Saturday , 25 May 2019

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Childhood teacher reprimanded for taking toys from Lower Hutt kindergarten

It was theft when an early childhood education teacher “borrowed” toys from a Lower Hutt kindergarten for personal use, a tribunal has ruled.

Grant Swinton-Robertson was found guilty of serious misconduct by the NZ Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal after an investigation revealed he had been taking toys from the Epuni Kindergarten over seven or eight months. The ruling was published this week.

Staff noticed some of the missing toys were pictured on Swinton-Robertson’s Facebook page, and confronted him.

However, he was approached again during a kindergarten investigation, and admitted taking them home.

In an agreed summary of facts presented to the Education Council’s tribunal, Swinton-Robertson’s explanation for his actions was a lack of money. While he considered it borrowing the toys, the tribunal regarded it as theft.

“[He] took the toys for his son to play with, and that he took his position and relationship with his employers for granted,” it read.

“He also said that he was truly remorseful for his actions and that he loved teaching and would be grateful to teach in the early childhood education sector.”

Tribunal chairwoman Theo Baker described Swinton-Robertson’s behaviour as “dishonest and untrustworthy”.

“The school community should be able to trust a member of the teaching profession implicitly,” she said.

“In addition, he deprived the children at the kindergarten of the use and enjoyment of the items he removed. His disregard for their education and enjoyment is concerning.”

She also found his actions were likely to adversely affect students’ learning, reflected negatively on his fitness to be a teacher, and “may bring the teaching profession into disrepute”.

While some other teachers’ disciplinary cases regarding theft had led to suspension or cancellation or registration, the tribunal did not believe this case warranted that penalty.

Instead, Swinton-Robertson was given a formal “telling off” which will appear on his register for two years, and he must tell future employers of the ruling.

He was also ordered to pay 40 per cent of the tribunal hearing’s costs and that of the council’s Complaints Assessment Committee.

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