Independent outcome into matters arising from the employment of Taurapa Matthews by Christ's College

Summary of Findings and Recommendations

The independent investigation by Barrister Janna McGuigan to review all aspects of our employment of Taurapa, formerly known as Connor Matthews, was completed in the second half of last year.

Our thoughts remain with the survivors of Taurapa’s abuse. We acknowledge their strength in giving evidence to the Teaching Council investigation and are profoundly sorry that they were not safe from him whilst on our campus.

We also recognise the role of our two staff who initiated the complaints against Taurapa. We thank them for their courage in making the original complaints and apologise to them for the difficulties they experienced because Taurapa remained on our campus.

We have accepted all the key findings and recommendations made by Ms McGuigan and summarise these below.

Recognising that the investigation was in relation to events that took place many years ago, we also asked Child Matters (an independent consulting company specialising in child protection) to independently audit our current recruitment policies and procedures.

Child Matters has confirmed that our current child protection framework is robust and adhering to best practice. This is relevant to many of the recommendations that Ms McGuigan made. The Child Matters review also provides assurance that gaps in our recruitment processes that existed when former teacher Andrew McLennan was employed, have been closed.

Findings:

  • Taurapa did not engage in inappropriate conduct with our students.
  • Our recruitment and induction process for residential tutors when Taurapa was employed in 2018 was too informal.
  • Our handling of the allegations against Taurapa relating to Ms Y (who was a student from another school employed in the Dining Hall) was poor.
  • We could not have done more to bring the allegations raised by our staff members about the conduct of Taurapa with a student at Rangi Ruru Girls’ School to Rangi’s attention.
  • We should have conducted our own investigation into Taurapa’s behaviour and considered standing him down in the meantime.
  • We did not comply with our health and safety obligations in respect of our two staff and left them in a vulnerable and unacceptable situation whilst Taurapa remained on our campus.
  • Communication, documentation, and disclosure of Taurapa’s behaviour within the school was poor especially in relation to Taurapa’s inappropriate behaviour with Ms Y that should have been reported to the Teaching Council.

Recommendations:

  • A formal application, reference checking and interview process for prospective residential tutors to identify any red flags in relation to child protection risks.
  • Compulsory child safety training for all tutors, including emphasis on the school’s digital communications policy.
  • Tutors and other non-teaching staff being included in the ongoing professional development training on child safety and being fully aware of their obligations under our child protection policies.
  • A review of our complaint and resolution mechanisms to ensure they are accessible, properly understood and effectively applied across our community.
  • A system for recording informal complaints and concerning behaviour raised about a staff member to ensure informal complaints are also investigated where the alleged victim is a child or is vulnerable.
  • Ensuring that all who visit our campus are made aware of the complaints policies.
  • Procedures set out in the child protection policy must be followed where there are allegations about child safety raised against staff members (including at other places of work) and all allegations must be investigated.
  • Where the child safety policy is triggered, consideration must be given to whether the staff member is stood down during the investigation.
  • There should be an internal investigation of any staff member who is being investigated by the Teaching Council irrespective of if the person is a staff member of another school.
  • We continue to use Child Matters to audit our child protection policies and procedures and conduct regular risk assessments.
  • Given our zero tolerance of bullying, we appoint a dedicated integrity officer as the first port of call for any staff member wanting to raise an issue of bullying and harassment by another staff member.
  • We establish a confidential reporting mechanism for any staff member who is bullied or who witnesses others being bullied.
  • We consider the capacity of our human resources team to deal with serious bullying and intimidation complaints and recognise when an independent investigation may be required.
  • We implement enhanced reporting protocols in relation to any incident involving child safety or staff bullying.

Many of the recommendations had already been implemented because of our work with Child Matters and the remaining recommendations have now been implemented.

We will ensure that our child health and safety policies and procedures continue to be regularly reviewed by Child Matters and followed.

Hugh Lindo
Christ’s College Board Chair

  • Terms of Reference

    Purpose

    The purpose is for Christ’s College, an independent private boys’ school in Christchurch (College) to engage an independent person, Janna McGuigan (Inquirer), to conduct an independent inquiry (Inquiry) in relation to all aspects of Taurapa Matthews’ (formerly Connor Taurapa Matthews, Taurapa) employment at College.

    Context

    College employed Taurapa from 2018 until the end of 2021 as a residential tutor. In addition, until April 2019 Taurapa was a teacher at Rangi Ruru, an independent private girls’ school in Christchurch (Rangi Ruru).

    In early 2019 College became aware of allegations of harassment of a Dining Hall staff member by Taurapa, as well as allegations of inappropriate conduct by Taurapa towards a student of Rangi Ruru (Allegations). The Allegations were drawn to College’s attention by a contractor to College (in respect of the allegations concerning a Dining Hall staff member) and by two members of College staff (in respect of the allegations concerning the Rangi Ruru student). The Allegations included claims of conduct occurring on College’s campus (Disclosure of Allegations).

    A Teachers’ Council investigation into Taurapa commenced in late 2019 with a decision released on 3 July 2023.

    Taurapa remained employed at College until late 2021. At least one of the two members of College staff who alerted College to the allegations concerning the Rangi Ruru student (the disclosers) has publicly expressed dissatisfaction with how the Disclosure of Allegations was managed by College.

    The Allegations, and the disclosers’ dissatisfaction with College’s response to the Disclosure of the Allegations, are serious. College takes seriously, and is committed to, the wellbeing and safety of its students and staff members. Accordingly, College’s Board of Governors has appointed Janna McGuigan to conduct an Inquiry.

    Scope of Inquiry

    The Inquirer is to:

    1. Receive any information available, including from former or current College staff members; former or current College students and their parents; former or current contractors to College and any other relevant person, in respect of Taurapa’s employment, Disclosure of the Allegations and College’s response.

    2. Inquire into Taurapa’s employment, Disclosure of the Allegations, and College’s response.

    3. Make factual findings (if appropriate) in relation to the matters set out at 2 above.

    4. Consider College’s current standards, systems, policies and procedures, and College’s implementation of the same, in relation to Taurapa’s employment, the Allegations and Disclosure of the Allegations (including any similar incidents in the period proximate to the Allegations).

    5. If, during the course of the Inquiry, other matters emerge which the Inquirer believes require separate investigation or consideration, the Inquirer will consult with the chair of the Board of Governors about the appropriate course of action. At that point, and if necessary, the Terms of Reference may be revised to include a broader scope.

    6. Following interviewing any participants, where the Inquirer considers necessary, the Inquirer may invite any person to respond to allegations or concerns raised, where this will assist the Inquirer to understand the context of the allegations and obtain a balance of views. This will only be done if the complainant is prepared to put their name and details of the allegations on the record.

    7. The Inquirer will not make factual findings in relation to any particular employee’s employment. If there are allegations made to the Inquirer that indicate the need for a separate employment investigation related to any current employee or contractor, with the consent of the disclosing person only, the Inquirer will refer the matter to the chair of the Board of Governors.

    Process for the Inquiry

    8. Commencement and term: The Inquiry shall commence its work from 10 July 2023 with the aim of providing a report by 31 August 2023. If the Inquirer considers it desirable for the purposes of the Inquiry, and following consultation with the chair of the Board of Governors, the deadline for provision of the report may be extended.

    9. Inquirer: The Inquiry shall be undertaken by Janna McGuigan. Any assistance required for the work of the Inquiry will be at the discretion of the Inquirer.

    10. Independence: The Inquiry will remain independent of College at all times.

    11. Conduct of Inquiry: The Inquiry will discharge its functions in accordance with the provisions of these Terms of Reference operating with professionalism and integrity, and in line with relevant domestic and international good practice.

    12. The Inquirer will, at her discretion, devise her own procedures, policies, and methods of working. The privacy of the participants is important and the following steps will be undertaken to maintain privacy:

    (a) Interviews may be audio recorded and transcribed and copies will be retained in a secure database under the control of the Inquirer.

    (b) Notes taken during the interviews will be private and confidential so far as the law allows and except as between the Inquirer and the interviewee, who may receive a copy of the notes of the interview if requested. The Inquirer may use the information provided in the interview either anonymously or, with consent, using the name of the interviewee.

    (c) The Inquiry will be conducted in a manner consistent with the principles of natural justice and information protection.

    13. When interviewing participants the Inquirer will request information and details from the participants to enable the Inquirer to understand the context and background as to how any concerns or allegations have arisen.

    14. Role of College: College will:

    (a) cooperate with the Inquiry to enable it to hear from the disclosers, students, staff and parents;

    (b) ensure that the Inquiry can undertake its work independently and with due regard to the importance of confidentiality;

    (c) provide to the Inquiry any information or evidence relating to purpose and scope or that the Inquirer may request, including any information which might be legally privileged to College; and

    (d) otherwise assist the Inquiry as requested.

    15. Findings: The Inquiry shall deliver to the chair of the Board of Governors a written report on the matters within scope.