Cineáltas: Anti-bullying strategy will see rollout of counselling in primary schools

Launching the campaign, Norma Foley also rejected claims from the ASTI that she lacks the ambition in tackling the teacher shortage in schools across the country
Cineáltas: Anti-bullying strategy will see rollout of counselling in primary schools

The plan will also see counselling offered in primary schools for the first time albeit on a pilot basis. Picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

A new national anti-bullying strategy has been launched aimed at preventing and addressing bullying, cyberbullying, racism, gender identity bullying and sexual harassment in schools.

Speaking at the launch at the Aviva Stadium, Education Minister Norma Foley said the new Cineáltas plan will see the creation of a national database which will lead to an annual report on what is happening in schools. The plan will also see counselling offered in primary schools for the first time albeit on a pilot basis.

Ms Foley said the rollout of counselling at primary level has to be done on a pilot basis, due to budget constraints but said her ambition is to roll it out nationally.

“I think there is a place for it, I think it is necessary. It is important that we would polish it first and there will be great learnings from that. It would absolutely be my ambition that following the pilot that we would be in a position to roll this out even further. That's the overall goal,” she told the Irish Examiner.

 01/12/2022
01/12/2022

On the database, she said: “For the first time, we will compile a national database in terms of issues of bullying within our schools so that we will know what's happening in our schools and how they're being dealt with. We will also ensure that there will be a dedicated unit within the Department of Education dedicated to the student voice to ensure that students are intrinsic in all the views in our schools.” 

In total, 170 children and young people were consulted including children with special educational needs, Traveller and Roma children, children from Ukraine and refugees.

The plan was also developed in collaboration with a diverse and dedicated Steering Committee led by Dr Noel Purdy of Stranmillis University College in Belfast.

It will also see the establishment of a Student Support Team model in larger primary schools. A charter Bill and the development of Charter Guidelines will also strengthen the voice and participation of children, young people and their parents in the development and implementation of school policies.

Ms Foley said: “Cineáltas is practical, inclusive and contains a broad range of actions which help us all to work together towards a diverse, inclusive Irish society free from bullying in all its forms and where individual difference is valued and celebrated. 

"Our vision is to provide schools with the tools necessary to target and tackle cyberbullying, racism, gender identity bullying or sexual harassment, among other areas.” 

She said the Cineáltas Plan on Bullying is based on four key principles: prevention, support, oversight and community.

Teacher shortage

Ms Foley also rejected claims from the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) that she lacks the ambition in tackling the teacher shortage in schools across the country.

Ms Foley said she accepted the situation is challenging, particularly in Dublin, but said she and her department have taken many steps to respond to the shortage.

“I think to be fair, if we look at things on the rounds, and if we look at the range of measures that we have already brought to the table in terms of addressing issues of substitution in our schools. I recognise that it is a particular issue in certain areas, particularly in Dublin.

"But we have introduced measures where we have lifted restrictions around career break, we lifted restrictions around retired teachers and more than 800 of them made themselves available last year,” she said.

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