Reporting child abuse at primary and post primary level
The Department of Health published the Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children report in 1999. In 2011, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs updated the Children First Guidelines (pdf). This report stated that teachers in Ireland have a general duty to ensure that children and young people are protected from harm. The report also maintains that teachers need to help young people to develop their self-esteem, confidence, independence of thought and the necessary skills to cope with possible threats to their personal safety both within and outside the school. The stay safe programme assists teachers working with children in primary school.
Since the publication of this report the Department of Education has published guidelines for teachers. These guidelines reflect the particular circumstances of primary schools, post-primary schools and community or voluntary organisations and are based on the recommendations of the Children First guidelines: Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools (pdf)
Here we summarise the principles that apply to the protection of children and the responsibilities of school management and staff.
Responsibilities of school management
School managers in primary and post-primary schools should:
- Plan, develop and implement an effective child protection programme
- Monitor the effectiveness of the programme
- Implement agreed reporting procedures
- Plan and implement appropriate staff development and training programmes.
The Board of Management is responsible for:
- Having clear procedures which teachers and other school staff must follow where they suspect, or are alerted to, possible child abuse, including where a child discloses abuse
- Having a Designated Liaison Person (DLP) in place for dealing with child protection concerns. The name of the DLP should be displayed in a prominent position near the main entrance to the school
- Monitoring the progress of children considered to be at risk
- Promoting in-service training for teachers and members of boards of management to ensure that they have a good working knowledge of child protection issues and procedures
- Having clear written procedures in place concerning action to be taken where allegations are made against schools employees
- Reviewing the school’s child protection policy annually.
Personal responsibilities of school staff
- If a child tells a teacher or other member of school staff that a parent/carer or any other person is harming him/her, the person who receives the information should listen carefully and supportively. This applies where the child implies that he/she is at risk of being harmed by a parent/carer or any other person. It also applies if a parent/carer or any other person discloses that he/she has harmed or is at risk of harming a child
- The child or young person should not be interviewed formally
- The teacher or staff member should obtain only the necessary relevant facts
- The teacher or staff member should never promise confidentiality to a person making a disclosure and should explain why they are required to report the disclosure in a supportive way
- The discussion should be recorded accurately and the record should be kept
- The teacher or other staff member should then tell the Designated Liasion Person who is responsible for reporting the matter to the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) or An Garda Síochána.
Under Section 4 of the Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998, nobody will be penalised for making a report of child abuse in good faith to the Child and Family Agency or the Gardaí. If you have been penalised, you can make a complaint under the Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 (pdf).
Where to applyContact the Child and Family Agency to report a concern.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) operates the Childline service - a telephone listening service for children. Childline is provided free of charge 24 hours per day, all year round.
Freephone Childline: 1800 666 666
Freetext Childline: Text the word "Talk" to 50101