Introductory Statement

The staff, parents and management of Scoil Chiarain have developed and agreed this policy in line with the current recommendations and guidelines relating to child abuse prevention and child protection guidelines. The policy has also been informed by the Guidance for Schools publication from CAPP.

This policy addresses the responsibilities of the school in the following areas:-

(a)    Prevention – curriculum provision

(b)   Procedures – procedures for dealing with concerns / disclosures

(c)    Practice – best practice in child protection

An individual copy of this policy document and the appended section from the DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures will be made available to all staff.

It is incumbent on all staff to familiarise themselves with “Children First” and the DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures documents.

 

Rationale

Scoil Chiarain strives to provide a caring environment where student’s needs are considered and protected. Staff recognise the need for a policy on reporting abuse in order to protect children and ensure they receive the care, specialist help and protection they deserve.

 

Aims

This policy aims to

  • Create a safe, trusting, responsive and caring environment
  • Provide a personal safety skills education which specifically addresses abuse prevention for all children in the school
  • Develop awareness and responsibility in the area of child protection amongst the whole school community
  • Put in place procedures for good practice to protect all children and staff
  • Ensure that all staff members are aware of and familiar with the “Children First” and the DES Guidelines and Procedures documents in relation to reporting concerns and/or disclosures of child abuse
  • Promote ongoing training in this and related areas for all school staff.

 

Prevention

The Stay Safe programme is the primary resource used in this school to provide education for children on abuse prevention. The programme is taught as part of the schools’ SPHE curriculum under the strand Safety and Protection (Personal Safety). Staff will make every effort to ensure that the messages of the programme are reinforced whenever possible and will use the adapted resources available for children with special needs.

On enrolment of their child, parents are informed that the Stay Safe programme is in use in the school and a copy of the Stay Safe “Parents Guide” is provided when the class prepare to begin the programme, generally in the second term of the school year.

Procedures

All staff (teachers, special needs assistants, health professionals and ancillary staff) in this school will follow the recommendations for reporting concerns or disclosures as outlined in “Children First” and the DES “Child Protection, Guidelines and Procedures”

(See attached Appendix, pages 5 – 20 from the DES guidelines)

The Board of Management of this school has appointed Kathleen Dodd as the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) and Bernie Regan as deputy DLP.

Designated Liaison Person (DLP)

The Principal will act as DLP. Should circumstances warrant it, the Deputy Principal shall act as DLP.  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.

All files of a sensitive nature are kept in a Confidential File in the principal’s office. A student’s file will be tagged (i.e. a coloured paper tag stapled to the cover) to indicate that further information is available in relation to this child. This information will only be shared on a “need to know” basis.

Guidelines for Recognition of Child Abuse

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.

These are: -

  • Considering the possibility
  • Looking out for signs of abuse
  • Recording of information

The HSE should always be notified where a person has “a reasonable suspicion” or “reasonable grounds” to suspect that abuse has happened / is happening.

Reasonable grounds may constitute:

Specific information from a child

Witness account

Evidence, such as injury or behavior consistent with abuse

Presence of corroborative indicators e.g., pattern of injury or behavior

Parents should be informed of a report being made to the HSE “unless doing so is likely to endanger the child or place the child at further risk.”

Handling Disclosures from Children

When information is offered in confidence the member of staff will need to act with sensitivity 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 welfare of the child is regarded as the first and paramount consideration. In so far as is practicable, due consideration will be given, having regard to age and understanding, the wishes of the child.

The following advice is offered to school personnel to whom a child makes a disclosure of abuse.

  • Remain calm.
  • Listen to the child with sensitivity and openness.
  • 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 of dates, times, names, locations, context and factual details of conversation.

 

This information should then be passed onto the DLP and a record will be retained in the school.

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 to be taken for the safety of the child in which case the Chairman 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, an Garda Siochána should be contacted.  Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.

Practice

The staff and BOM of this school have identified the following as areas of specific concern in relation to child protection. Following discussion and consultation, the staff and BOM have agreed that the following practices will be adopted:

Physical Contact: children are encouraged to greet each other and school staff verbally or by shaking hands. “Hugs and kisses are kept for family.” Children are taught what is appropriate when dealing with friends and adults and to respect everyone’s personal space. Staff must maintain a professional relationship with pupils at all times and model appropriate behavior.

We recognize that at times it may be necessary to hold a child to prevent injury to themselves or others.

Toileting needs / accidents: Where a child requires intimate care/support, two special needs assistants will support the child in as limited manner as appropriate, encouraging the child to take as much responsibility as possible. The extent of the intervention/support required will depend on the age and ability of the child.

One to One support: At times a student may require individual support to complete tasks. School staff should ensure they are working in an open area or resource room where windows to the corridor offer protection to both the child and adult. Whenever possible, more than one child should be present to participate in the activity.

Children who are ill: When a child is ill, it is the practice to contact parents and to make arrangements for the child to return home. The child may require personal attention or supervision until a parent arrives and will be kept in their area with a special needs assistant for that period. In the rare event, where a staff member is asked to drive a child home, a second adult or two children will accompany the child.

Changing for Games / PE / Swimming: Students are encouraged to become independent in dressing and changing and reminded about the level of privacy required in different situation. School staff will only offer the minimum level of support required to assist a child.

Visitors to the School: Where visitors are invited to the school as part of the programme, a staff member must remain with the class/group at all times. Details of any talk or topic should be discussed prior to the visit to ensure the content is suitable for the age and developmental stage of the children.

Out of School Activities: when students are involved in school related activities outside the school, every effort should be made to ensure the safety and welfare of the children. Children should use bathroom facilities in groups of 3 and/ or be accompanied by staff members to ensure no engagement with members of the public. For younger children it may be appropriate for male pupils to use female facilities under supervision. Children should be reminded that they should not engage with strangers without the permission of their supervisors. Where disabled access is required, school staff should ensure this is available at the time of booking/enquiry.

Recruitment and Selection of Staff: The BOM will follow all guidelines and requirements of the DES in relation to the recruitment of qualified staff to all positions and will co-operate fully with the Garda vetting and Teaching Council registration process.

Internet Use:  An acceptable use policy has been agreed and ratified by the BOM.

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.

Allegations Against 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:

  1. The reporting Procedure
  2. The Procedure for dealing with the Employee.

 

The DLP has responsibility for reporting the matter to the Health Board.  The Chairperson, Board of Management, has responsibility, acting in consultation with his/her Board, for addressing the employment issues. If the allegation is against the DLP, the Chairperson of the Board of Management will assume the responsibility for reporting the matter to the Health Board.

Reporting

When an allegation of abuse is made against a school employee, the DLP should immediately act in accordance with the procedures outlined in “Child Protection.”

A written statement of the allegation should be sought from the person/agency making the report.  The DLP should always inform the Chairperson of the Board of Management.

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 procedures outlined in will then be followed.

The chairperson of the Board and DLP should make the employee aware privately

a)      That an allegation has been made against him/her

b)      The nature of the allegation

c)       Whether or not the Health Board or Gardaí has been/will be/must be/should be 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 measure 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 warrant immediate action in the Chairperson’s opinion, the Board of Management should be convened to consider the matter.  The Board will consider feedback if any has been received from the Health Board, Gardai or relevant source. This may result in the Board of Management directing that the employee absent him/herself from the school forthwith while the matter is being investigated (Administrative Leave). When the Board of Management is unsure as to whether this should occur, advice should be sought from the Gardaí and/or the Child Care Manager of the Health Board and the legal advisers to the Board of Management.

Administrative Leave

Should the Board of Management direct that the employee absent him/herself as above, such absence of the employee would be regarded as administrative leave of absence with pay and not suspension and would not imply any degree of guilt.  The DES should be immediately informed.

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.

Review and Monitoring

This policy will be monitored and reviewed by the Board of Management on an annual basis and when the need arises.

Staff will be requested on a regular basis to review the school policy in this area and a copy will be provided to all staff members and they will be made aware of their responsibilities in that regard.

The Board of Management will ensure that adequate training and support is provided for staff.

 

 

This policy was ratified by the Board of Management of Scoil Chiarain on  25/04/2017

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