21 January, 2019 - Minister McHugh puts in place additional safeguards for child protection

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. has today announced additional safeguards for child protection in schools with the introduction of specialised child protection inspections.

 The new Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections will begin in February 2019 by the Department’s Inspectorate as promised in the Government’s Action Plan for Education 2018.

Minister McHugh said: “These new Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections will be carried out in a sample of schools around the country every year.  These focused and in-depth inspections will look at how school boards and staff are fulfilling their legal responsibilities in relation to the protection and safeguarding of our children.”

Mandatory reporting of child protection concerns by teachers and greater oversight of child protection arrangements in schools were among a range of changes that came into effect with the introduction of new Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools in December 2017. Matching changes to inspection arrangements also began to be rolled out in 2018, and the new Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections are a further step to monitor child protection in schools.

 Minister McHugh said: “The new inspections will strengthen our child protection systems even more.  They will provide another level of reassurance and they will help to guide and direct schools in relation to meeting their child protection obligations.”

Minister McHugh noted how the new Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections were developed through an extensive research and consultation process with the education partners and other interested stakeholders including the Office of the Ombudsman for Children. 

Minister McHugh said: “I want to thank schools that took part in trial inspections.  They showed that schools take their responsibilities for child protection very seriously.

 “The new inspections are an important way of promoting improvement in the implementation of child protection procedures by schools; they are also designed to promote best practice in school leadership as it relates to child protection.

 “I have listened to what schools, principals and management bodies are saying, particularly in relation to their requirements on record-keeping and reporting and the supports they need in order to implement child protection procedures. I am pleased to say that:

  • The Parents and Learners’ Unit of my Department has provided a suite of templates to help schools and boards to fulfil their record-keeping and reporting obligations under the 2017 Procedures
  • The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) and the Inspectorate are working closely together to promote best practice among schools in relation to child protection
  • The Inspectorate is providing a series of regional seminars on the new Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections for primary and post-primary school principals over the coming weeks and is planning further briefings on the new inspections during May and June 2019. The Inspectorate will also present at conferences of a number of education partners. It is expected that more than 3,000 principals will have attended briefing sessions on the new inspections by the end of June this year.

“Given our commitment as a Government to safeguarding our children and to supporting school boards and staff in fulfilling their child protection responsibilities, the Department is committed to making additional funding available, where necessary, to meet any additional training needs arising from this new regime.  Funding is already being made available to each of the representative board of management groups and patron bodies to provide training to their members.

“Almost €250,000 was spent in 2018 on training for management boards and I have already set aside up to €334,000 in 2019 for this purpose. I am also willing to look at any further training needs that management authorities identify arising from the child protection requirements.”

 

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors

Purpose of the new inspections

Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections are part of a range of inspection work to support the implementation of the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2017. The 2017 Procedures provide direction and guidance to schools in relation to meeting their child protection obligations under the Children First Act 2015 and in the continued implementation of the best practice guidance in Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017.

  • The Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2017 include detailed oversight arrangements for child protection, including inspection by the Department of Education and Skills Inspectorate of the implementation of child protection procedures in schools.
  • Two levels of inspection checks were introduced into school inspections in December 2017 and March 2018 and have been operating satisfactorily.
  • The new detailed Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections will provide a further level of inspection of child protection procedures in primary and post-primary schools.

The Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections will enable the Inspectorate to:

  • Promote best practice in the implementation of child protection arrangements in schools
  • Monitor the implementation of the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and  Post-Primary Schools 2017 in a sample of primary and post-primary      schools annually 
  • Publish written reports on the implementation of Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2017 in the sample of schools inspected
  • Report to the Child Protection Oversight Group of the Department of Education and Skills and the Minister on the extent to which the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2017 are implemented in the sample of schools inspected.
  • Gather information to inform the further development of child protection and safeguarding      requirements by the Department of Education and Skills and by other government departments and agencies involved in child protection. 

What are Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections focused on?

  • Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections are based on an inspection framework based on the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2017.      Essentially, the inspections comprise ten overarching checks, each of which has a number of sub-checks. The inspection framework, that is, the      ten checks and sub-checks, is set out in the published Guide to Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections available at www.education.ie.     

Will schools receive notice of the Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections?

Normally, a school will receive between 24 hours and 48 hours’ notice of a Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspection. However, the Inspectorate reserves the right to conduct the inspections without any notice. 

What happens during a Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspection?

In each school selected for a Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspection, two inspections will be held – an Initial Child Protection Inspection and a Final Child Protection Inspection. Usually, the inspections will take place within four to six weeks of each other.

Separate reports from both inspections will be published simultaneously. Having two inspections will ensure that parents, the public and the Department can be assured that any omissions or weaknesses identified in the Initial Inspection will have been addressed by the school by the time the Final Inspection is completed.

During the inspections, inspectors will:

  • Engage in a focussed discussion with primary school  pupils about their learning in Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Stay Safe and with post-primary students about SPHE and Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE). The written consent of parents and of post-primary students will be obtained in advance of the learners’      participation in focus groups with the inspectors
  • Invite all parents in the Initial Child Protection Inspection to complete an online parent survey that explores issues relevant to school climate and parents’ awareness of the school’s child      protection procedures, and the school’s anti-bullying procedures
  • Hold a meeting with members of the school’s parents’ association in the Final Child Protection  and Safeguarding Inspection
  • Hold meetings with:
    • The Designated Liaison Person (DLP) and/or Deputy Designated Liaison Person in the school
    • The Chairperson of board of management
    • A sample of school personnel
    • The teacher who is the coordinator for SPHE in the school (if relevant)
  • Review the following documents:
    • Board of management minutes
    • The school’s Child Safeguarding Statement and Risk Assessment
    • Relevant school plans, monthly progress records (primary) and timetable data (post-primary
  • Review child protection records

Following the inspection:

  • Each inspection will result in oral feedback to relevant school personnel and a written report on the inspection findings which will outline the level of school compliance with each of the ten overarching checks.
  • All Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspection reports, from both the Initial Inspection and Final Inspections will be published on the website of the Department of Education and Skills.

Teacher and School Leader Training in relation to child protection

The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) commenced a comprehensive programme of support for teachers and school leaders for the implementation of the  Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2017 in March 2018.This comprises two eLearning Programmes targeting a) all school personnel (a 90 minute eLearning programme that supports teachers in understanding their role as mandated persons, relevant legislation, the role of Designated Liaison Persons, reporting and recording and handling a disclosure) and b) all Designated Liaison Persons (DLPs) and Deputy Designated Liaison Persons (DDLPs) (a 90 minute eLearning programme on preparing the Risk Assessment and Safeguarding Statement, as well as the oversight role of the board of management). These eLearning programmes continue to be available through English and Irish on www.pdst.ie.

 

In addition, full day seminars for all Designated Liaison Persons (DLPs) and Deputy Designated Liaison Persons (DDLPs) were held throughout 2018. These seminars provide support in understanding the legislation, the role of DLPs and DDLPs, curricular provision, the role of mandated persons and oversight by boards of management. These full day seminars continue to be available for all newly appointed DLPs and DDLPs.

PDST also continue to offer support to teachers through workshops and seminars on the curricular provision for SPHE and Child Protection: 

  • Primary: Stay Safe workshops
  • Post-Primary: Junior Cycle Personal Safety: A one day seminar that supports teachers of SPHE in teaching personal safety in the context of Child Protection. This is a core aspect of the Junior Cycle Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) Curriculum.
  • Post-Primary Senior Cycle Personal Safety: A two-day seminar. 

Schools can also request further support through PDST system of in-school support in a variety of areas including Stay Safe, Child Protection, teaching and learning in SPHE, LGBT, Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and Anti-Bullying.

The PDST programme of support will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that it addresses any support needs arising in this area.