Schools would have to publish student and parent charter under proposed law

Schools would have to publish student and parent charter under proposed law
Joe McHugh, Minister for Education

Schools could be required to publish how they will deal with grievances under new proposed legislation aiming to strengthen complaints procedures.

Similarly to a customer service charter, the proposed law would see schools publish what students and parents can expect when it comes escalating or resolving disputes.

Should the draft legislation pass, each charter is also expected to give parents an idea of school costs and a chance to give their input or feedback.

The Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019 would mark a radical shift in how schools engage with their communities, according to Joe McHugh, Minister for Education.

This is about building on a lot of good work that is already happening in many many schools but also it's about ensuring that where there are weaknesses to have these guidelines in place. For example, grievances procedures so parents know exactly what the guidelines are.

The proposed legislation would also give the Minister the power to direct a school's board of management if the Minister believes the board is not complying with its obligations in implementing a charter.

"I won't be getting involved in any of the cases but it's to ensure that we have an informal solution to a lot of issues that maybe come to the boil, to get them sorted out before they become a real problem," Minister McHugh said.

“Sometimes we make the assumption that parents know exactly what goes on in a school because the school has been operating for so many decades, and the ethos and the values are embedded in those schools but for new parents with new children coming in, it's something that we shouldn’t take for granted," Minister McHugh added.

"So if they know in advance what the policy is or if there is greater transparency around how the money will be spent in a school, I think that’s a good thing.”

As previously reported by the Irish Examiner, some parents' grievances are currently being escalated to the highest level due to a lack of a formal procedure in schools.

According to the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), complaints about teachers are proceeding straight to the Teaching Council in the absence of a statute-based procedure.

The possible introduction of a student and parent charter in every school has been welcomed by the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD). NAPD director, Clive Byrne, said: “Although this is usually the case in most schools, formalising this process through a charter, will ensure that it becomes the norm in every school. The legislation also proposes to standardise complaints and grievances procedures across our schools. This will greater certainty and clarity for everyone involved, in what can be a difficult and fraught process."

The Department of Education has promised further consultation on the proposed Bill, Mr Byrne added. “Student and parent charters are a hugely positive step forward in education, so it is vital that their final form meets the needs of our students and their parents in the years ahead.”

Updated at 5.46pm.

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