Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (349)

Finian McGrath

Question:

349. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence regarding a case of alleged bullying and assault in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and the action he will take on same. [32089/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I appreciate the concerns you raise in your question. Officials from my Department have been in communication with the person in question and have offered advice on both the parental complaint procedure and the child protection procedures. As the Deputy may be aware, my Department sets out the constitution of Boards of Management and rules of procedure but it is not directly involved in the management of schools. Under the provisions of the Education Act, 1998, the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school, and it is the Board of Management which employs the teachers at the school. Accordingly, whereas my Department provides funding and policy direction for schools, it does not have the power to instruct schools to follow a particular course of direction with regard to individual complaint cases. The Department's role is to provide clarity and guidance to parents about how their complaint can be progressed. It does not make judgment on individual complaints. The case which you reference is in a VEC school which is a statutory body that recruits, employs and pays its own staff. Accordingly, my Department does not have a direct role in this issue and officials in my Department are not in a position legally to intervene in the dispute in question. The Office of the Ombudsman for Children may independently investigate complaints relating to the administrative actions or non-actions of a school recognised by my Department, 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 administrative actions or non-actions of a school has, or may have, adversely affected the child. If there are any child protection concerns, the person in question may wish to report the matter to the Health Service Executive (HSE), who have statutory responsibility for child protection. On the other hand, they may wish to report the matter to my Department, who will deal with it in accordance with its procedures. My officials have recently written to the HSE on the matter.

As the Deputy is probably aware, on 29th of January last, Minister Fitzgerald and I published the Action Plan on Bullying which sets out twelve actions to help prevent and tackle bullying in primary and second level schools. As part of the Action Plan, new anti-bullying procedures for all primary and second level schools are currently in development in consultation with the education partners. These new procedures will include requirements for noting and reporting bullying incidents. These will be issued to all schools at the beginning of the next school year.