Recently there have been a lot of teacher training days at both primary and secondary level. Different schools have them on different days and, coming ahead of a load of short school weeks due to Easter & St Patrick’s Day, they seem to be ill-timed. The reason for this flurry of training is sombre but necessary, especially in light of recent events in West Limerick.
Since 2011, all schools have a requirement to have robust child protection policies and practices in place to keep children safe, but on March 11 2018 stronger procedures came into effect. One of the biggest changes is that teachers are now mandated persons under the Children First Act 2015 and best practice as set out in Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017. They apply to children up to and including 17-year-olds.
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 keep children safe from harm. This means that among their responsibilities they must report child protection concerns over a defined threshold to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Previously, it has been practice for teachers to co-operate with Tusla in this regard, the difference being that now it is a statutory requirement.
Each school has a Designated Liaison Person (DLP). The Designated Liaison Person is a resource for any staff member who has a child protection or welfare concern. They are well-informed about child protection and have received all the necessary training for the role. Their role is to help any person in their school who is considering making a report to Tusla and will liaise with outside agencies.
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.
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.
A Child Safeguarding Statement must now be in place in all schools. This 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.
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.