Programmes with relevance to Child Protection
The following programmes are taught in Athea National School in order to increase awareness around child protection issues and for the prevention of abuse in any form:
- Relationship & Sexuality Programme (RSE) – Mandatory – Completed May/June each year
- Stay Safe Programme New edition – Mandatory – completed in January
- Walk Tall Programme
- SPHE Curriculum & Making the Links (A useful manual which links the first 3 programmes to the content objectives of the SPHE curriculum.
- Athea National School Code of Behaviour & Anti-Bullying Policy
School Policies with Regards to Child Protection
The following school policies have relevance for child protection and are available for viewing in the school office.
- Child Safeguarding Statement
- Health & Safety Statement, including Accident & Injury Policy & Administration of Medicines Policy
- Code of Behaviour
- Anti-Bullying Policy
- School Attendance Policy
- Access Policy
- Supervision Policy
- Intimate Care Needs Policy
- School Tour Policy
- Guidelines for working with External Partners
- Swimming Policy
- SEN Policy
- Guidelines for Physical Interventions & Restrictive Practices
- Acceptable Use of the Internet Policy (ICT) / Mobile Phone Policy
- Disciplinary & Grievance Procedures
- Data Protection Policy
- Critical Incident Policy
- Work Experience Placement Policy
Child Protection Practices
The staff and Board of Management of this school have identified the following as areas of specific concern in relation to Child Protection. Following discussion and consultation, the staff and Board of Management have agreed that the following practices be adopted:
- Physical contact between school personnel and the child should always be in response to the needs of the child and not the needs of the adult. While physical contact may be used to comfort, reassure or assist a child, the following should be factors in determining its appropriateness:
- It is acceptable to the child
- It is open and not secretive
- The age and developmental stage of the child
School personnel should avoid doing anything of a personal nature for children that they can do for themselves. (See Intimate Care Policy)
School personnel should never engage in or allow:
- The use of inappropriate language or behaviours
- Physical punishment of any kind
- Sexually provocative games or suggestive comments about or to a child
- CDs, DVDs etc) should be checked for their appropriateness with regard to age and suitability.
Designated Liaison Person (DLP)
The DLP in Athea National School is the Principal, Margaret Watters; this appointment has been ratified by the Board of Management. The Deputy DLP is Maura Mulvihill; this appointment has also been ratified by the Board of Management.
The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection and will represent the school in all correspondence with the HSE, An Garda Siochana 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.
The DLP acts in cases where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion or where an allegation has been made.
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 giving of information to those who need to have that information is not a breach of confidentiality. This procedure exists for the protection of a child who may have been or has been abused. The DLP who is submitting a report to the HSE or An Garda Siochána 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 briefly recorded together with the reasons for not doing so.
In emergency situations, where the HSE cannot be contacted, and the child appears to be at immediate and serious risk, An Garda Siochána should be contacted immediately. A child should not be left in a dangerous situation pending HSE 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 child abuse ‘reasonably and in good faith’ to designated officers of the HSE or any member of an Garda Siochána (DES Procedures 1:10).
People making a report to the DLP in good faith have ‘qualified privilege’ under common law. Reports made to the HSE 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
Each of these categories is defined in full in Children First but for the purpose of this policy attention is drawn to the stated definition of ‘neglect’.
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, medical care.
Guidelines for Recognition of Child Abuse
A list of child abuse indicators is contained in Children First, Chapter 2. 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, 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.
There are commonly three stages in the identification of child abuse:
- 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. Staffs are advised to deal with each situation sensitively, reassure the child but not to make promises that cannot be fulfilled.
The adult should not ask leading questions or make suggestions. They should explain that further help may have to be sought. The discussion should then be recorded accurately. The record should include reference to what was observed with sketches of physical injury where necessary. It should also record when the alleged incident took place. Records should be kept in a secure 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 outlined in Children First must be adhered to. Standardised reporting forms should be used (DES Procedures, Appendix 4 ). The content of the report should follow the guidance in Children First.
Allegations or Suspicions in relation to School Employees (DES Procedures, Chapter 5)
The Chairperson and the DLP are primarily concerned with the protection of the children in their care. However, employees must be protected against false and malicious claims. Legal advice should be sought by the board in relation to the employee. If the allegation is against the DLP, the Chairperson of the BOM 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 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 BOM and is responsible for liaising with the HSE. The Chairperson assumes responsibility for communicating with the employee.
School employees, other than the DLP, who receive allegations against another school employee, 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 (ie: the Employer):
- That an allegation has been made against him/her
- The nature of the allegation
- Whether or not the HSE 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 BOM within a specified period and told that this may be passed to the Gardaí, HSE and legal advisers.
The Chairperson must take the necessary steps to protect the child and may consult the BOM in this matter. The BOM may direct that the employee take administrative leave with pay and avoid suspension, thus removing any implication of guilt. The DES should be immediately informed.
Recruitment and selection of volunteers
All staff employed (or volunteering) must be Garda Vetted through the National Vetting Bureau (NVB) through the Limerick Diocese and will not be allowed work with children unless they provide a copy of this to the school.
The Teaching Council arranges vetting for teachers newly appointed to the school before commencement of employment. Staff will be asked for copies of their vetting forms and these will be kept in the Principal’s office. New Garda Vetting Procedures apply for all employees / volunteers.
In addition, the child protection-related Statutory Declaration must be provided by all persons appointed to teaching and non-teaching positions of any duration. The school must obtain and view the original statutory declaration and retain a copy for its own records.
Supervision of children
School routines and procedures will be followed by all staff to ensure that there is comprehensive supervision of school at all breaks and on all trips and tours. See Supervision Policy.
Early withdrawal of pupils
Any child leaving the school before the end of the school day must be signed out by a parent/ guardian in the office. The parent / guardian should enter the school via the door near the office. If they are not known to the Principal / Deputy principal, they should be asked for identification. (If another adult is collecting the child, the school much be informed either by phone or in writing by the parent / guardian, as to the identity of the adult collecting their child.) Parents and children then exit the school again through reception. (See Access Policy)
Collection of children at home time
Infants are collected at 2pm and are released into the care of parents/guardians or adults identified to the school (by parents/guardians) at the beginning of the school year e.g. child minder etc. If a person outside of these named adults is to collect an infant pupil on a given day, the school must be informed of the identity of this other adult either verbally in person, or by phone, or in writing. Equally if a child is to be collected by a classmate’s parent etc., the school should be informed in advance, again either verbally, or by phone, or in writing. If the school has not been informed of a change as above, the school will not release the pupil into the care of another adult. The school will attempt to contact the parents/guardians to confirm the collection details.
Children from 1st to 6th Class are walked by their class teacher to the school entrance, where depending on arrangements made by their family, they either are met by an adult etc. or commence their walk home. Any child remaining at this point/unsure of who is collecting them etc. is brought to the office, where a call is made to their parent/guardian. If there is a change to the collection plans made with the child, parents/guardians should contact the school so that they can update the child.
Changes in Family Circumstances
If there any changes in family circumstances (separation of parents etc.), the school will continue to release the child into the care of either parent (assuming both have guardianship).
In the event of a court order, furnished to the school by a parent, the school will only release the child into the care of the adult/provide access as directed by the court. In such circumstances, the school has internal systems in place to ensure communication with relevant staff members, so that they are aware of these changes.
Children are to be encouraged at all times to play co-operatively and inappropriate behaviour will be addressed under our Code of Behaviour and Anti-Bullying Policy.
If an incident occurs which is considered to be of a sexualised nature, the reporting procedures outlined in Chapter 5 of the DES Child Protection Procedures will be followed.
Teachers will ensure that children are visible in the school yard. Children will not be allowed to spend time in classrooms where they would not be under adult supervision. They are allowed to leave the school yard only to go to the bathroom with the teachers consent.
It is the policy in this school that one-to-one teaching is provided in the best interest of the child. Every effort will be made to ensure that this teaching takes place in an open environment. Parents of children who are to be involved in one-to-one teaching will be informed and their agreement sought. Work being carried out by Special Needs Assistants (if allocated) will be carried out under the direction of the class teacher in an open environment.
Any activity which involves a child to staff member (teacher or SNA) ratio of 1:1, should take place in a room with a glass panel window on the door for visibility. Otherwise the door of the room in which they are working should be left open for the duration. Any blinds etc, on the glass panel on the door, should be opened for the duration also. Only staff members (who are all vetted appropriately), should engage in 1:1 activities.
The Principal is responsible for ensuring that any visitors who are to work with children on a 1:1 basis are appropriately vetted (e.g. HSE nurse, Psychologist, Photographer etc.). The procedure outlined above will be followed in these cases also.
Teachers will keep records on each child’s reports. Roll books will be updated daily. Sensitive information regarding children will be shared on a need-to know basis. All educational files of pupils are kept in a locked storage cabinet. Further details on record keeping will be found in the school’s Record Keeping Policy.
Our school attendance will be monitored as per our Attendance Policy. With regard to child protection, we will pay particular attention to trends in non-attendance. We monitor trends in non-attendance in terms of possible neglect, physical or emotional abuse. See Attendance Policy.
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.
Bullying behaviour will be addressed under our Anti-Bullying policy. If the behaviour involved is of a sexualised nature or regarded as being particularly abusive, then the matter will be referred to the DLP.
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 aids 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.
All school entrances are secured after the children enter the school at 9.15am and after each break (See Access Policy). All others seeking access much do so through the main door, where the access is granted only once identity and purpose of visit has been established (via buzzer).
Teachers on yard duty will be aware of visitors entering the school yard and will re-direct them to the office etc. as necessary. All external tutors/trades people/visitors sign in and out of school office
Guest speakers or External Teachers (even if appropriately vetted) are never left unsupervised with pupils. The class teacher or supervising teacher is responsible for the pupils at all times. The school has a responsibility to check out the credentials of the speaker and to ensure that the materials in use by guests are appropriate.
Relationships and Attitudes
Teachers should ensure that their relationships with students are appropriate to the age, maturity and sex of the children and that their conduct does not give rise to comment or speculation. Attitudes, demeanour and language all require care and thought when dealing with older children.
Physical Contact with Children
Teachers are advised not to make unnecessary physical contact with children. However, a distressed child may need reassurance involving physical comforting such as a parent might provide. Physical punishment is illegal as is any form of physical response to misbehaviour, unless it is by way of restraint using the minimum force necessary to ensure the safety of the children/adults involved. See Guidelines for Physical Interventions & Restrictive Practices.
Whenever possible this should be done in the presence of others. First-aid to a pupil should also be administered whenever possible in the presence of others. Following any incident where a Teacher feels that his/her actions may be misconstrued, a written report of the incident should be submitted immediately to the Principal.
Children travel to the pool in a bus accompanied by two teachers or two parents/ SNAs. These parents are subject to Garda vetting. It is ensured annually that Garda Vetting for parents have been updated & are in date.
The teacher/adult stands at the door of the changing room which is slightly ajar. The teacher can then keep an eye on the children lining up in the corridor and the children in the changing room. Two parents/SNAs are allowed access to the changing room at a time. The role of the adult is supervisory only, and is not to assist. On no account should a teacher or parent be alone in the changing room with the children.
If the need arises (physical needs etc), a parent may accompany his or her own child (only) to a private cubicle if he/she is having difficulty with changing. The parent should discuss this need with the Principal in advance of lessons, so that supervising teachers/SNAs are aware that the child may be withdrawn to a private changing cubicle by their parent in this instance.
If a child needs to go to the toilet during the pool time, he/she is accompanied from the pool area to the bathroom door by the teacher and escorted back to the pool when finished.
While every effort will be made to adhere to best practice as agreed and outlined above, in the event of an emergency where this is not possible or practicable, a full record of the incident should be made and reported to the Principal and parents.
Teachers/staff member will not carry children alone in their cars. At least two children must travel with the member of staff in the car or another adult and child. Necessary insurance to transport children in a private vehicle should be in place.
Induction of Teachers and Ancillary Staff
The DLP, Margaret Watters, will be responsible for informing all new teachers and ancillary staff of this Child Safeguarding Statement, DES Child Protection Procedures and the Children First Guidelines.
All new teachers are expected to teach the designated SPHE objectives for their class. A member of staff, once trained, will be responsible for the mentoring of new teachers and will be responsible for supporting new teachers as they implement the SPHE objectives. The Deputy Principal is responsible for ensuring that new teachers know how to fill in the roll book correctly and informing the teacher of record keeping procedures within the school. the school’s Communication Policy.
Induction of Pupils
All parents and children will be made aware of attendance rules and their implications as laid down in the Education Welfare Act (2000). All parents will be informed of the programmes in place in the school that deal with personal development e.g. RSE, Walk Tall, Stay Safe and SPHE. All new parents will be given a copy of the school’s enrolment policy, which outlines the procedures parents and children should use when contacting the school if there are absences or concerns of an educational/personal/family matter. Parents are encouraged to make an appointment with the class teacher/principal if they wish to discuss their child’s progress. All parents will be given a copy of the school’s Code of Behaviour and Anti-Bullying policies.
Toileting / Intimate Care Needs
If a child requires assistance with toileting (regularly or as a once off due to illness etc.), two members of staff should assist the child in this instance. See Intimate Care Policy.
In all situations where a pupil needs assistance with toileting/intimate care, a meeting will be convened, after enrolment and before the child starts school, between parents/guardians, class teacher, special needs assistant (if allocated), Principal and if appropriate the pupil. The purpose of the meeting will be to ascertain the specific needs of the child and to determine how the school can best meet those needs.
The staff to be involved in this care will be identified and provision will be made for occasions when the particular staff involved are absent. A written copy of what has been agreed will be made and kept in the child’s file.
While every precaution will be taken under our Health and Safety Statement to ensure the safety of children, we realise that accidents will happen. Accidents will be noted in our incident book and will be addressed under our accident policy as part of Health and Safety.
Staff will always ensure that any DVD shown or video footage shown through services such as RTE Player / Netflix or similar, to the children is age appropriate and is educational in content.
Children will only have access to websites deemed age-appropriate under the supervision of their class teacher.
Photographs of children are only placed on the school website/App/other sites deemed appropriate by the school with parental permission.
Internet Safety talks are provided annually to pupils. Athea National School is pro-technology and we attempt to make our pupils and staff aware of any dangers, to the best of our ability, especially those dangers linked with child protection concerns. See Acceptable Usage / ICT Policy.
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:
- Athea National School fully implements the Stay Safe programme in the Spring term each year.
- A copy of the school’s child protection policy, which includes the names of the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) and Deputy DLP, will be made available to all school personnel and is readily accessible to parents on our website.
- The name of the DLP and other relevant support services are 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 meeting of the Board of Management, the agenda includes an item on Child Protection; the Principal shall inform the Board of the number of all such cases and this shall be recorded in the minutes of the board meeting.
- Athea National School 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. Written notification that the review has been undertaken shall be provided to the school community, via the website. A record of the review and its outcome shall be made available, if requested, to the patron and the DES.
- Staff who take classes swimming should make sure that there are two adults in attendance at all times. The dressing rooms and pool area should be well supervised.
- Staff should not be alone in a classroom with one child or detain a child on their own after school. Some pupils with special educational needs are sanctioned resource hours and assistance on an individual basis; staff are mindful of this child protection policy when teaching these pupils and our support rooms have glass panels in the doors thus rendering the occupants visible at all times.
- When possible children should work in groups.
- Children with physical disabilities who may require assistance in toiletry matters will be aided by a Special Needs Assistant (if allocated by NCSE) who has met the necessary screening requirements when being employed by the school. See Intimate Care Policy. It should be noted that children with disabilities may be more at risk of abuse due to a number of reasons (DES Procedures 2:3). Parents, teachers and all staff involved in services for children with disabilities need to be familiar with the indicators of abuse and to be alert for signs of abuse.