The complaint procedures currently operated by most schools are those that have been agreed between the teacher unions and school management bodies. The Office of the Ombudsman for Children may also independently investigate complaints in relation to schools provided the school's complaints procedures have been followed. The Ombudsman for Children accepts complaints from children and young people under the age of 18, and from parents on children’s behalf. Most complaints to the Ombudsman for Children are from parents.
The Deputy may be aware that my Department is currently working on the drafting of the Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019 in conjunction with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.
The overall aim of this legislation is to improve the level of engagement between schools and students and their parents by inviting feedback, comment and observations from students and parents and by developing a listening culture in the school. A key element of the legislation is the need to ensure schools address and resolves concerns of students or their parents relating to the school as far as possible at an early stage.
Under the legislation, each school will be required to prepare, publish and implement a Student and Parent Charter in accordance with national guidelines to be published by the Minister after consultation with the education partners, including those bodies representing parents.
The legislation will provide for the charter guidelines to include new procedures that all schools will be required to follow when dealing with complaints of students or their parents relating to the school. The procedures, to be developed in consultation with the education partners, will help ensure that grievances of students or their parents relating to the school are dealt with consistently across schools. Once the drafting process has concluded, it is my intention to seek Government approval, for the publication of the Bill in the Autumn.