Glenahulla National School
Child Protection Policy
Reviewed & Ratified by the B.O.M. of Glenahulla N.S.
The Board of Management recognises that child protection and welfare considerations permeate all aspects of school life and must be reflected in all school policies, practices and activities. Accordingly, in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Education and Skills’ Child protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools, the BOM of Glenahulla NS has agreed the following child protection policy.
This policy takes account of the provisions of the following pieces of legislation.
- Freedom of Information Act 1997
- The Education Act 1998
- The Child Welfare Act 2000
- Children First – National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children
The BOM has adopted and will fully implement without modification the Department of Education and Skills Child protection Procedures for primary and Post Primary Schools 2011. These procedures will therefore underpin the content of this policy.
In all instances of suspicion or allegations of abuse or neglect, the following two resource books will be referenced.
- “Children First” (Department of Children and Youth Affairs 2011)
- “Child Protection” Procedures for Primary and Post primary Schools (Department of Education & Skills 2011)
Designated Liaison Person (DLP)
The following key personnel have been identified and ratified by the BoM:
The Designated Liaison Person (DLP) is the school principal, Kieran Scanlon
The Deputy Designated Liaision Person (Deputy DLP) is vice-principal, Orlaith O’ Keeffe
The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection and will represent the school in all dealings with Health Boards, An Garda Síochána and other parties in connection with allegations of abuse. All matters pertaining to the processing or investigation of child abuse should be processed through the DLP, or in her absence, the DDLP. Further information on the responsibilities of the DLP is included in ‘Child Protection DES’ – Pg 8 – Section 2.2. Actions to be taken by the DLP in cases where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion or where an allegation has been made are in ‘Child Protection DES’ Chapter 3 – Section 3.2 pg 11 – 12.
In its policies, practices and activities, Glenahulla NS will adhere to the following principles of best practice in Child protection and Welfare. Our school recognises that the protection and welfare of children is of paramount importance, regardless of all other considerations and will therefore:
- Fully co-operate with the relevant statutory authorities in relation to child protection and welfare matters
- Adopt safe practices to minimise the possibility of harm or accidents happening to children and protect workers from the necessity to take unnecessary risks that may leave themselves open to accusations of abuse or neglect
- Develop a practice of openness with parents and encourage parental involvement in the education of their children
- Fully respect confidentiality requirements in dealing with child protection matters
- Adhere to the above principles in relation to any adult pupil with a special vulnerability
Specific policies named hereunder are key elements of this overall document and must be referred to in the context of this policy:
- Code of Behaviour
- Health & Safety
- Record Keeping
- Special Education
- Work experience policy
This policy will also be considered with reference to the participation by pupils in sporting activities, other extra-curricular activities and school outings. Other practices and activities, where child protection might have particular relevance, will consider the procedures outlined within this policy. The Board has ensured that the necessary policies, protocols or practices as appropriate are in place in respect of each of the above listed items.
All information regarding concerns of possible child abuse should only be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis in the interests of the child. The decision on whether a person ‘needs to know’ is based on whether or not the person has any legitimate involvement or role in dealing with the issue.
The giving of information to those who need to have that information for the protection of a child, who may have been or has been abused, is not a breach of confidentiality.
The DLP who is submitting a report to the Health Board or An Garda Síochána should inform a parent/guardian unless doing so is likely to endanger the child or place that child at further risk. A decision not to inform a parent/guardian should be recorded together with the reasons for not doing so.
In emergency situations, where the Health Board cannot be contacted, and the child appears to be at immediate and serious risk, An Garda Síochána should be contacted immediately.
A child should not be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.
Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse
The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998, provides immunity from civil liability to any person who reports a child protection concern ‘reasonably and in good faith’ to designated officers of Health Boards or any member of An Garda Síochána.
This means that even if a reported suspicion of child abuse proves unfounded, a plaintiff who took an action would have to prove that the reporter had not acted reasonably and in good faith making the report.
The act provides significant protection for employees who report child abuse. These protections cover all employees and all forms of discrimination up to and including dismissal. (Child Protection DES Book page 6.)
People making a report to the DLP in good faith have ‘qualified privilege’ under common law. Reports made to Health Boards may be subject to provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997. This act enables members of the public to obtain access to personal information relating to them which is in the possession of public bodies. However, the act also provides that public bodies may refuse access to information obtained by them in confidence (DES procedures 1:11)
Definition and Recognition of Child Abuse
Child abuse can be categorised into four different types:
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
A child may be subjected to more than one form of abuse at any given time. Definitions for each type of abuse are detailed in ‘Children First’ – (Dept of Children and Youth Affairs) Chapter 2, pages 8-10.
Neglect can be defined in terms of an omission, where the child suffers significant harm or impairment of development by being deprived of food, clothing, warmth, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, supervision and safety, attachment to and affection from adults, and/or medical care.
A list of child neglect indicators is contained in Chapter 2:2 of Children First. This policy draws particular attention to ‘persistent evidence’ of neglect, including indicators such as no lunch, lack of uniform, no homework, poor attendance, persistent health problems, lack of sleep indicating inappropriate television viewing late at night and other evidence that would indicate lack of supervision in the home. All signs and symptoms must be examined in the total context of the child’s situation and family circumstances.
Guidelines for Recognition of Child Abuse
A list of child abuse indicators is contained in Appendix 1 ‘Children First’ – Pg 125 – 131. It is important to stress that, no one indicator should be seen as conclusive in itself of abuse; it may indicate conditions other than child abuse.
There are commonly three stages in the identification of child abuse.
These are: –
- Considering the possibility
- Looking out for signs of abuse
- Recording of information
Each of these stages is developed in ‘Children First’ (2:2)
Handling Disclosures from Children
(DES Procedures 3:5) gives comprehensive details of how disclosures should be approached.
When information is offered in confidence the member of staff will need to act sensitively in responding to the disclosure. The member of staff will need to reassure the child, and retain his/her trust, while explaining the need for action and the possible consequences, which will necessarily involve other adults being informed. It is important to tell the child that everything possible will be done to protect and support him/her but not to make promises that cannot be kept e.g. promising not to tell anyone else.
The following advice is offered to school personnel to whom a child makes a disclosure of abuse.
- Listen to the child
- Take all disclosures seriously
- 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
- Explain that further help may have to be sought
- Record the discussion accurately and retain the record
The record should include reference to what was observed with sketches of physical injury if appropriate and necessary. It should also record when the alleged incident took place. The information should then be conveyed to the school DLP.
If the reporting person and the DLP are satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion/allegation, the procedures for reporting as laid out in ‘Children First’ will be adhered to. Standardised reporting forms may be photocopied from ‘Children First’ Appendix 3 – Pgs 78-79. The content of the report should follow the guidelines in ‘Children First’ (pg 14).
The Chairperson of the Board of Management will be informed before the DLP makes contact with the relevant authorities unless the situation demands that more immediate action be taken for the safety of the child in which case the Chairperson may be informed after the report has been submitted.
Any professional who suspects child abuse should inform parents/carers if a report is to be submitted to the Health Board or An Garda Síochána unless doing so is likely to endanger the child.
In cases of emergency, where a child appears to be at immediate and serious risk, and a duty social worker is unavailable, Garda Siochána should be contacted. Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.
Allegations or Suspicions re: School Employees
The most important consideration for the Chairperson, Board of Management or the DLP is the safety and protection of the child. However employees also have a right to protection against claims, which are false or malicious.
As employers, the Board of Management should always seek legal advice as the circumstances can vary from one case to another.
There are two procedures to be followed (Section 3.4 ‘Child Protection’)
- The Reporting Procedure
- The Procedure for dealing with the Employee.
If the allegation is against the DLP, the Board of Management Chairperson will assume the responsibility for reporting the matter to the HSE.
When an allegation of abuse is made against a school employee, the DLP should immediately act in accordance with the procedures outlined in Children First.
A written statement of the allegation should be sought from the person/agency making the report. A parent /guardian may make a statement on behalf of a child. The DLP should always inform the Chairperson of the Board of Management and is responsible for liaising with the HSE. The Chairperson of the Board of Management has responsibility, acting in consultation with his/her board, for addressing the employment issues.
School employees, other than the DLP who receive allegations against another school employees, should immediately report the matter to the DLP.
School employees who form suspicions regarding conduct of another school employee should consult with the DLP.
The employee should be informed by the Chairperson (Employer) that:
- An allegation has been made against him/her
- The nature of the allegation
- Whether or not the Health Board or Gardaí has been informed.
The employee should be given a copy of the written allegation and any other relevant documentation. The employee should be requested to respond to the allegation in writing to the Board of Management within a specified period and told that this may be passed to the Gardaí, Health Board, and legal advisers.
The priority in all cases is that no child be exposed to unnecessary risk. Therefore, as a matter of urgency, the Chairperson should take any necessary protective measures. These measures should be proportionate to the level of risk and should not unreasonably penalise the employee in any way unless to protect the child.
If the nature of the allegations warrants immediate action in the Chairperson’s opinion, the Board of Management should be convened to consider the matter. This may result in the Board of Management directing that the employee take administrative leave with pay and avoid suspension, thus removing any implication of guilt. The DES should be immediately informed.
When the Board of Management is unsure as to whether this should occur, advice should be sought from the Gardaí and/or the HSE and the legal advisers to the Board of Management and regard be given to this advice.
Board of Management
The Chairperson should inform the Board of Management of all the details and remind the members of their serious responsibility to maintain strict confidentiality on all matters relating to the issue and the principles of due process and natural justice.
School Measures taken to protect the Children in our Care
There are a number of areas where common sense in our school should prevail in order to protect the children in the school and the staff who care for them. In relation to this, certain points should be noted:
Members of the school staff will not carry children alone in their cars at any time. If other parents are helping with the transport to and from events, a permission slip must be signed by parents of children embarking on these events, to give permission for his/her child to travel with volunteer parents. In such cases, volunteer parents will not carry children alone in their cars unless carrying their own children otherwise at least two children must travel with the volunteer parents. Volunteer parents must comply with the law with regard to seat belts, speeding regulations and any other traffic legislation.
One to One
Staff should not be alone in a classroom with one child. In the case of special needs pupils where resource hours and assistance are sanctioned on an individual basis, it is school policy that staff in such a situation should work in a room with a glass panel on the door, thus rendering the occupants visible at all times. Should a member of staff find him/herself alone with a child in a room without a glass panel, the door should remain open.
Intimate Care Needs
Children with physical disabilities who may require assistance in toileting matters will be aided by a Special Needs Assistant who has met the necessary screening requirements when being employed by the school. These arrangements will be discussed with the parents prior to enrolment.
Clean underwear and suitable clothing will be kept in the school so that if a pupil has a toileting accident, they will firstly be offered fresh clothing into which they can change. If the pupil, for whatever reason, is unable to clean or change themselves and the parents/guardians cannot be contacted, the child will be verbally assisted by two members of staff familiar to them. The parents will be notified as soon as possible.
At all times, there will be two adults present to supervise in the changing room. Pupils will be expected to dress and undress themselves for Games/PE/Swimming. Where assistance is needed, this will be done in the communal area. Under no circumstances will members of staff/volunteers be expected to or allowed to dress/undress a child unsupervised in a cubicle/private area. In such situations where privacy is required, the parents/guardians/SNA of the child will be asked to assist the child. Glenahulla NS will endeavour to have two male volunteers/member of staff in the male changing area and two female members of staff/ volunteers in the female changing area.
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.
The ‘Stay Safe’, ‘Walk Tall’ and ‘Be Safe’ programmes are taught. When there are children with limited academic ability, the content and activities of the lesson will be differentiated to help them to understand the message of the lesson. It should be noted that children with disabilities may be more at risk of abuse due to a number of reasons (see page 99 of ‘Children First Guidelines’).
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 or request a colleague to attend. Further details on communications are found in the school’s Communication Policy.
Induction of Staff
The DLP will be responsible for informing all new teachers and ancillary staff of the Child Protection Procedures (DES, 2011) and Children First Guidelines (2011), but particularly the recently published Children First – National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011). All new teachers are expected to teach the appropriate SPHE objectives for their class.
The school’s supervision policy will be followed by all staff to ensure that there is comprehensive supervision of children at all breaks. A rota will be displayed to cover 11 o’clock and lunchtime breaks.
Visitors should not enter the school without using the bell (fitted at the main entrance) and giving a reason for their entry. All entrances, will be locked during the day, to ensure child safety.
Visitors who have been invited by the school to speak to the children or to coach the children will always be accompanied by a staff member and supervised while with the children.
- A copy of the school’s Child Protection Policy is available to all school personnel and the Parents Association and is readily accessible to parents on request. It is also available in hard copy in each classroom. A copy of this policy is available for the attention of the DES and the patron if requested.
- The name of the DLP is displayed in a prominent position near the main entrance to the school.
- In addition to informing the school authority of those cases where a report involving a child in the school has been submitted to the HSE, the DLP shall also inform the school authority of cases where the DLP sought advice from the HSE and as a result of this advice, no report was made. At each BoM meeting, the Principal’s Report shall include the number of all such cases and this shall be recorded in the minutes of the BOM meeting.
- Glenahulla NS will undertake an annual review of its Child Protection Policy and its implementation by the school. A checklist, to be used in undertaking the review. The school has put in place an action plan to address any areas for improvement which might be identified in the annual review. The Board of Management shall make arrangements to inform school personnel that the review has been undertaken. A record of the review and its outcome shall be made available, if requested, to the patron and the DES.
Ratification & Communication
- Ratified by the Board of Management
- Issued to all staff members
- Made available to parents
- Policy included in enrolment pack
This policy will be reviewed by the Board of Management once in every school year.
The Board further endorses the Principal, Kieran Scanlon, as the school DLP and Orlaith O’ Keeffe as Deputy DLP.
Signed ___________________________ Signed: ________________________
Chairperson of Board of Management Principal
Date ________________ Date: __________________
- Reviewed: 2017
- Next Review: 2018