Child Protection

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Roles and responsibilities of Schools

According to Children First: National Guidance, which was published in 2011, school authorities have primary responsibility for the care and welfare of their pupils. The Department of Education and Skills is responsible for developing and implementing child protection procedures for schools based on the Children First: National Guidance.

The aim of such procedures is to give direction to school management and staff regarding the identification of and response to child protection concerns and the continued support of the child. It is the responsibility of the Department of Education and Skills to inspect and evaluate the implementation of these procedures for education staff.

Responsibilities of school management

4.8.2 It is the responsibility of the Board of Management of each school:

  • to have clear procedures, which teachers and other school staff must follow where they suspect, or are alerted to, possible child abuse or neglect, including where a child discloses abuse or neglect;
  • to designate a senior member of staff to have specific responsibility for child protection (see Chapter 3, Section 3.3 for role of designated liaison persons). In larger schools, it may be necessary that the role be designated to other staff to ensure timely sharing of concerns, in which case organisational accountability must be kept;
  • to monitor the progress of children considered to be at risk;
  • to contribute to the prevention of child abuse or neglect through curricular provision;
  • to provide or access in-service training for teachers and members of the Board of Management to ensure that they have a good working knowledge of child protection issues and procedures;
  • to have clear written procedures in place concerning action to be taken where allegations are received against school employees.
  • 4.8.3 Teachers are particularly well placed to observe and monitor children for signs of abuse and neglect. They are the main care-givers to children outside the family context and have regular contact with children in the school setting.

    4.8.4 Teachers have a general duty of care to ensure that arrangements are in place to protect children and young people from harm. In this regard, children need to be facilitated to develop their self-esteem, confidence, independence of thought and the necessary skills to cope with possible threats to their personal safety, both within and outside the school. Management arrangements within primary and
    post-primary schools should provide for the following:

  • the planning, development and implementation of an effective child protection programme;
  • continuous monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of such a programme;
  • the effective implementation of agreed reporting procedures;
  • the planning and implementation of appropriate staff development and training programmes.
  • Responsibilities of school staff

    4.8.5 If a child discloses to a teacher or to other school staff that he or she is being harmed by a parent/carer or any other person, including another child, the person who receives that information should listen carefully and supportively. This applies equally where the child implies that he or she is at risk of being harmed by a parent/carer or any other person. It also applies equally if a parent/carer or any other person discloses that he or she has harmed, or is at risk of harming, a child. The child should not be interviewed formally; the teacher or other staff member should obtain only necessary relevant facts if and when clarification is needed.

    Confidentiality must never be promised to a person making a disclosure subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Acts and the requirement to report to the HSE Children and Family Services must be explained in a supportive manner. The discussion should be recorded accurately and the record retained securely. The teacher or other staff member should then inform the designated liaison person who is responsible for reporting the matter to the HSE Children and Family Services, or in the event of an emergency and the unavailability of the HSE, to An Garda Síochána.

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