Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Ceisteanna (123)

Niall Collins


123. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review correspondence (details supplied); his views regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14413/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The correspondence received addresses a very important topic, that of bullying and student wellbeing in schools. I can assure the Deputy that supporting student wellbeing is a priority for my Department and for schools.

In Early Years Settings, children are supported in their personal and social development through Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. Within Aistear, the theme of Well-being aims to develop children as confident, happy and healthy young people. Within Goal 1 of this theme, children are encouraged to make strong attachments and develop warm and supportive relationships with peers, be aware of and name their own feelings, and understand that others may have different feelings, be confident and self-reliant, respect themselves, others and the environment, and make decisions and choices about their own learning and development. In addition, under the theme of Identity and Belonging, children will learn to express their views and help make decisions in matters that affect them, understand the rules and the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, interact, work co-operatively, and help others, be aware of and respect others’ needs, rights and feelings, have a sense of social justice and recognise and deal with unfair behaviour, and demonstrate the skills of co-operation, responsibility, negotiation, and conflict resolution.

At primary level, all teachers at primary level are fully trained in the implementation of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum which is taught at all class levels. The curriculum provides particular opportunities to foster the personal development, wellbeing, and social and emotional health of the individual child. SPHE promotes intrapersonal development by helping children to recognise, understand and accept themselves as unique individuals who feel valued and loved. It provides particular opportunities to nurture self-worth and self-confidence, helping the child to set and assess his/her own goals and to be able to manage his/her own behaviour. SPHE enables the child to build a sense of self-efficacy which in turn can increase his/her sense of personal control, promote self-awareness and enable self-directed learning.

At Post-Primary level, the Framework for Junior Cycle 2015 is underpinned by eight key principles that inform the planning, development and implementation of junior cycle programmes in all schools. One of the principles is Wellbeing. Wellbeing permeates a student's entire junior cycle experience and is reflected in a number of the 'Statements of Learning' in the Framework. These provide learning opportunities that enhance the physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing of students and enable students to build life skills and develop a strong sense of connectedness to the school and to their community.

In addition to these curricular areas, learners are supported by a number of policy and practice initiatives that emphasise the reduction of bullying and the promotion of positive mental health.

The Action Plan on Bullying, published in January 2013, sets out my Department's approach to tackling bullying and promoting an anti-bullying culture in schools. It recommended 12 actions that focus on support for schools, teacher training, research and awareness raising and aim to ensure that all forms of bullying are addressed. A number of these actions have been implemented in full while others by their nature involve continuous action and are the subject of ongoing implementation.

Arising from the Action Plan on Bullying, National Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post Primary schools, were published in September 2013 and are currently being implemented by all 4,000 primary and post primary schools in the country.

The procedures are designed to give direction and guidance to school authorities and school personnel in preventing and tackling school-based bullying amongst their pupils. The procedures require that the prevention of bullying must be an integral part of a school’s anti-bullying policy.

All Boards of Management are required to adopt and implement an anti-bullying policy that fully complies with the requirements of the procedures. The procedures include specific requirements in relation to the use of prevention and education strategies and the consistent investigation, follow up and recording of bullying behaviour. The strategies that schools implement must be documented in the anti-bullying policy and must explicitly deal with the issue of identity-based bullying. Schools’ actions to create a positive school culture and to prevent and tackle bullying are included in the whole school evaluation process carried out by the Department’s Inspectorate.

Other actions included in the Action Plan on Bullying include support for anti-bullying awareness raising initiatives and the development and roll out of anti-bullying training materials for parents, teachers and Boards of Management. The Department funds anti-bullying training for parents via the National Parent’s Council. The training sessions, which are available nationwide, provide supports to parents to enable them to assist their children when issues of bullying arise. They also inform parents about the Anti-Bullying Procedures for primary and post primary schools.

Also under implementation of the Action Plan, the national anti-bullying website, was launched in 2013. Funded by the Department, the website provides information, support and advice for students, teachers and parents on how to recognise and deal with bullying behaviour and allows teenagers to share experiences with their peers

In July 2018, the DES published the Wellbeing Policy Statement and Framework for Practice, which sets out indicators of success in wellbeing promotion in our education system. It requires every school and centre for education to use the School Self-Evaluation (SSE) process to initiate a wellbeing promotion review and development cycle by 2023.