Parents’ warning on education changes

PARENTS of primary pupils are worried that Government plans will make it easier to kick disruptive children out of schools, instead of giving teachers the resources to tackle bad behaviour.

Education Minister Mary Hanafin last month outlined planned changes to the 1998 Education Act, which will ensure the rights of all students and teachers are considered when appeals are being heard against expulsions or suspensions.

The amendments were sought by teachers and recommended earlier this year by a task force examining behaviour among second level students.

But National Parents Council Primary chief executive Fionnuala Kilfeather yesterday raised concerns about the proposals.

“The minister aims to make it easier for schools to take these serious steps of expulsions and suspension — we are worried about this,” she said. “We think the emphasis should be on putting resources such as educational psychologists, educational welfare officers, space and staff in place for children who are experiencing difficulties or causing big problems for other children and their teachers.”

The bill to amend Section 29 of the Education Act, placed on a priority list, is likely to be published later this year.

Guidelines for developing codes of behaviour are also due to published in the coming months. Ms Kilfeather said this measure, being finalised by the National Educational Welfare Board, should provide a boost to schools.

It will assist schools, she said, to work on the codes with parents, teachers, boards of management and students.

Ms Kilfeather added that the families of almost 60,000 children who are starting their school lives this week have a big part to play in their education.

“Parents can do a lot to give children a good start in their school education. Parents and teachers working together with high, but realistic, expectations for the child are shown to make a real difference for children,” she said.

She said children do not begin learning to read as soon as they start school but parents can help prepare them to be successful readers in the future by reading to them and talking about stories before they start on the road to reading.

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