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 thatwe 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 these guidelines.
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.
Today’s 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.
Speaking at the announcement, the Minister said:
“At the heart of what the Government is trying to achieve is to use our economic success to make life a little easier for people.”
“The expectations of citizens have changed in how they deal with our public institutions, and education must change to meet those expectations. We are fortunate in Ireland to have such a dedicated and committed teachers and schools. Teachers perform a vital role in educating our children and make such an important contribution to the life of our state. To build on the high professional standards that exist in schools it is important that we seek ways in which to continually improve.”
“For the very first time those high professional standards in schools will be underpinned with a Parent and Student Charter. This will set out the principles to guide how schools, students and parents engage with each other, and will place the student at the centre of school life.”
“The Charter is an important step aimed at improving the engagement between students, parents and schools. The charter sets out a partnership approach. It will ensure that the interaction between students, parents and schools, is always done in an open and progressive way.”
“Ongoing consultation and better information sharing will be cornerstones of each school Charter. Consultation can be quick and easy. Through the use of online surveys, it should be possible for a school to consult with hundreds of parents quickly and easily.”
“I’d like to thank Deputy Jim Daly for the work he has done on the development of an Education Ombudsman. Many of the important points raised by Deputy Daly will be tackled in this Bill.”
“I look forward to engaging further with the Oireachtas Education Committee and other education stakeholders as we draft this important legislation.”
Also speaking at the announcement, Deputy Jim Daly, Chair of the Oireachtas Childrens Committee, said:
“I am very pleased with this Government proposal which is long overdue and relates to an issue I have dedicated much of my political career to progressing.”
“Having previously published legislation to widen the remit of the Children's Ombudsman and to establish a new Education Ombudsman under the Education Amendment Bill 2015 which passed second stage in the Dáil unopposed last July, I warmly welcome this additional proposal from the Minister.”
“These efforts are all about bringing a small minority of schools who are underperforming and not engaging with parents as they should, up to standard with the vast majority of schools in our country who carry out exemplary work for the good of our future generations.”
“I look forward to debating the Bill with all stakeholders as it passes through the Houses of the Oireachtas.”
Notes to Editor
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 (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016 and the associated Regulatory Impact Analysis report will shortly be available on the Department’s website. The Minister is also publishing a general briefing document entitled ‘Students, Parents and Schools – Developing a Parent and Student Charter for Schools’ that will provide further information to the public on the proposed legislative changes.