Scoil Náisiunta Mhuire
Child Protection Policy
(Updated and ratified by the Board of Management in October 2016)
The staff and representatives of parents of the school drafted the following policy on their school development planning day on 6th November 2009.
It was updated in October 2010, October 2011, February 2014 and again in September 2016.
The Board of Management of Scoil Naisiúnta Mhuire, Rathpeacon has adopted the publication Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011) and the Department of Education and Skills Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools (2011) in relation to child protection and welfare. This policy is an outline of how Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire proposes to implement these guidelines in order to ensure the protection and welfare of all children attending our school.
Relationship to Characteristic Spirit of the School
Scoil Naisiúnta Mhuire seeks to help the children to grow and develop into healthy, confident, mature adults, capable of realising their full potential as human beings. We strive to create a happy, safe environment for the children where they feel secure, knowing that if they have concerns, they will be listened to with understanding and respect and their concerns will be addressed.
- To raise awareness of child abuse namely, emotional, physical, sexual abuse and neglect, among all members of our school community including Board of Management, teachers, pupils, parents (to include parents who volunteer with school related events/activities, and members of our Parents’ Association, SNAs, secretary and caretaker, visiting teachers/instructors. This list is not exhaustive.
- To put in place clear procedures for all school personnel dealing with suspicions and allegations of child abuse.
- To identify curricular content and resources that contribute to the prevention of child abuse and to enable children to properly deal with abuse if it occurs.
Guidelines for School Personnel
1.0 Appointment of a Designated Liaison Person (DLP)
2.0 Roles, Responsibilities and Guidelines
2.1 Role of the Board of Management
2.2 Role of the Staff Members (teachers, SNAs, caretaker, secretary, visiting teachers/instructors, substitute and student teachers)
2.3 Role of the Designated Liaison Person
3.0 Child Protection meetings /Case Conferences
4.0 Organisational Implications
5.0 Curriculum Implications
1.0 Appointment of a Designated Liaison Person (DLP)
- The Board of Management has appointed Mrs. Susanna O’Neill, (Principal) as the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) in Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire to have specific responsibility for child protection.
- Mary O’Brien, (Deputy Principal) has been appointed as Deputy DLP to take the place of the DLP if she is unavailable for whatever reason.
- The position of DLP will be addressed at the first meeting of each new Board of Management. The DLP will continue to act as such until such time as she is replaced by the BOM for whatever reason.
2.0 Roles and Responsibilities
- The Board of Management has primary responsibility for the care and welfare of their pupils.
- The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection in the school.
- The Board of Management has primary responsibility to ensure that all school employees and visiting teachers or visiting instructors are Garda Vetted in accordance with Department of Education and Skills Circular 31/2016.
- All staff members have a general duty of care to ensure that all reasonably practical arrangements are in place to protect children from harm.
2.1 Role of the Board of Management
- To arrange for the planning, development and implementation of an effective child protection programme.
- To monitor and evaluate its effectiveness.
- To provide appropriate staff development and training
Specifically they will:
- Appoint a DLP and deputy DLP.
- Have clear procedures for dealing with allegations or suspicions of child abuse (See below)
- Monitor the progress of children at risk.
- Ensure that curricular provision is in place for the prevention of child abuse.
- Investigate and respond to allegations of child abuse against one of the school’s employees which have been reported to the Child and Family Agency (TUSLA) or the Gardaí.
- To decide on teachers’ attendance at child protection meetings/case conferences and to advise teachers before attending such meetings/conferences.
The Principal will report to the Board of Management on Child Protection at every meeting of the Board. This report will include the number of Child Protection cases (if any) and the status of each case. No further details will be disclosed.
At each staff meeting and whenever it is deemed appropriate or necessary, the Principal will bring to the attention of staff the school’s Policy on Child Protection. She will ensure that each employee has access to the school’s Child Protection Policy and Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011).
Procedures for BOM in cases of allegations or suspicions of child abuse by a school employee:
In the event of receiving a complaint or suspicion re an employee:
- The DLP will immediately inform the chairperson.
- He will seek a written statement of the allegation from the person/agency making the allegation. Parents/Guardians may make a statement on behalf of a child.
- The DLP will seek advice from the Child and Family Agency (TUSLA) and will take responsibility for reporting, based on this advice.
- If the DLP, following consultation with the Agency, decides that this matter is not for reporting, she must inform the Chairperson. They must then inform, in writing, the person or agency making the allegation, of the reasons for this decision. If this person or agency still has concerns, they are free to consult with or report to Child and Family Agency or the Gardaí on an individual basis. The provisions of the Protection for Persons reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 apply, once they report reasonably and in good faith.
- If the DLP, following consultation with the Child and Family Agency, decides that this matter is for reporting she should inform the Chairperson, who should proceed in accordance with the procedures in the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011).
- The DLP/Deputy DLP completes a standard reporting form as comprehensively as is possible.
- When the Chairperson becomes aware of an allegation of abuse he will always seek legal advice and base his response on this advice.
- He will privately inform the employee of the fact and nature of the allegation and whether or not it has been reported by the DLP to the Child and Family Agency. (Refer to Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011). The chairperson has a duty to afford the employee fairness and due process – s/he is entitled to details and a copy of the written allegation, to advice and representation and an opportunity to respond to the Board within a week.
- When the Chairperson becomes aware of an allegation of abuse he will always seek legal advice and base his response on this advice.
- The Chairperson will consider whether there is any risk to pupils’ safety. If the Chairperson considers that there is a risk – he may require the employee to take immediate administrative leave. If unsure the chairperson will consult with the Child and Family Agency (TUSLA)/the Gardaí.
- If administrative leave has been invoked, the chairperson will inform the Department of Education and Skills and the Child and Family Agency. In some cases, the Gardaí may be notified in accordance with legal advice received.
- Once it is deemed necessary by the DLP and Chairperson to make a report (after receiving advice from the Child and Family Agency) the Chairperson will convene and inform a meeting of the BOM as soon as possible.
- Where the alleged abuse has taken place within the school, or relates to the abuse of pupils of the school, by school employees outside of school time, the BOM will investigate the matter. They will convene a further meeting, once the relevant information has been gathered. At this meeting the BOM will consider in detail
- the allegations made and their source
- the advice given by relevant authorities
- the written responses of the employee.
- At this meeting also
- the person/agency who is alleging abuse by the school employee should be offered an opportunity to present his/her case to the BOM and may be accompanied by another person
- Parents/guardians may act on behalf of child
- The employee should also be afforded an opportunity to present his/her case and may also be accompanied.
- The BOM must deal with the matter sensitively and the employee must be fairly treated.
- The BOM will make a decision on actions required, if any, based on their investigation and will inform the employee of this in writing. They will also inform the DES, and parents if involved, of the outcome, if the employee has been absent on administrative leave.
- Where it is not possible for the BOM to conduct an enquiry into allegations (e.g. where abuse has occurred in past employment, or where the employee is undergoing investigation by relevant authorities), the Chairperson will act on advice of authorities. The Chairperson will maintain close contact with the Child and Family Agency and receive reports and records from them where appropriate.
2.2 Role of the Staff Members
Copies of the following guidelines are available in the school office and all classrooms. It is the responsibility of all staff to familiarise themselves with the guidelines.
- Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011)
- Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools (2011) especially
- Chapter 3 Definition & Recognition of Child Abuse
- Chapter 4 Basis for Reporting & Standard Reporting Procedures
- Appendix 1 Signs and Symptoms Of Child Abuse
Guidelines for teachers and staff members in handling:
– Disclosures from children
Where a child discloses alleged abuse to a staff member, the person receiving that information should listen carefully and supportively. Great care must be taken not to abuse the child’s trust. This should not be a formal interview.
– The following advice is offered:
- Listen to the child.
- Do not ask leading questions or make suggestions to the child.
- Offer reassurance but do not make promises.
- Do not stop a child recalling significant events.
- Do not over-react.
- Confidentiality should not be assured – explain that further help may have to be sought.
- Record the discussion accurately noting
- What, where and when?
- Descriptions and possible sketches of physical injuries.
- Explanations of injuries using direct quotations if appropriate.
- Retain the record securely using the child’s PPSN or code name.
- The staff member should obtain only necessary relevant facts. It is not the responsibility of school personnel to investigate allegations of abuse.
- The DLP and only the DLP should then be informed and given relevant records.
- If the suspected abuser is the DLP then the suspicion and any records will be passed on to the Chairperson who will proceed as per guidelines.
– Suspicions of Abuse
- Staff members who suspect abuse should refer to Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011), especially
- Chapter 3 :Definition & Recognition of Child Abuse
- Chapter 4: Basis for Reporting and Standard Reporting Procedures
- Appendix 1:Signs and Symptoms Of Child Abuse
- Staff members should observe and record over time the dates, times, signs, symptoms and behaviour causing them concern.
- They should inform the DLP and pass on all records.
2.3 Role of the Designated Liaison Person (DLP)
- The DLP acts as a liaison with outside agencies, the Child and Family Agency (TUSLA), Gardaí and other parties with child protection concerns
- The DLP will inform all school personnel of the availability of the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools (DES 2011) and Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of children (2011) in the school.
- The DLP will be available to staff for consultation regarding suspicions or disclosures of abuse. He will keep records of these consultations.
- The DLP will seek advice from the Child and Family Agency.
- The DLP will report suspicions and allegations of child abuse to the Child and Family Agency and/or An Garda Síochána based on this advice.
- The DLP will maintain proper records in a secure, confidential manner and in a secure location.
- The DLP will keep up to date on current developments regarding child protection.
Guidelines for the DLP in handling reported concerns and disclosures
- Where the DLP/Deputy DLP have concerns about a child, but are not sure whether to report the matter to the Child and Family Agency, they should seek appropriate advice. To do this the DLP/Deputy should make informal contact with the assigned (on duty) Social Worker. The DLP/Deputy in this case, should be explicit that s/he is requesting advice and not making a report. If advised to report the matter, the DLP will act on that advice.
- A report will then be made to the Child and Family Agency by the DLP/Deputy DLP in person, by telephone and in writing. In the event of an emergency or non-availability of Agency staff, the report should be made to the Gardaí.
- A standard reporting form is completed by the DLP/Deputy as comprehensively as possible on the standard reporting form in the guidelines
- Parents/guardians will normally be informed that a report is being made. It may be decided that informing the parent/carer is likely to endanger the child or place the child at further risk. The decision not to inform the parent/carer should be briefly recorded together with the reasons for not doing so.
- When the allegation is against the DLP, the chairperson then assumes responsibility for reporting the matter to the Child and Family Agency and filling in the standard reporting form.
- Where there are allegations or suspicions of peer abuse the DLP will follow the same procedures.
- Parents of all parties will be notified and the DLP will inform the Chairperson.
- Principal may make arrangements to meet with parents to discuss the matter and/or the procedures that the school will be following.
- The school will take all reasonable steps to minimise the possibility of the abusive behaviour recurring.
3.0 Child Protection Meetings / Case Conferences
- A request is made from the Child and Family Agency through the DLP, who should then consult with the Chairperson of the B.O.M. of the school. The Chairperson may seek clarification through the DLP as to why the attendance of the school employee is necessary and ascertain who else will be present.
- The school employee may complete a report for the meeting/conference. (See Appendix 3, Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools DES).
- The school employee will be advised if children/parents/guardians are going to be present. The school employee may contact the Chairperson of the Child Protection Meeting for advice and should ask that Chairperson for a list of questions that will be asked and who will record the minutes.
- The school employee may keep a child’s behaviour under closer observation, if requested to do so. This may include observing the child’s behaviour, peer interactions, school progress or informal conversations.
- In all cases, individuals who refer or discuss their concerns about the care and protection of children with staff of the Child and Family Agency, should be informed of the likely steps to be taken by the professionals involved. Where appropriate and within the normal limits of confidentiality, reporting staff will be kept informed about the outcomes of any enquiry or investigation following on from their report
- School employees attending a child protection meeting/case conference should familiarise themselves with the protocol outlined on pgs. 149 – 155 of Children First: Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children, 2011; pgs. 13-14 Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools (DES 2011).
4.0 Organisational Implications
School procedures will be in line with Children First: Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011). Issues that may arise will be addressed.
The following have been addressed in this review:
- Changing of a child’s clothing due to soiling, wetting, injury etc.
- Children travelling in staff cars
- Induction of staff
- Induction of pupils
- Internet use in school
- Record keeping
- Toileting and Changing of SEN pupils
- Uploading of photos/videos/pupils work to the school website
- Visiting teachers/instructors
While every reasonable precaution will be taken under our Health and Safety Statement to ensure the safety of children, we realise that accidents will happen. Accidents will be noted on the school’s Accident/Incident Record Forms (available in the school office) and will be addressed as part of our Health and Safety Policy.
Our school attendance will be monitored as per our Attendance Policy. With regards to child protection we will pay particular attention to trends in non-attendance. We will also monitor non-attendance in correlation with signs of neglect/physical/emotional abuse.
Children are encouraged at all times to play co-operatively and inappropriate behaviour will be addressed under our Code of Behaviour. If an incident occurs which we consider to be of a sexualised nature we will notify the DLP who will record it and respond to it appropriately.
Bullying behaviour will be addressed under our Anti-Bullying Policy. If the behaviour involved is of a sexualised nature or regarded as being particularly abusive then the matter will be referred to the DLP.
Changing of a pupil’s clothing due to soiling, wetting, injury etc.
In all instances the pupil’s parent will be informed that the child needs to be changed. With regard to SEN pupils or younger pupils who need assistance, two staff members (usually SNA’s) will oversee the changing of the child if the parent is unavailable. A teacher may assist where necessary in the absence of an SNA. Older children will change themselves. All changing will be in line with the school’s Toileting and Changing of Pupils Procedure. The class teacher and Principal will be informed and a record put on the pupil’s file.
Children travelling in staff cars
Members of the school staff, or nominees, will not carry a child alone in their cars at any time.
Every effort will be made to enhance pupil-teacher communication. If pupils have concerns they will be listened to sympathetically. The SPHE/Oral Language/RE programmes allow for open pupil-teacher communication, which is hoped will aid the pupil-teacher relationship. If teachers have to communicate with pupils on a one-to-one basis, they are requested to leave the classroom door open.
Induction of Staff
The DLP will be responsible for informing all new teachers and ancillary staff of the Child Protection Procedures and Guidelines for Primary and Post Primary Schools (DES 2011) and Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011). The DLP will make a copy of this Child Protection Policy available to all new staff. All new teachers are expected to teach the designated SPHE objectives for their class. Mary O’Brien (Deputy Principal) is responsible for the mentoring of new teachers and will be responsible for supporting new teachers as they implement the SPHE objectives. Susanna O’Neill is responsible for ensuring that new teachers know how to maintain accurate attendance records and informing the teacher of record keeping procedures within the school.
Induction of Pupils
All parents and children will be made aware of attendance rules and their implications as laid down in the Education Welfare Act (2000) via the Enrolment Policy. All parents will be informed of the programmes in place in the school that deal with personal development e.g. RSE, Walk Tall, Stay Safe and SPHE. All new parents are given a copy of the school’s information booklet, which outlines the procedures parents and children should use when contacting the school if there are absences or concerns of an educational/personal/family matter. This booklet also informs parents of the role of the DLP in our school. Parents are encouraged to make an appointment with the class teacher/principal if they wish to discuss their child’s progress. All parents are given access to school’s Code of Behaviour and Anti-Bullying policies via the parents’ area of the school website. Parents are informed that hard copies of school policies are available from the school office on request.
Internet Use in School
Specific lessons are taught in SPHE to ensure children are aware of protecting themselves online. Two pages of the School Journal are dedicated to Staying Safe Online.
This issue is detailed in Acceptable Use Policy which is available on the school’s website or on request from the school office.
Teachers will keep each child’s file updated with results of assessments carried out, dates and details of meetings with parents and notes from parents. The records are kept in a secure filing cabinet in the office. Attendance records will be updated daily on the school’s electronic system Databiz. Sensitive information regarding children will be shared on a need-to-know basis. All educational files of pupils who no longer attend this school are stored in a secure area.
The school’s Supervision Policy will be followed by all staff to ensure that there is comprehensive supervision of children at all breaks and before and after school. The Deputy Principal will organise, display and record an agreed rota of teaching staff for before/after school supervision. SNA’s will assist. A further rota will be organised to cover breaktime and lunchtime. See Supervision Policy for more specific and detailed information on school procedures around supervision.
Children will be brought by bus, to the swimming pool. Children will line up in an orderly manner for the bus. A teacher will be present at all times on the pool viewing area when pupils are swimming and in the dressing rooms at changing times before and after the swimming lesson.
Parents may assist in the changing rooms under the supervision of a teacher. All adults will act in ‘loco parentis’ and as such will act as prudent parents in helping children to return to school in a safe orderly manner. Parent helpers will be briefed in writing on our swimming procedures.
Toileting and changing of pupils with Special Educational Needs
Two school staff (usually SNA’s) will be present when SEN pupils are being changed. Any changing of SEN pupils will be done in accordance with our Changing Procedure which is displayed over the changing bed in the Disability Access Toilet.
Uploading of photos/videos/pupils work to the school website
Please refer to the school’s Acceptable Use Policy which is available on the school website or in hard copy on request from the school office.
Teachers will endeavour to ensure that children are visible in the school play ground. Children will not be allowed to spend time in classrooms, toilets or hall area where they would not be under adult supervision. They are not to leave the school play ground without teachers permission, or to engage with adults who are outside of the school play ground.
Visiting teachers/instructors such as for speech and drama, gymnastics, GAA etc, student teachers, transition year students and any person doing work experience in the school will be Garda Vetted either by the school or by the agency they work for. Proof of Garda Vetting will be required prior to commencement in the school. At no point will a visiting teacher etc. be left with a class without the Class Teacher or another member of the teaching staff being present. This is in line with our Supervision Policy.
Teachers on play ground duty once aware of visitors and traffic entering the school play ground will ascertain their intentions. All visitors are asked to report to the office in the first instance and are required to sign in and sign out when they have completed their visit. They will be supervised in the discharge of their business. An electronic access control system is in place on all external doors.
5.0 Curriculum Implications
In Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire all children will be cherished and in fulfilling the general aims of the Primary Curriculum we will
- Enable the child to live a full life as a child and to realise his or her potential
- Enable the child to develop as a social being through living and co-operating with others and so contribute to the good of society
- Prepare the child for further education and lifelong learning.
In endeavouring to realise these aims we will create a positive school climate which is open, inclusive, respectful, fair, democratic and tolerant and which seeks to support the holistic development of all children and all adults working with our children. The strategies we will use to create this environment are detailed in our SPHE Plan and will involve:
- Creating a health-promoting physical environment
- Enhancing self-esteem
- Fostering respect for diversity
- Building effective communication within the school
- Developing appropriate home-school communication
- Catering for individual needs
- Developing democratic process
- Fostering inclusive and respectful language.
We strive to ensure that our school will be physically and emotionally safe and we will deliver the curricular content of our SPHE programme with a view to giving our children the protective skills of self-esteem and assertiveness. The circle time methodologies may be used on a whole school basis. Co-operative interpersonal skills will be developed through working in pairs and working in groups. Older children will be encouraged to work positively and skills in negotiation, building consensus and managing conflict will be developed.
Junior and Senior Infants
Infant teachers will teach content objectives as laid out under the 10 strand units in our S.P.H.E. programme. They are
- Self Identity
- Taking care of my body
- Growing and changing
- Safety and protection
- Making decisions
- Myself and my family
- My friends and other people
- Relating to others
- Developing citizenship.
After discussion teachers felt that these strand units would enable children to develop assertiveness, body integrity, skills relating to self-care, respect for others, identification of feelings and skills necessary to recognise and tell of abuse.
The S.P.H.E. programme will be supported, using the Walk Tall resources, the Grow in Love programme and Stay Safe resources.
1st and 2nd classes
Again teachers agreed that implementing our SPHE programme as laid out under the 10 strand units named above would enable the children to develop skills, knowledge and attitudes pertaining to self-esteem, esteem for others and the environment and skills pertaining to self-care and disclosure. Healthy eating, information on substance use and anti-bullying awareness is implemented.
The SPHE programme will be supported by using the Walk Tall resources, the Grow in Love programme, the Stay Safe programme, Webwise and our Anti-Bullying Programme: Anti-Bullying Campaign.ie
3rd and 4th classes
Our SPHE programme will again be implemented according to the 10 strand units. Knowledge, skills and attitudes developed in previous classes will be built on. Children will be enabled to develop intra-personal skills and inter-personal skills. As children mature they will be challenged to develop their decision-making skills. They will be encouraged to develop self-protection skills pertaining to smoking and alcohol. Peer pressure and the influence of the media will also be examined. The development of self-esteem, esteem for others, assertiveness, awareness of feelings, and skills around self-protection and disclosure will underpin our teaching.
Our SPHE programme will be supported by the use of Walk Tall resources, the school’s Anti-Bullying Programme, Prim-Ed anti-bullying materials, RSE materials, the Stay Safe programme, North Western Health Board resources, Webwise and Resources from our Anti-Bullyng Programme: Anti-Bullying Campaign.ie
5th and 6th classes
Our SPHE programme will be implemented according to the curricular objectives as laid out under the 10 strands in the SPHE Curriculum. Skills, knowledge and attitudes developed in earlier classes will be enhanced. Children will continue to develop self-awareness and positive attitudes to themselves, others, their environment and the wider world in which they live. Self protection and respect for others will be fostered, decision-making skills developed, peer influence and media bias examined. Knowledge in relation to legal and illegal drugs and the prevention of substance misuse will be further developed. Children will be enabled to develop good group-building skills, anti-bullying awareness and conflict resolution skills. Self-protection will be emphasised and protection of younger, less able people. Positive attitudes to sexuality will be developed and respect for self and others fostered. (see RSE policy available on the school website or on request from the school office).
The SPHE programme will be supported by the use of the Walk Tall materials, RSE resources, Stay Safe resources, Webwise, the school’s Anti-Bullying Programme: Anti Bullying Campaign.ie and a guest speaker who is qualified to deliver the more sensitive aspects of the RSE programme.
We will evaluate the success of this policy using the following criteria:
- Delivery and participation by all staff in training
- Delivery of the SPHE curriculum
- Resources to support the delivery of SPHE
- Delivery and participation by children in the Stay Safe Programme
- Assessment of these procedures by participants following a child protection case
- Feedback from all staff
Timeframe for Implementation
These procedures will be implemented following ratification by the BOM.
Timeframe for Review
At the first staff meeting of every year the DLP will remind all teachers of the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011) and Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools (DES 2011). Both publications will be made available to those who require them.
Each staff member will be given a hard copy of this Child Protection Policy.
A review will be conducted based on the criteria above, following any and all incidents when the guidelines are used.
Responsibility for Review
The Board of Management of Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, the Designated Liaison Person (Susanna O’Neill), Deputy D.L.P. (Mary O’Brien) and all staff have responsibility for reviewing this policy.
Ratification and Communication
This policy was ratified by the Board of Management in 2009, on the 11th of October 2010 and on 25th of October 2011. It was reviewed again in February 2014 and ratified at the meeting of the Board of Management on March 31st, 2014.
The present policy was reviewed in September 2016 and ratified at the Board of Management meeting of October 17th, 2016. Parents are made aware that this policy is available on our school website.
Signed:_______________________________ Date: ______________
Board of Management,
Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire,