The primary statutory responsibility for child protection lies with the Child and Family Agency.
My Department has no role in assessing or investigating child protection concerns. Its role is to refer any allegations it receives to the appropriate authorities and to do so without making judgment on same.
There is no requirement on the school authorities to report to the Department allegations of physical and or sexual abuse that have been made against primary and secondary school teachers by students and or parents. All schools must have a child protection policy that adheres to certain key principles of best practise in child protection and welfare.
Procedures for schools on the implementation of Children First in the school setting were updated and published in September 2011. This was done following the revisions in July 2011 to the national Children First guidelines. The forthcoming Children First legislation will put aspects of this national guidance on a statutory footing. Under the updated procedures all schools must have a child protection policy that adheres to certain key principles of best practise in child protection and welfare. The updated procedures also incorporate significant improvements to the previous school guidelines and are intended to better ensure consistent and uniform implementation of Children First across all schools. The improvements include a new template child protection policy, a requirement that all primary schools fully implement the Stay Safe programme and also put in place improved oversight arrangements at Board of Management level.
The additional oversight arrangements involve the following:
- Specific reporting requirements by the School Principal to the Board of Management
- Standardised format for an annual review by the Board of Management of the implementation of its child protection policy
- Standard method for schools to report annually to parents associations (or parents generally) in relation to their implementation of child protection procedures
- Confirmation of compliance with child protection procedures to be provided, if requested, to the School Patron and/or the Department.
Where child protection concerns relate to a school employee, the procedures provide, inter alia, that;
- the employer shall maintain regular and close liaison with the HSE (now TUSLA) or An Garda Síochána and a decision on the position of the school employee shall be taken having due regard to the advice given to the employer by these authorities,
- legal advice should always be sought and,
- the Board should also be aware of and comply with employment legislation and any other relevant employee relations policies such as agreed grievance and disciplinary procedures.