Part 3: Registering teachers

Institutional arrangements for training, registering, and appraising teachers.

What is teacher registration?

Teacher registration was introduced in 1990 and made compulsory in state kindergartens, primary schools, and secondary schools in 1996, in early childhood centres in varying stages from 2005, and for Māori-medium kura from 2006.

A person cannot be employed as a teacher if they are not registered. Being registered certifies that a teacher is satisfactorily trained, qualified, and suitable to be a teacher. As with all professional regulation systems, teacher registration is designed to provide assurance to future employers, parents and caregivers, and the public that the requirements for registration have been met:

Registration was established to ensure a minimum quality standard is applied to all teachers entering or currently teaching in the general education system of New Zealand. 5

On becoming registered, a teacher gets a practising certificate. Teachers must have a current practising certificate formal notification that their registration is current. The Act requires teachers to be "satisfactory" practitioners. Every third year, a teacher must satisfy the Council that they meet this requirement before they can renew their practising certificate.

There are three categories of registration:

  • provisional (for teachers applying for registration in New Zealand for the first time and for teachers who have not held full registration before);
  • subject to confirmation (for experienced teachers who have not taught in an approved setting in New Zealand for two out of the previous five years); and
  • full registration (for experienced teachers who meet the specified requirements).

The Council sets and maintains the standards for registration and runs the registration system. This mainly involves receiving, checking, and approving applications for the different categories of registration and for practising certificates. The Council relies on information that others provide as part of the application. In particular, the endorsements and testimonials that professional leaders and mentor teachers provide are an important part of the system.

General registration requirements

The Act sets out the matters the Council must consider before approving the different categories of registration and issuing practising certificates.

The "good character" requirements

The Act requires the Council to be satisfied that the applicant is of good character and fit to be a teacher. The Council co-ordinates Police vetting of the applicant as part of these requirements.

The Council has a formal policy explaining how it assesses these requirements. As well as satisfactory Police vetting, the Council considers whether the applicant:

  • Displays respect for persons, for cultural and social values of Aotearoa New Zealand, for the law and for the views of others;
  • Upholds the public and professional reputation of teachers;
  • Promotes and nurtures the safety of learners within his or her care;
  • Is reliable and trustworthy in carrying out duties;
  • Is mentally and physically fit to carry out the teaching role safely and satisfactorily.6

To assess these matters, the Council requires the application to include:

  • a declaration by the applicant; and
  • a testimonial from the professional leader.

Requiring language proficiency

The Council has also set a policy on language proficiency as part of its assessment of whether a person is fit to teach in New Zealand. It requires applicants to include information to show that they are proficient in either English or Māori. Applicants are presumed to be proficient and to have met the requirements if they complete their ITE in New Zealand.

Requiring teachers to be trained satisfactorily

The Act also requires the Council to be satisfied that anyone applying for any form of registration is satisfactorily trained to teach. The Council has to take into account the applicant's qualifications and whether they have satisfactorily completed a recognised training programme.

The Council requires applicants to provide original certified copies of their teaching and other qualifications as part of their application. Checking these is relatively straightforward.

There are processes in place for overseas applicants who want to have their teaching qualifications assessed and recognised. The Council does this in partnership with NZQA.

Provisional registration

To become registered, a new teacher must first apply for provisional registration.

Those applying for provisional registration must supply:

  • personal details;
  • education details (certified copies of teaching and other qualifications);
  • details of teaching experience (if relevant);
  • Police certificates – usually the Council provides information about applicants to the Police and directly receives the relevant information, but the applicant must provide certificates from overseas authorities if they have spent more than one year overseas within the last 10 years;
  • details of language proficiency; and
  • a declaration on other matters that might be relevant.

When the Council has checked the application and is satisfied that the requirements have been met, the Council enters the teacher in its register, notes that the registration is provisional, and issues a practising certificate.

This provisional registration expires after five years unless the Council has agreed to allow the teacher a further year of provisional registration or the registration has been upgraded to full registration.

Moving to full registration

To gain full registration, a teacher must be able to show that they have "satisfactory recent teaching experience" and meet the general requirements summarised in paragraphs 3.6-3.13.

The Act defines "satisfactory recent teaching experience" as having satisfactorily completed an uninterrupted two years – or some shorter period or periods that the Council approves – of teaching in New Zealand within the previous five years. The Council may take into account:

  • the views of the professional leader of the school, early childhood service, or other educational institution; or
  • for a professional leader, their employer's views.

In terms of the quantity of teaching experience, the Council's policy requires teachers to have:

  • completed two years' supervised teaching after getting an approved teaching qualification the teaching does not have to be at one learning centre but must be in minimum blocks of 10 weeks in an approved setting; and
  • worked in a teacher's position of at least 0.5 of a full-time teacher equivalent position in the general education system or in institutions that the Council has approved, excluding appointment as a teacher aide or volunteer worker.7

The Council's policy requires teachers to have been inducted and mentored (previously, advised and guided) during the two-year period of employment, which includes a structured programme in the first year and a fully registered teacher's continuing supervision throughout the second year. This supervision continues in following years. It is the responsibility of the provisionally registered teacher to keep all evidence of their induction and mentoring.

Teachers must meet the Council's Registered Teacher Criteria (formerly the "satisfactory teachers" criteria). They must be recommended for full registration by the supervising teacher, who must be fully registered with a current practising certificate, and endorsed by the professional leader (who, in schools, is usually the principal).

Induction and mentoring

The Council requires provisionally registered teachers to take part in two-year induction and mentoring to progress to full registration.

Since 1985, successive governments have supported induction with funding, allocating time specifically for teachers' professional development, guidelines, and resources. The main purpose of these is to help provisionally registered teachers to become effective teachers.

During 2009 and 2010, the Council led four pilot training projects focused on induction and mentoring of provisionally registered teachers during their first years as a qualified teacher. The projects educated teachers to purposefully observe a provisionally registered teacher's practice, give evidence-based feedback, have professional learning conversations based on data from the teacher's practice, and collect evidence for formative and summative evaluations of the teacher.

In 2011, building on the pilot projects, the Council issued Guidelines for Induction and Mentoring and Mentor Teachers. The Council targets professional leaders and mentor teachers to raise awareness of what they should be doing to support provisionally registered teachers.

Registered Teacher Criteria

The Council has set Registered Teacher Criteria that are being progressively implemented from 2010 to 2013. These criteria describe the quality of teaching that all fully registered teachers are to meet and guide the learning of provisionally registered teachers. The criteria relate to two dimensions of practice:

  • professional relationships and professional values; and
  • professional knowledge in practice.

How the Council assesses applications

In practice, the Council relies on the professional judgement of supervising teachers and professional leaders when it considers applications for full registration. The application form requires:

  • the applicant to provide summary information about their teaching experience (the position, learning centre, location, dates, and hours);
  • the teacher who supervised the applicant's induction and mentoring programme to confirm that:
    • the applicant has had suitable induction and mentoring;
    • they have appraised the applicant in line with the Registered Teacher Criteria;
    • the applicant's teaching performance is satisfactory and meets the criteria; and
    • they recommend that the applicant be given full registration; and
  • the professional leader to endorse the recommendation of the supervising teacher.

The information and guidance on the Council's expectations of induction and mentoring programmes and the Registered Teacher Criteria should help ensure that the judgements of those recommending full registration are consistent. However, in a devolved system that relies on testimonials of supervisors and employers rather than direct assessment, there is a risk that judging will be inconsistent.

Our comments about registering teachers

The purpose of registration is to ensure that teachers entering the profession have the required skills and knowledge to teach (see paragraph 3.33 about the Registered Teacher Criteria's limitations).

In terms of contribution to quality, the Act requires the Council to apply an approach that is similar to other professional regulation regimes. The approach is designed to ensure that new teachers meet a minimum standard when they start teaching. After that, it relies on the judgement of professional leaders and employers to confirm that appropriate standards are met.

The Council has set policies to explain how it assesses the different elements of the registration requirements and the information that it relies on to make those assessments.

The Registered Teacher Criteria against which registration decisions are made do not fully specify the quantity or quality of experience and skills required. In effect, the fully registered teacher who checks that the criteria have been met assesses the quantity and quality of experience and skills required. In our view, this is a risk to the consistency of judgements made about what are considered to be "satisfactory" skills and experience to meet the criteria. To our knowledge, the inconsistency, if any, has not been directly measured at the individual level.

Building on the requirement for teachers to have "satisfactory" experience, the Council has taken steps towards promoting the quality of teachers, in particular with its work on induction and mentoring of new teachers. Although it has no direct power to compel new teachers to complete programmes such as those outlined in paragraph 3.25, it has set policies on how it applies the statutory criteria for registering teachers to effectively make completing such programmes a requirement for teachers.

5: See

6: New Zealand Teachers Council (2007), Good Character and Fit to be a Teacher Policy, available at

7: For registration purposes, the Council considers 0.5 full-time teacher equivalent to mean at least half of a full-time teaching week.

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