The rights of children are enshrined in the constitution of Ireland and international and domestic law. In Ireland, the key legislative provisions regarding the safety, well-being and protection of children are as follows;
The Child Care Act, 1991 Domestic Violence Act, 1996 Protections for Persons reporting Act, 1998 The Education Act, 1998 The Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997 Freedom of Information Act, 1997 The Education and Welfare Act, 2000 Children’s Act, 2001 Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002
The Statutory Authorities with responsibility for the protection and welfare of children are;
The Health Service Executive An Garda Siochana
The Department of Health and Children published the document, ‘National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children ‘,’ Children First, in 1999.
“Children First”, the national child protection guidelines, published in September 1999, noted that teachers are particularly well placed to observe and monitor children for signs of abuse. It called on schools to put in place clear procedures which school staff must follow where they suspect, or are alerted to, possible child abuse.
The “Child Protection Guidelines for Post-Primary Schools”, was produced to meet this need. Every teacher teaching in a School Hall or Classroom should make themselves familiar with these guidelines.
The guidelines reflect the particular circumstances of the school setting and provide management authorities and school staff with guidance in relation to recognising the signs and symptoms of child abuse and with procedures for dealing immediately with such concerns. The Guidelines should be taken in conjunction with Children First and not as a stand-alone document.
Recognising child abuse
Child abuse can take different forms, but usually consists of one or more of the following:
- Neglect: Where a child’s needs for food, warmth, shelter, nurturance and safety are not provided to the extent that the child suffers significant harm.
- Emotional Abuse: Where a child’s need for affection, approval, consistency and security is not being met.
- Physical Abuse: Where a child is assaulted or injured in some way that is deliberate.
- Sexual Abuse: Where a child is used for the sexual gratification of another. The Guidelines provide advice on the signs and behaviours that may be indicative of child abuse.
What responsibilities have you to your students
In situations where a teacher suspects that a child may have been abused, or is being abused, or is at risk of abuse, they should ensure that such concerns are reported in accordance with the procedures outlined in these Guidelines.
It is important that teachers and examiners keep their eyes and ears open at all times. Teachers have in the past found it helpful to keep a diary on classes or notes relating to examinations. These notes could list any suspicious student behaviour during class/ examinations. Teachers are advised to have someone supervising or helping in class. If there is an incident or accident in class you or your helper can deal with the situation leaving the remainder of class supervised at all times. If you cannot hire a helper it is advised if dealing with an accident that you never tend to a childs needs alone. Make sure you bring 2 or more children from the class with you to supervise.
Reporting concerns to a Health Board
If you are teaching from home or in a hall separate to a school setting and you have a suspicion that a child may have been abused, or is being abused, or is at risk of abuse you should, without delay, report the matter to the a Health Board Official. You should make yourself familiar with the contact number of your local health board or a contact number for your local Gardai.
What will the Health Board do with a report?
Once a report of suspected child abuse has been made to a health board, it is then a matter for that health board to decide upon the action, if any, which is necessitated by that report. The social worker handling the case may need to seek further clarification from the person who first raised the concerns. In some cases, the response of the health board will be to call a child protection conference.
Allegations or suspicions of child abuse concerning you the teacher
As a teacher, the most important consideration to be taken into account is the protection of children, and their safety and well-being must be the priority.
As a teacher you may be subject to malicious allegations. If you do find yourself in this situation you can refer to your class notes and have these available for further investigation.
It is important to note that there are two procedures to be followed by you in respect of an alligation:
- the reporting of your notes to the investigation unit.
- the procedure for dealing with the allegation as lined out in the schools Child Protection Guidelines. Child Protection Guidelines will advise that the accused should maintain strict confidentiality.
Feedback from Health Boards.
The Children First guidelines place an onus on health boards to ensure that arrangements are put in place to provide feedback to parents in regard to the progress of a child abuse investigation regarding a teacher. It is clearly stated in those guidelines that efforts should be made to investigate complaints against a teacher promptly bearing in mind the serious implications for an innocent teacher.
Peer abuse and bullying.
The Guidelines provide advice on the recognition and reporting of abuse perpetrated by a child’s peers. It is important that potentially abusive behavior between children is not ignored and, as appropriate, certain cases should be referred to the health board or dealt with by reporting your concerns to the parents of the children involved.
Teachers are responsible, in the first instance, for dealing with bullying in class. The more extreme forms of bullying behavior, when perpetrated by adults rather than children, would be regarded as physical or emotional abuse. Only such serious incidences of bullying should be referred to the health board.
Youngstars Music School
Within this framework, Youngstars Music School accepts our responsibility and obligation to safeguard the protection and welfare of children in our care, we undertake to ensure a best practice response to child protection issues by having a clear child protection policy and procedures which are designed to underpin and demonstrate our commitment to our duty of care. The welfare of the child is paramount in every circumstance. The guidelines outlined, give clear direction and guidance on child protection issues. It is incumbent upon every adult working with children to practice their ‘moral responsibility’ in reporting concerns, allegations, suspicions or a disclosure about child abuse to the Designated Officer for Child Protection in the school you are teaching or examining in.
- Having an obligation on examiners and teachers to observe this code of good practice;
- Having an obligation on affiliated schools to implement the selection procedures for teachers.
- Ensuring all examining staff undertake Child Protection Training
- All child protection concerns relating to teachers countrywide should be reported to the CYC Child Protection Officer in the school or to a health board official in their local area.
In making any report an individual needs to take the following into consideration;
- The protection and safety of the child is paramount;
- The principle of natural justice – a person is innocent until proven otherwise.
- The principle of confidentiality – only those that need to know should be told of a suspicion/allegation/disclosure of abuse and that the number that needs to be kept informed should be kept to a minimum.
In the case of a disclosure/suspicion or allegation of child abuse, the teacher/examiner must report without delay to the Child Protection Liaison Person in the local region. The Child Protection Liaison Person will contact a Health Board Official or Local Gardai.
The Child protection Officer will fulfill the function of ‘Designated Officer’ and follow procedures as outlined in the guidelines above.
Where an allegation is made against a teacher or an organisation, the staff member receiving the allegation should make contact with the local Child Protection Liaison person for their region who in turn will consult with Youngstars Music School. He/She will follow necessary procedures in consultation with Youngstars Music School Child Protection guidelines.
In the case of an emergency, where a child is deemed at serious risk and where no contact can be made with the CPO in a school a teacher should contact the local Garda station.
Any intentional breach of these Guidelines is a disciplinary matter and will be dealt with by the Director of Youngstars Music School.
It is important to note the following:
When teaching or examining you must do so in a room with a window or door with a window. If this is not available the door to the room must be ajar.
Children should never be left unattended.
Teachers should at all times have access to a phone.
Insurance cover should be adequate
Parents permission should be sought if a teacher wishes to use camera equipment in class. For Christmas/Summer shows it is suggested that you send out a permission form for the use of camera equipment in the hall or class. Parents can agree or disagree with their use. Once forms are back you should go with the majority. If parents wish to use camera equipment and the majority disagree with it, the parents should be asked to limit their use of camera equipment to before or after the show. If a show is taking place in a theatre the theatre will have their own rules and regulations regarding the use of camera equipment.
THE CHILD PROTECTION UNIT NYCI
3 Montague Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.
Tel: 01-4784122 Fax: 01-4783974
Websites of interest:
Publications of interest:
Our Duty to Care downloadable from www.dohc.ie/publications Child Care act available to view from www.irishstatutebook.ie Children First available to view from www.dohc.ie/publications