Grievance policy sought for parents

Parents dissatisfied with how teachers are treating their children face a brick wall as legislation granting them a grievance process still has not been enacted 15 years after it was first draw up.

The Office of the Ombudsman for Children has acknowledged that a “significant proportion” of complaints it receives each year relate to the handling of parents’ complaints by schools and “inappropriate behaviour” by staff.

The National Parents Council — Primary has said up to 16% of bullying complaints involve teachers. And another 6% of these relate to alleged bullying by the school principal.

The office has raised the issue with the Oireachtas and the UN Human Rights Council as part of broader submissions on children’s rights in Ireland.

Áine Lynch of the NPC said the council supports and advises parents and tries to get the matter resolved locally or through a patron body. After that, they can be examined by the ombudsman.

“Under Section 28 of the Education Act, there is the space for a complaints process to be put in place.

“However it has not happened since 1998 and so the voice of the teacher and the board of management is heard when there is a problem but not that of the parent,” she said.

The ombudsman has called for Section 28 to be introduced quickly and also for part five of the 2001 Teaching Council Act to be fully implemented so professional misconduct can be investigated.

Speaking at the NPC’s annual conference, Ruairi Quinn, the education minister, vowed to implement a grievance process for parents and students. “I support the availability of good local mechanisms for dealing with difficulties, complaints, and grievances. I believe we need to look at how a stronger culture of valuing parental involvement at the level of each individual school can be created.

“The more we can succeed in that direction and strengthen relationships, the less need there should be for grievance procedures.”

Presently, the ombudsman can investigate how the complaint was handled by the school, but professional misconduct is outside it’s remit. “The existing statutory provisions in this area should be commenced and the related procedures for complaints-handling should be put in place,” said the office’s spokesman.

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