Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (213)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

213. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence regarding bullying (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11505/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, all schools are required to have in place a Code of Behaviour and this code must be drawn up in accordance with the guidelines of the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB). The NEWB guidelines were issued to schools in 2008 and make it clear that each school must have policies to prevent or address bullying and harassment and schools must make clear in their code of behaviour that bullying is unacceptable. The guidelines further state that as well as making explicit that bullying is prohibited in the school, and having an anti-bullying policy, the code of behaviour should indicate what action the school will take in relation to alleged breaches of the school's bullying policy. Every school therefore must have in place a policy, within the framework of the school's overall school code of behaviour, which includes specific measures to deal with bullying behaviour. Such a code, developed through consultation with the whole school community and properly implemented, can be the most influential measure in countering bullying behaviour in schools.

I am fully aware of the seriousness of the issue of bullying and it was for that reason that an Anti-Bullying Forum was held in May last year. The Deputy will be aware that I established a working group to address the issue of tackling bullying in schools, including cyber-bullying. The Group produced an Action Plan recommending further measures that can be taken to effectively tackle bullying, including cyber bullying, in schools. I broadly accept the proposed actions in the Action Plan which was published in January. I have asked officials in my Department to commence work on implementing the Action Plan in consultation with teachers, parents and management bodies at first and second-level schools. My Department's role is to clarify for parents and students how their grievances and complaints against schools can be progressed. Guidance to parents on progressing a concern in relation their child's school is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie. Where a parent feels that the school's board of management has failed to investigate or adequately investigate their complaint, they should contact the Ombudsman for Children. The Office of the Ombudsman for Children may independently investigate complaints about schools recognised with the Department of Education and Skills, provided the parent has firstly and fully followed the school's complaints procedures. The key criterion for any intervention by the Ombudsman for Children is that the action of the school has had a negative effect on a child. The office can be contacted at Ombudsman for Children's Office, Millennium House, 52-56 Great Strand Street, Dublin1, (Ph) 1800 20 20 40 or (01) 8656800, E-mail oco@oco.ie.