classroom, the presence of a stranger is likely to create problems for the teacher. The appraisal may be conducted in an atypical situation. Some 'at risk' teachers can genuinely claim that appraisal reports are inaccurate and unfair.

Key Points

Focus on the problem

Research has shown that teachers perceive professional growth when they are aware of, and endorse, clear performance standards.

Involve the teacher in problem solving

Agreement about processes helps eliminate misunderstandings.

Recognise successes

Competent teachers need time and practice to alter instructional techniques. The teacher at risk needs realistic timeframes. Be honest about goals.

Respect the integrity of the teacher

Most teachers at risk want to succeed.

Provide support

Providing support reduces the isolation both teacher and principal experience. Make use of the MSP and field staff support services available from NZEI.

Observe employment agreement provisions

Action must be both procedurally and substantively fair. A personal grievance does not resolve problems of teacher competency.

Reporting to Teachers' Council

Mandatory Reports to the Teachers Council in Complaints, Discipline, Suspension section) Boards of Trustees must report dismissals of teachers/LATs to the Teachers' Council, and certain resignations.