Child protection in school
What is child protection?
Schools have a general duty of care to their students.
The stay safe programme assists teachers to help children in primary school to develop their self-esteem and the necessary skills to cope with possible threats to their personal safety both within and outside the school.
Schools have a statutory responsibility under the Children First Act 2015 and must develop specific policies and procedures on how to create a safe environment to prevent deliberate harm or abuse to the children using their services.
Registered teachers are also mandated persons under the Children First Act 2015. A mandated person is a person who has ongoing contact with children and families and because of their qualifications, training and experience is in a key position to protect children from harm.
You can find more information about child abuse, recognising the signs and reporting child abuse.
From 1 September 2023, the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools (revised 2023) come into effect.
Child Safeguarding Statement
A Child Safeguarding Statement is a written statement of the service being provided and the procedures to ensure that a child using the service is safe from harm. The statement includes a risk assessment.
Primary and Post-Primary Schools must have a Child Safeguarding Statement.
The Child Safeguarding Statement must be given to all school staff. It must be displayed publicly and be made available to parents and guardians and members of the public upon request.
Duty of school staff to report child abuse
The Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools (revised 2023) apply to all school staff. The school board is responsible for the Child Safeguarding Statement.
If a child tells a teacher or other member of school staff that a parent or carer or any other person is harming or at risk of harming them, the person who receives the information should listen carefully and supportively. This also applies if a parent or carer or any other person discloses that they have harmed or are at risk of harming a child.
School staff can access the support and advice of the school’s Designated Liaison Person (DLP).
What is the Designated Liaison Person?
The Designated Liaison Person is a resource to any staff member or volunteer who has a child protection or welfare concern. The Designated Liaison Person should be well-informed about child protection. They will help any person in their organisation who is considering making a report to Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) and will liaise with outside agencies.
Tusla also provides A Guide for the Reporting of Child Protection and Welfare Concerns.
Registered teachers must report child protection concerns
Registered teachers are mandated persons under the Children First Act 2015. A mandated person is a person who has ongoing contact with children and families and because of their qualifications, training and experience is in a key position to protect children from harm. This means that among their responsibilities they must report child protection concerns over a defined threshold to Tusla.
Protection for those reporting child abuse
No person will be penalised for making a report of child abuse in good faith to Tusla or the Gardaí, under Section 4 of the Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998. If you have been penalised, you can make a complaint under the 1998 Act.
Boarding schools and child protection
Boarding school management may appoint a single Designated Liaison Person (DLP) for the school and for the boarding facility. Alternatively, it may appoint a separate DLP for each.
Where there are separate DLPs, data protection arrangements must be in place to ensure communication between the DLPs. If a concern relates to the school, it should be reported to the school DLP. If a concern relates to the boarding facility, it should be reported to the boarding facility DLP.
Boarders and parents should have an accessible way to raise concerns about child protection and safeguarding.
Staff and management of boarding schools must:
- Comply with the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools (revised 2023)
- Comply with the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017 (pdf).
- Implement procedures set out in the Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures for Boarding Facilities associated with Recognised Schools 2023 (pdf).
The school management's role in child protection
School managers in primary and post-primary schools should:
- Implement an effective child protection programme
- Monitor the effectiveness of the programme
- Manage any risk identified to a child using the service
- Implement agreed reporting procedures
- Plan and implement appropriate staff development and training programmes
Board of Management's role in child protection
The Board of Management must:
- Ensure, as far as practicable, that children are safe from harm while using the school’s services (while attending the school or while participating in school activities)
- Carry out an assessment of any potential for harm to children while they are attending the school or while they are participating in school activities (this is known as a risk assessment)
- Ensure that a Designated Liaison Person is appointed
- Prepare and display a written Child Safeguarding Statement as required by the Act
- Appoint a relevant person as the first point of contact for the school’s Child Safeguarding Statement
- Provide a copy of its Child Safeguarding Statement to members of school personnel and, where requested to parents, members of the public and to Tusla
You can find further information and forms on child protection procedures in schools.
Getting advice on child protection
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
You can find more information about child protection and welfare and reporting a concern on the Tusla website.