Thursday, 21 November 2019

Ceisteanna (80)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

80. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which the implementation of the bullying policies of post-primary schools is monitored by his Department to ensure that the policies are implemented and followed through; the remedy available if a parent is concerned that the various steps outlined in a policy are not taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48378/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department’s Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools are designed to give direction and guidance to school authorities and school personnel in preventing and tackling school-based bullying behaviour amongst its pupils. The procedures recognise that a positive school culture and climate is key and set out a very practical way on what schools must do to both prevent bullying and to deal with bullying when it occurs.

In accordance with the Anti-Bullying Procedures, where a parent is not satisfied that a school has dealt with a bullying case in accordance with the procedures the parents must be referred, as appropriate to the schools complaints procedures.

Also in accordance with procedures, in the event that a parent has exhausted the schools complaints procedures and is still not satisfied, the school must advise the parents of their right to make a complaint to the Ombudsman for Children.

All Boards of Management are required to adopt and implement an anti-bullying policy that fully complies with the requirements of these procedures. A template policy is provided in the procedures to help facilitate schools in this regard.

The Board of Management must ensure that the school has clear procedures for the formal noting and reporting of bullying behaviour and these must be documented in the schools’ anti-bullying policy.

The procedures for schools include important oversight arrangements that involve the school principal reporting regularly to the Board of Management and a requirement for the Board to undertake an annual review of the school's anti-bullying policy and its implementation. Confirmation that the annual review has been completed must be provided to the Parents' Association and published on the school website.

My Department’s Inspectorate, as part of its whole-school evaluation inspections of schools, specifically examines schools’ compliance with the anti-bullying procedures including the actions taken to create a positive school culture and to prevent and tackle bullying. Typically, in the course of whole-school evaluations, inspectors review the school’s code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy (including evidence of the principal’s report to the board of management on incidents of bullying and evidence of an annual review of the policy.) Where inspectors encounter non-compliance with the anti-bullying procedures relevant findings are included in whole-school evaluation reports published on my Department’s website.

In the course of their whole-school inspection work, my Department’s Inspectorate gathers information about how schools deal with bullying in a number of ways through:

- Review of relevant school documentation, including the school’s Code of Behaviour and Anti-Bullying policy;

- Meetings with parents and student representatives at which there is an opportunity for parents and students to raise issues where relevant and

- The inclusion of parent and student Questionnaires on items relating to bullying.

Students and parents are also asked to respond to questions about how the school deals with bullying and discipline in the school and whether or not the school provides a safe environment for children.

Where responses indicate that students and/or parent do not believe that bullying is dealt with effectively, inspectors raise this issue with school management who have ultimate responsibility for anti-bullying policies and procedures.

Inspection models for evaluating SPHE and for whole-school evaluations (WSEs) have been adapted to include more evidence gathering concerning the effectiveness of the school's actions to create a positive school culture and to prevent and tackle bullying.

Furthermore, the Department’s Inspectorate has, since February 2019, been conducting in-depth inspections of the implementation of child protection procedures in schools.  During those Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections, inspectors check if the minutes of board of management meetings contain a record of a child protection oversight report being provided in line with the requirements of the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2017 and if, in the case of child protection concerns arising from alleged bullying behaviour amongst pupils, the board is provided with relevant documents for its consideration in line with the 2017 Procedures.