This document has been updated to reflect recent changes in legislation and takes account of the provisions of each of the following pieces of legislation:
- Freedom of Information Act 1997
- The Education Act 1998
- The Child Welfare Act 2000
- Children First – National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011
- Children and Vulnerable Persons Act 2012 as amended by the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures Act) 2016
The Board of Management (BoM) recognises that child protection and welfare considerations permeate all aspects of school life and must be reflected in all of the school’s policies, practices and activities. Accordingly, in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Education and Skills, ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011), the BoM of St. Teresa’s Primary School has agreed the policy.
The BoM has adopted and will implement fully and without modification the Department’s Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools as part of this overall child protection policy.
The Designated Liaison Person (DLP) is Pat Furlong (Principal).
The Deputy Designated Liaison Person (Deputy DLP) is Mairéad Devane (Deputy Principal).
In its policies, practices and activities, St. Teresa’s Primary School will adhere to the following principles of best practice in child protection and welfare.
- Recognise that the protection and welfare of children is of paramount importance, regardless of all other considerations
- Fully co-operate with the relevant statutory authorities in relation to child protection and welfare matters
- Adopt safe practices to minimise the possibility of harm or accidents happening to children and protect staff from the necessity to take unnecessary risks that may leave themselves open to accusations of abuse or neglect
- Develop a practice of openness with parents and encourage parental involvement in the education of their children
- Fully respect confidentiality requirements in dealing with child protection matters
Certain policies such as St. Teresa’s Primary School Code of Behaviour/Anti-bullying Policy, Pupil Attendance Policy and the Supervision of Pupils Policy (to be drafted) will take particular account of this Child Protection Policy. The Stay Safe Programme will be taught annually in all classes throughout the school. Within the S.P.H.E. curriculum plan, the Strand Unit “Safety and Protection” will be addressed at each class level in the context of the Stay Safe programme. The school has an Internet AUP in place to guard children’s safety in practices surrounding use of the internet. The 2 Board has ensured that the necessary policies, protocols or practices as appropriate are in place in respect of each of the above listed items.
This policy will be made available to school personnel and the Parents’ Association and is readily accessible to parents on request. A copy of this policy will be made available to the DES and the patron if requested.
School Measures Taken to Protect the Children in Our Care
There are a number of areas where common sense in our school should prevail in order to protect the children in the school and the staff who care for them. In relation to this, certain points should be noted:
1. St. Teresa’s Primary School will fully implement the Stay Safe programme
2. A copy of the school’s Child Protection policy, which includes the names of the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) and Deputy DLP, will be made available to all school personnel and the Parents’ Association and is readily accessible to parents on request
3. The name of the DLP and other relevant support services are displayed in a prominent position near the main entrance to the school
4. In addition to informing the Board of Management of those cases where a report involving a child in the school has been submitted to the HSE, the DLP shall also inform the school’s BoM of cases where the DLP sought advice from the HSE and as a result of this advice, no report was made. At each BoM meeting, the Principal’s Report shall include the number of all such cases and this shall be recorded in the minutes of the board meeting.
5. St. Teresa’s Primary School will undertake an annual review of its Child Protection Policy and its implementation by the school. A checklist, to be used in undertaking the review. The school has put in place an action plan to address any areas for improvement which might be identified in the annual review. The Board of Management shall make arrangements to inform school personnel that the review has been undertaken. Written notification that the review has been undertaken shall be provided to the Parents’ Association. A record of the review and its outcome shall be made available, if requested, to the patron and the DES.
6. Staff who take classes swimming should make sure that there are two adults in attendance at all times. The dressing rooms and pool area should be well supervised.
7. Staff should not be alone in a classroom with one child or detain a child on their own after school. In the case of special needs pupils where resource hours and assistance are sanctioned on an individual basis, it is school policy that staff in such a situation should work with the classroom door open or within view of the glass area of the classroom door, thus rendering the occupants visible at all times. Where possible children should work in groups.
8. Members of the school staff will not carry children alone in their cars at any time.
9. Children with physical disabilities who may require assistance in toiletry matters will be aided by a Special Needs Assistant who has met the necessary screening requirements when being employed by the school.
10. Vetting conditions as laid down by the Vetting Act 2016 will be followed by the school’s Board of Management in the case of all staff, coaches, volunteers or workers undertaking relevant work or activities with children in the school. (Ref. DES Circular 0031/2016)
It should be noted that children with disabilities may be more at risk of abuse due to a number of reasons (see Section 2.3 of ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011) and Chapter 8 of ‘• ‘Children First’ (Department of Children and Youth Affairs 2011) Guidelines’ 2011). Parents, teachers and all staff involved in services for children with disabilities need to be familiar with the indicators of abuse and to be alert for signs of abuse.
Designated Liaison Person (DLP)
In St. Teresa’s Primary School, the Principal, Pat Furlong appointed by the BoM, is the DLP. Mairéad Devane, Deputy Principal acts as Deputy DLP. Both teachers will undertake training from the Child Abuse Prevention Programme (CAPP) at the earliest opportunity. CAPP provides training to the whole school community (staff, parents and Boards of Management) on the Stay Safe Programme.
The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection and will represent the school in all correspondence with Health Boards, An Garda Siochana and other parties in connection with allegations of abuse. All matters pertaining to the processing or investigation of child abuse should be processed through the DLP.
Further information on the responsibilities of the DLP can be referred to on page 18, section 3.2 of ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011).
The DLP acts in cases where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion or where an allegation has been made, as referred to in ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011)’ (DES 2011, pages 23-25).
All information regarding concerns of possible child abuse should only be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis in the interests of the child. The giving of information to those who need to have that information is not a breach of confidentiality. This procedure exists for the protection of a child who may have been or has been abused. The DLP who is submitting a report to the Health Board or An Garda Siochána should inform a parent/guardian, unless doing so is likely to endanger the child or place that child at further risk. A decision not to inform a parent/guardian should be briefly recorded together with the reasons for not doing so.
In emergency situations, where the Health Board cannot be contacted, and the child appears to be at immediate and serious risk, An Garda Siochána should be contacted immediately. A child should not be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.
Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse
The protection for persons reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 provides immunity from civil liability to any person who reports child abuse ‘reasonably and in good faith’ to designated officers of Health Boards or any member of an Garda Siochána, see ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011).
People making a report to the DLP in good faith have ‘qualified privilege’ under common law, see ‘Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures’ (DES 2011, page 11). Reports made to Health Boards may be subject to provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997. This act enables members of the public to obtain access to personal information relating to them which is in the possession of public bodies. However, the act also provides that public bodies may refuse access to information obtained by them in confidence.
Definition and Recognition of Child Abuse
Child abuse can be categorised into four different types:
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
Each of these categories is defined in full in ‘Children First’ (Dept of Children and Youth Affairs 2011, Section 2 pages 8-12) but for the purpose of this policy attention is drawn to the stated definition of ‘neglect’.
‘Child neglect is the most frequent category of abuse both in Ireland and internationally. In addition to being the most frequently reported type of abuse; neglect is also recognized as being the most harmful. Not only does neglect generally last throughout a childhood it also has long term consequences into adult life. Children are more likely to die from chronic neglect than from one instance of physical abuse. ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011) (DES 2011, page 41).Neglect can be defined in terms of an omission, where the child suffers significant harm or impairment of development by being deprived of food, clothing, warmth, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, supervision and safety, attachment to and affection from adults, medical care.
Guidelines for Recognition of Child Abuse
A list of child abuse indicators is contained in Appendix 1 ‘Children First’ (Dept. of Children and Youth Affairs 2011, pages 70-74). This policy draws particular attention to ‘persistent evidence’ of neglect, including indicators such as lack of uniform, no homework, poor attendance, persistent health problems, lack of sleep indicating inappropriate television viewing late at night and other evidence that would indicate lack of supervision in the home. All signs and symptoms must be examined in the total context of the child’s situation and family circumstances.
There are commonly three stages in the identification of child abuse:
1. Considering the possibility
2. Looking out for signs of abuse
3. Recording of information
Each of these stages is developed in ‘Children First’ (Dept Children and Youth Affairs 2011).
Handling Disclosures from Children
‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011)’ (page 20) gives comprehensive details of how disclosures should be approached. Staff members are advised to deal with each situation sensitively, reassure the child but not to make promises that cannot be fulfilled.
Staff members should not ask leading questions or make suggestions. They should explain that further help may have to be sought. The discussion should then be recorded accurately. The record should include reference to what was observed with sketches of physical injury where necessary. It should also record when the alleged incident took place. Records should be kept in a secure place. The information should then be conveyed to the school DLP.
If the reporting person and the DLP are satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion/allegation, the procedures outlined in ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and PostPrimary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011)’ DES 2011 Chapter 5 will be adhered to. Standardised reporting forms will be used. (Appendix 4 ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011)’ DES 2011). The Chairperson of the BoM will be informed before the DLP makes contact with the relevant authorities.
Allegations or Suspicions in relation to School Employees
The Chairperson and the DLP are primarily concerned with the protection of the children in their care. Employees must also be protected against false and malicious claims. Legal advice should be sought by the Board in all cases where an allegation of child abuse is made against an employee. If the allegation is against the DLP, the BoM Chairperson will assume the responsibility for reporting the matter to the Health Board.
When an allegation of abuse is made against a school employee, the DLP should act in accordance with the procedures outlined in ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011)’ (section 5.3). A written statement of the allegation should be sought from the person/agency making the report. A parent/guardian may make a statement on behalf of a child. The DLP should always inform the Chairperson of the BoM.
School employees, other than the DLP, who receive allegations against another school employee, should immediately report the matter to the DLP. School employees who form suspicions regarding conduct of another school employee should consult with the DLP. The procedures outlined in ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011)’ (Section 5.3 DES 2011, page 31-32) should be referred to.
The Chairperson and the DLP should make the employee aware privately of the following:
a. The fact that an allegation has been made against him/her
b. The nature of the allegation
c. Whether or not the HSE or Gardaí has been informed (either by the DLP or employer).
The employee should be given a copy of the written allegation and any other relevant documentation. The employee should be requested to respond to the allegation in writing to the BoM within a specified period and told that this may be passed to the Gardaí, Health Board and legal advisers.
The Chairperson must take the necessary steps to protect the child and may consult the BoM in this matter. The BoM may direct that the employee take administrative leave with pay and avoid suspension, thus removing any implication of guilt. The DES should be immediately informed.
‘Children First’ (Department of Children and Youth Affairs 2011)
‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools’ (Department of Education and Skills 2011) These documents replace previous guidelines issued in 2001 and 2004 respectively.
Ratification of Policy
The Board further endorses the Principal, Pat Furlong as the school DLP and Mairéad as Deputy DLP.
This policy will be reviewed by the Board of Management once in every school year.
This policy was adopted by the Board of Management on 17 January 2012
This policy was updated on 20 September 2016
Signed: _________________________ Signed: __________________________
Chairperson of Board of Management Principal
Date: __________________________ Date: __________________________
Date of next review: September 2017