Reporting child abuse at primary and post primary level
Schools have a general duty of care to their pupils. They are well placed to recognise wider child welfare issues that, if addressed appropriately at an early stage, can play a key role in the overall welfare and protection of children.
Teachers can 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.
The Department of Education and Skills published Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools 2017 to give clear direction and guidance to school management and school personnel so that they can meet their statutory obligations under the Children First Act 2015 and implement the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (pdf) within the school setting. The purpose of the Act and National Guidance is to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect, provide for mandatory reporting by key professionals and improve child safeguarding arrangements in organisations providing services to children.
Personal responsibilities of school staff
The Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2017, apart from those relating to a school’s Child Safeguarding Statement, apply to all school staff.
If a child tells a teacher or other member of school staff that a parent or carer or any other person is harming him or her, the person who receives the information should listen carefully and supportively. This applies where the child implies that he or she is at risk of being harmed by a parent or carer or any other person. It also applies if a parent or carer or any other person discloses that he or she has harmed or is at risk of harming a child.
School staff can access the support and advice of the school’s Designated Liaison Person (DLP). The Designated Liaison Person is a resource for any staff member or volunteer who has a child protection or welfare concern. The Designated Liaison Person should be well-informed about child protection and have received all the necessary training for the role. They will help any person in their organisation who is considering making a report to the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) and will liaise with outside agencies. Tusla also provides A Guide for the Reporting of Child Protection and Welfare Concerns.
Registered teachers are mandated persons under the Children First Act 2015. Mandated persons are people who have ongoing contact with children and families and who because of their qualifications, training and experience are 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.
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).
School managers in primary and post-primary schools should:
- Implement an effective child protection programme
- Monitor the effectiveness of the programme
- To manage any risk identified in respect of a child availing of the service
- Implement agreed reporting procedures
- Plan and implement appropriate staff development and training programmes
Board of Management
The Board of Management must:
- Ensure, as far as practicable that children are safe from harm while availing of 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 in accordance with the requirements of the Act
- Appoint a relevant person as the first point of contact in respect of 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
Child Safeguarding Statement
A Child Safeguarding Statement is a written statement specifying the service being provided and the principles and procedures to be observed to ensure as far as practicable, that a child, while availing of the service, is safe from harm.
From 11 March 2018, the requirement to have a Child Safeguarding Statement replaces the previous requirement to have a child protection policy which was in place under the previous Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools published in 2011.
The Child Safeguarding Statement must be circulated to all school staff. It must be displayed publicly and be made available to parents and guardians and members of the public upon request.
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