EPAC Review by the Department of Education

Disclaimer: Please note the below is not intended to be, nor does it constitute, legal advice. You should seek legal advice from a lawyer (whether barrister or solicitor) working in the area of education law, employment law and/or with direct experience working in EPAC investigations and inquiries before acting or relying on any of its content.

In what many who have been involved in EPAC investigations would describe as timely, I see that the NSW Department of Education is conducting a review of the Employee Performance and Conduct (EPAC) Directorate.

According to the Department of Education’s website, the purpose of the review is to:

…examine and make recommendations to the Secretary of the department about how employee performance and conduct functions are managed, and identify areas for improving operational efficiency, the timeliness of outcomes, as well as opportunities to enhance stakeholder perceptions on aspects like independence and procedural fairness.

In particular, the review will look at the way teachers and other professional staff and educators are investigated in relation to allegations of misconduct.

The Department of Education has commissioned eminent barrister Mr Mark Tedeschi AM QC to carry out the review. Certainly, as the former Senior Crown Prosecutor for the State of New South Wales, adjunct professor in law and now, a leading defence counsel, Mr Tedeschi is well placed to investigate EPAC.

However, the Department of Education has made it plain that the review will not explore the outcomes of individual cases and will not reconsider or overturn the outcomes of any previous investigations.

This does seem curious. One would have thought that the use of individual case studies would have provided fertile ground for arriving at recommendations as to how the process might be improved. Further (and to the extent that deficiencies in former investigations are found by the review) one might have hoped that EPAC would at least consider overturning adverse findings and/or provide aggrieved parties with an automatic right of appeal.

The report is expected to be delivered to the Secretary by 30 June 2019.

© 2017 Sebastian De Brennan. Barrister at Law