Report clears college unit

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An independent investigation has found bullying and harassment allegations raised by a former staff member at Ashburton College’s special needs unit (Te Whaare Manaaki) have no foundation.

Ashburton College appointed Penni Hlaca, a human resources professional and licensed private investigator, to investigate allegations raised.

The investigation involved interviews with 10 staff members, including the complainant, several staff from the Ministry of Education who specialise in special education and 11 parents.

The comprehensive report produced clearly shows there is no foundation to the complaints laid, Ashburton College principal Ross Preece says.

“We now have some certainty around the accuracy of the allegations because of the thorough process we have been through.”

Mr Preece said the report findings would not be released because the privacy of staff, pupils and parents needed to be respected.

The executive summary from the investigation said there were some working relationship issues between the head teacher and some learning assistants in Te Whaare Manaaki, but no allegations of bullying were upheld.

Several alleged incidents in the complaint were not witnessed by anyone and where alleged incidents were investigated witnesses had different recollections of events.

The report also stated that Te Whaare Manaaki was under resourced with qualified teachers which presented challenges for both the teacher and learning support assistants.

“We have been looking hard and advertised for suitable qualified staff on a number of occasions, but have been unable to find anyone,” Mr Preece said.

Mr Preece said going forward work would be done to ensure there was respect and positive working relationships among staff in Te Whaare Manaaki.