General Scheme of an Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill, 2016
The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D., published the General Scheme of an Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016 on 5th December 2016.
The Minister, together with Deputy Jim Daly, announced that the government have approved the draft outline of a new law, which will require every school to consult with parents and students, and publish and operate a Parent and Student Charter.
This will fulfil a key commitment in the Action Plan for Education to improve information and complaint procedures for parents and students relating to schools.
Minister Bruton said that the expectations of citizens have changed, and that education must change too to meet those new expectations. He said that we are fortunate in Ireland to have such dedicated and committed teachers and schools, and that the Parent and Student Charter will underpin those high professional standards.
Some of the issues which schools will be required to deal with under the charter include:
- Consult students and parents regularly in relation to school costs and work to avoid costs acting as a barrier.
- Publish a School financial statement which would include information on how any voluntary contributions are used.
- Invite feedback from students and parents.
- Provide a fair and accessible mechanism for resolving complaints, including through mediation. The use of formal grievance and complaint processes should be a last response, except in the most serious of cases.
- Publish the number of complaints made, the reasons for the outcome in each case, and how the outcome was reached by the school.
- Provide better information about School Management, School Policies including on admission and information on extracurricular activities and school performance.
- Acknowledge gaps, deficiencies or room for improvement
Following consultation with our education partners, including the National Parents Council (Primary), National Parents Council (Post Primary) and the Irish Second-level Students Union, the Minister will finalise national guidelines on a Parent and Student Charter.
The role of the Ombudsman for Children will be expanded and schools will be required to consider any suggestions, guidance or recommendations made by the Ombudsman.
The announcement is part of a suite of measures being introduced by Minister Bruton, including the School Admissions Bill which will reform information and procedures around the process of school enrolment, and the commencement of Fitness to Teach, which will allow a complaint to be made about a registered teacher to the Teaching Council for the first time.
The draft Bill will now go to the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills for pre-legislative scrutiny.
Key provisions of the Bill:
The General Scheme of the Bill includes provisions that:
- Define the principles that will guide how schools will engage with students and parents
- Require schools to have a Parent and Student Charter
- Set out in law the principles on which the Parent and Student Charter will be based
- Allow the Minister to publish guidelines by which the Parent and Student Charter shall be prepared, published and operated in accordance with
- Provide a power to enable the Minister to direct School Boards to comply with the guidelines
- Allow the Minister publish information on the directions issued
- Allow the Minister revoke a direction given to a School Board
- Require schools to consider suggestions, guidance or recommendations made by the Ombudsman for Children
- Allow the Ombudsman for Children to advise the Minister of any suggestions, guidance or recommendations made to a board and to provide a power to enable the Minister to direct that board in relation to the matters conveyed to the Minister by the Ombudsman for Children
- Amend Section 9 of the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 to expand the role of the Ombudsman for Children to investigate a school in connection with any functions required of a school under the new Section 28 of the Education Act, 1998
- Delete subsection 9 (2) of the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 which requires the Ombudsman for Children to investigate an action by a school only where the procedures under Section 28 have been resorted to and exhausted in relation to the action
- Amend Section 9 of the Education Act 1998 to include among the functions of a school a requirement that a school must promote the involvement of parents and students in the education provided to students and
- Amend Section 27 of the Education Act 1998 to change the requirement on a student council from one of promoting the interest of the school to the promoting of the interests of the students of the school having regard to the characteristic spirit and polices of the school and the principles set out in Section 28.
The General Scheme of an Education (Parents and Students Charter) Bill 2016 and the associated Regulatory Impact Analysis report are available below. A general briefing document entitled 'Students, Parents and Schools - Developing a Parent and Student Charter for Schools' is also available and will provide further information on the proposed legislative changes.