Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (254)

Thomas Byrne


254. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions he has taken in 2019 to investigate the prevalence of exclusion of pupils from schools for behavioural reasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18445/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The issue of the expulsion of pupils from schools is dealt with in the context of Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools which can be accessed at the following link:

As the Deputy will note, there are very specific procedures to be followed by schools where the expulsion of a pupil becomes an issue. One of the requirements is that the school should notify the Education Welfare Officer.

Each recognised school in the State is obliged to submit a report to the Educational Welfare Services, Child and Family Agency, on the levels of attendance at the end of each academic year. Schools are required to provide the following data in the annual attendance report:

- Total number of days lost through student absence in the entire school year.

- Total number of students who were absent for 20 days or more during the school year.

- Total number of students expelled in respect of whom all appeal processes have been exhausted or not availed of during the school year.

- Total number of students who were suspended for any number of days during the school year.

Where the matter cannot be resolved at school level in conjunction with the Education Welfare Officer, Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 allows an appeal to made to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Skills in respect of a decision by a Board of management or a person acting on behalf of the Board of Management to permanently exclude a student from the school.

Appeals are generally heard within a 30 day period from the date that the appeal is admitted.

If the Deputy is referring to the inappropriate use of “reduced timetables”, my Department is working with TUSLA Educational Welfare Service and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to address the issue, with a view to ensuring that the use of reduced timetables is limited to only those circumstances where it is necessary. It is proposed to issue guidelines to schools to clarify the situation and the circumstances where reduced timetables may be considered. My Department has not specifically collated data or investigated the prevalence of this practice; however my Department's Inspectorate does intend to challenge the inappropriate use of reduced timetables in the context of the school inspection process.

The Inspectorate has recently introduced a model of inspection of provision for children with special educational needs in post-primary schools (SEN-PP). As part of this inspection model, inspectors will engage with schools on a range of issues, including the use of reduced timetables. This mirrors the practice that has also been recently introduced for inspections of provision for children with special educational needs in primary schools (SEN-P) where inspectors raise the issue of numbers of children on reduced timetables. Similarly, Inspectors raise this issue when conducting DEIS evaluations.

If parents have concerns about the use by a school of a reduced timetable for their child they can contact their local Educational Welfare Officer, who has statutory responsibility for ensuring that the rights of the child to an education are upheld and will advise them on the most appropriate type of action.